here’s something sort of nice about the downtown of a big city
on Christmas eve. Last minute shoppers are dashing about, suddenly remem-bering
a gift for Aunt Sophie or old Farnsworth the mailman. There’s
a newborn niceness in car drivers and store clerks, and the sounds of
Christmas from the Sally Ann bells and the recorded Christmas carols
coming from store fronts, is a once-a-year pleasure.
....Well and good my pavement friends,
but did you ever spend Christmas eve in an up-coast logging camp? You
haven’t! Then you haven’t tasted all the delights that the
forest around us can provide.
....Take a nice lonely inlet out on the
west coast – so close to the wild Pacific that you can hear the
roar of the surf three miles away when the big winter-time southeasters
blow in from Japan. Put a small community logging camp up the inlet
a ways and a small quiet fishing village near the inlet’s protected
mouth. The camp has closed down for the Christmas holidays and the bunkhouse
lads have gone to their homes and people down south. Only eight or 10
families remain in the camp and their homes are all decorated with the
usual outdoor Christmas lights.
....It’s mid-day on Christmas Eve
and turkeys are going in ovens and trimmin’s are getting fixin’s!
And as is sometimes usual in this west coast camp, it is raining and
....The fishing village is quiet, as it
spreads itself along the waterfront. There’s a three plank boardwalk
and hand rail running the length of the half-mile village along the
high tide mark. The houses of the village are all adjacent to the boardwalk.
The southeaster is whipping up in the inlet and rain is coming down
slantways. The winds sway the trees behind the camp.
....As the afternoon wears on, the family
houses lay quiet in the rains. Some will have their big turkey dinner
today and others will wait until Christmas day. It
approaches five and darkness
has settled in for the stormy night. One family moves out of their house
and, well clothed in slickers and raincoats, heads for their neighbour’
house. They stand outside the back door with flashlights in hand and suddenly
the stormy night is filled with “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.”
Faces appear in the doorway – small ones first – then two
larger smiling ones. The wind howls and the carolers sing “We Wish
You A Merry Christmas.”
....Come in, come in out of the rain –
and in they march to bit of warmth ex-ternally and internally. The children
pass small gifts to each other. It’s cozy in the house and the storm
is not thought of.
....Time to move on to the next neighbour
and everyone dons their raingear and heads outdoors into the slanting
rain. Finally, gathered at the next neighbour, the enlarged group of carolers
strike up “Silent Night,” which in fact has become a very
noisy night. After two more songs the singers are invited into the house.
....As each house is sung to the carolers
grow in size until, at the last one, a group of about 20 raise their voices
over the sounds of the southeaster. The last house is crowded with Christmas
wishes and the happiness of everyone.
....Someone shouts – “It’s
time for the boat trip to the village – let’s go!” Coats
and gumboots and scarves and rain hats and flashlights and slickers are
sorted out and the crowd – kids, adults and dogs, moves out and
walks down the road to the dock.
....The tug has been warmed up and children
are given life-belts and a sturdy skiff is towed behind. With running
lights glowing and the searchlight tested, the little ship, with its passengers
of carolers heads out into the black night following the channel and picking
up familiar rock points with the searchlight. A three mile trip –
one that has been traveled hundreds of times – but one that is never
taken for granted on such a night as this.
....Soon, as they round an island, the
lights of the little fishing village appear. The waters are choppy but
the tug glides through on its faithful diesel. Songs are still being
sung as the boat comes to a stop a hundred feet from the village dock.
....Then the searchlight is played on the
village. The loggers, their wives and children and some friends stand
on the large aft deck and sing to the village. The southeaster howls,
the rain comes from all directions, the tug rocks a bit, but the fishing
village is sung to, by the loggers. It’s “Silent Night”
and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” The tug then maneuvers
its way to the dock where some people of the village are gathered. Great
Merry Christmas’s are hollered and one-by-one, every-one goes
ashore to the fish buyers home for a little time out from the storm.
....The final visit is to Max and Lucy’s
house – the old timers – for here the crowd of now 40 or
so loggers and fishing folk crowd their way into the oldest home in
the village to view the lighting up of Max’s tree.” It’s
a seven foot fir tree, nicely decorated – but with old-fashioned
real candles on it. The children look on in awe and they will remember
....The house is packed – but the
carols go on – now it’s “Jingle Bells” and “Good
....It’s Christmas Eve far away from
the city’s traffic and the rush of shoppers. It’s Christmas
Eve in a small community of loggers and fishermen who live on a west
coast inlet just around the corner from the Pacific. It’s Christmas
Eve in the forest around us.
Keep out of the bight,