One day, three weeks before Christmas, Linda received a letter from the county’s road department. A new manager had taken over a year ago and was a real go-getter. He’d applied for and received a fat federal grant to fund road improvements in impoverished rural areas. The county was going to widen and repave Euchre Creek Road. The project was starting in a week. Merry Christmas! No more potholes and dangerous blind curves.
Linda scanned the map included with the letter. She traced the road with her fingers and where the widening and straightening would occur. Oh God! Linda shuddered. The county was going to wipe out her beloved grove of trees just off the road near her cabin.
This was no mere ordinary grove of trees. It had somehow escaped massacre when the area was logged over a century ago to build the road. Some old coot without heirs who owned the parcel willed it to the county after his death and then the county promptly forgot about it.
The grove was an acre of Western red and Port Orford cedar, shore pine and Sitka spruces, hemlock and Douglas fir, myrtle wood, huckleberries and a dozen variety of mushrooms. Behind it ran the crystalline waters of Euchre Creek that nourished salmon, beavers, otters and eels.
How the grove came to be naturally seeded the way it had been was a miracle of nature. It was almost another miracle how the grove had turned into a maze of sorts with paths, alleys and secret passages.
Not long after Linda’s husband died, she wandered through the grove one early December morning, and the idea struck to turn it into something special. She began decorating it to the hilt every year at Christmas. By the second year, word got out for a hundred miles around that something magical was way up Euchre Creek Road if you were willing to drive. But only the three days before Christmas.
Linda never put up signs. She never mentioned it on social media (although others certainly did). People began making an annual pilgrimage to the grove and the county’s newspapers wrote passionate features about the grove’s special properties for inducing the right kind of Christmas spirit.
Every year Linda decorated the grove differently with a new theme and new lighting. One year it was whales, another elk, another Druid, another Charles Dickens, another socialism, another gnomes and fairies, and so on.
The theme didn’t really matter to the visitors. They came because they wanted to feel and smell and touch the essence of a true Christmas, one utterly removed from advertising and consumerism. These people were starving for the antithesis of the lust and lucre of the typical American holiday season and Linda served them up a heavy antithesis like so much steaming mashed potatoes and gravy with a side of green bean casserole!
People talked quietly at the grove, they held hands and locked arms. They hugged and kissed. They often spontaneously burst into song. Every year, there were always marriage proposals and teary declarations to get a divorce, get that gender change, or get off the sauce.
Dogs never whizzed or dumped in the grove. They knew.
And now the county and its fancy terrible equipment was going to slice the grove to smithereens and let the wood chips fall like so much snow.
NO! I will not stand for it!