Season of Celebration

by Calendar Hacksaw

I'm told that in tough times such as these we're encouraged to look ahead and focus on the future rather than become mired in the mud of yesterday. At the same time, it's important that we not forget, never forget, the events that brought us to this day. Every columnist and pundit worth his or her salt has had a say on the topic, and rather than join that procession I will focus instead on some forward-looking vision intended to give your mind some brief respite from the rigors of CNN. There is no escape, there never will be, but we do deserve a break from time to time.

With that said, let's look ahead to the winter months, our Season of Celebration.

In Walker Basin, winter unofficially begins in late summer and early fall. After all, why wait until December 21st when we can uncork the happy gas so much earlier?

Daylight Savings Time ends at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 28th this year. By then, the days have already grown too short to be of any use, but we're still shocked silly by the sudden darkness when it descends one hour earlier. And we know it will only get worse until the winter solstice on December 21st, then turn around like a crooked politician and head the other way for three months.

What do we have to look forward to during the winter? How will we lighten our spirits during the months of darkness? A few suggestions and/or reminders from ol' Calendar:

First comes Columbus Day, October 12th, but observed on October 8th this year in order to guarantee a long, paid holiday for underpaid, unappreciated government workers and others so lucky. It's not uncommon for Walker Basin residents to gather at the store and lift their coffee cups in tribute to a man who against great odds found his way to paradise and made life so good for all of us: Lou Varga.

Next comes Halloween, a special time for the kids. Many dress up as cowboys and cowgirls before setting out after dark to make their "trick-or-treat" rounds. Typical of their stories was that of young Cody, one of many local boys and girls by that name, who last Halloween trekked more than 20 miles to visit five farmhouses, coming away with three stale Tootsie-Rolls, two pennies and a washer.

Less than two weeks later comes my favorite holiday, Veterans' Day. It's a three day weekend for many of us, and is often the final opportunity of the year for weekenders to visit their spreads around and above the Basin. It signals the end of the tourist season for most local businesses; a final chance to drain our wallets of whatever spare change we've stashed away for the holidays. Thus, the saloon sponsors its "Buy a Vet a Dinner" campaign, and the Cow Belle encourages all veterans to visit the saloon for a free meal.

New Year's Eve is an especially jubilant time in the Basin. It's not uncommon for up to a dozen locals to gather for the annual party, all decked out in their finest. Usually a few of the more experienced "party animals" manage to stay active until about 9:00 p.m. before falling out the door with that "Where's my horse?" look on their faces.

Inflatable watercraft and kayaks are becoming more popular around Twin Oaks in anticipation of February's annual Caliente "River Ride Days." The County Parks Department is busy erecting the new "River Cattle" signs at various points along the Creek. Recently, thieves have been stealing some of the placards, especially the ones which read "Cattle in River Next 16 Miles." These are the same signs which sport the International River Cattle Symbol of a cow standing knee deep in a stream. If you spot one of these bright orange "souvenirs" in someone's house or garage, you're encouraged to notify the Resident Deputy at any time, day or night.

February also signals the arrival of Valentine's Day, and most men I know around the Basin usually send out two or three dozen cards, just to cover all the bases. One prominent shopkeeper always keeps a box of chocolates and a dozen roses on his bed stand, just in case.

The green theme of St. Patrick's Day always coincides with the greening of the surrounding hills; a delightful time even during flood years. We can usually expect the return of yuppie tourists during March. This is the only opportunity they have to use the 4-wheel drive option on their SUVs as they brazenly plow through whatever water, mud or cattle debris is still flowing across the road. Their arrival always seems to come immediately on the heels of the worst storm of the year, at a time when search-and-rescue and federal disaster recovery efforts are in full swing. They line up outside the store searching in vain for a cellular signal and demanding hot coffee while lamenting the loss of electrical service and asking, out loud, "How can these people live like this?"

Yes, Walker Basin is indeed a Winter Wonderland, "a place where even squares can have a ball," as Merle might say. But we like it that way, and delight in these simple pleasures. Local events remind us of simpler times, peaceful times, and we all need to do our part to keep that dream alive, to keep the American flag serving as the universal beacon of liberty, freedom and peace.

Calendar Hacksaw celebrates life at, and reminds all readers that these columns are often written months in advance. So please don't take personal anything that isn't intended that way.

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