First stop: the most forlorn thrift shop on the Oregon Coast. I would unforlorn it with my Christmas cheer and unforlorn wasn’t even a word. It would be after this encounter.
I walked in and nearly drowned in dankness. I didn’t see a single Christmas decoration for sale or decorating the shop and ached for the best schmaltz in music.
A female clerk appeared from the back. I asked if she had any decorations. She pointed me to a metal shelf near a grimy window and I went over to inspect. The pickens were slim and depressing. Humbug hanged in the air.
I chose the most forlorn decorations: faded crepe paper stars, four cracked tiny balls, and a tiny hand-held pencil sharpener that wasn’t even a decoration but somehow qualified as one because here it was.
My meager selections fit in the palm of my hand and I brought them to the counter. I asked how much and the clerk said four bucks. Four bucks! I said I’d give her two and she agreed. I told her I was going to decorate a tree near a river and hold a Christmas party for two old dogs.
“I love dogs,” she said. “Have a great time.”
She was smiling as I left and I knew she was one of those people who hung (and filled) stockings for their dogs, and wrapped them presents, like I had.
Next stop: a convenience store for dog presents: made-in-Oregon beef jerky by a family-run company. Made in Tillamook County on the Oregon Coast. I chose two packages of slab beef jerky, old fashioned recipe. It was the first jerky I had ever purchased in my life. I decided not to call it jerky, which is hardly a festive word. Rather it would be called “roast beast” after the main dish served at the Whoville Christmas feast. The Grinch had carved it up to perfection and fed a slice to Max.
Last stop: the dog sanctuary.
I heard the canine cacophony even before I turned off the car’s engine. I got out and donned the pea coat over my Christmas sweater, a snowflake Pendleton stitched and sewn by women in Oregon over half a century ago. I stuffed the jerky deep into the recesses of the pea coat’s pocket because I knew Clyde would savage the wool if he caught a whiff. The decorations and other loot got stashed in a tote bag that I slung over my shoulder.
Christmas party, here we come! Partay on the river with dogs!
Sunshine blasted the landscape as we walked through the pasture and I could hear birds chirping down by the river. Walking is the wrong word. I was kicking up my heels and making merry with Bonnie and Clyde, singing, improbably, Bing Crosby’s “Christmas in Killarney.”
How grand it feels to click your heels
And join in the fun of the jigs and reels
We reached Christmas tree and the beer can still stood upright on a branch. I pulled out the decorations and went to work while Bonnie and Clyde nosed around. I hung the balls and pencil sharpener. I draped the crepe paper. I considered fording the river and retrieving the red bra for a garland, but decided otherwise. I rustled up a few beaver sticks and placed them on some branches.
Where was that damn Christmas beaver!
There is a simple reason no one uses Sitka Spruces for Christmas trees; decorating them can draw blood. And in fact, the sharp needles drew blood on my fingers and a droplet found its way on the branch. “Blood on the Christmas Tree”—sounds like a helluva good country Christmas song Johnny Paycheck or Jerry Jeff Walker might have written.
I stepped back from the tree for a look—not bad. Lopsided and goofy. I’d take it. It would be the only Christmas tree I would decorate.
My bloody hand extricated the roast beast. I unwrapped it and called for Bonnie and Clyde. I gathered them near the tree and fed them them the roast beast. I sat down on the grass and wrapped my arms around the dogs. “Merry Christmas you roast beast hounds!” I said. They licked my face at the same time and I started crying and laughing at the same time.
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