Grizzly steak may need some gravy.  Just the name sounds like it would be tough to chew.  I was reading about early Idaho Christmases and came across the reference.  You can do the same by clicking here.  The stories were compiled by the state historical society and published 15 years ago.  I’m also taken by the story of the trappers being fed solid food on Christmas Day after months of a diet of only soup.  Or Lewis and Clark gifting their men tobacco.  No whistles or bells or fancy electronics.  Simple gifts from the heart.

Four old runner sleds and the shrieks of happy children racing down a hillside echoed for decades.

The society explained that many of the early Idaho traditions continued until just before World War Two.  I’d say that was an inflection point across the country.  The war years dampened even what few luxuries people had.  After it ended began the great American commercial binge, which we still live with today.

Christmas During the War Years

I’m reminded of a story from the war years.  My mother shared it with me when I was a little boy.  During the Great Depression, gifts often consisted of something exotic, such as an orange.  Then each child frequently received a piece of new clothing or a handmade toy.  War shortages curbed even those minimal gifts.

Her father, my Grandfather Gordon, was an electrician.  He found steady work after the country entered the conflict, but it was more than a two-hour drive each way.  In good weather.  When it was snowing heavily, he stayed at a brother’s house, regularly up to a week before returning home.

Gifts of Love

One evening he made it back and while out for an evening walk found a neighbor throwing away four old runner sleds.  Times were tight.  Grandpa asked the neighbor for what was one man’s garbage.  He took the sleds home and stashed them in the garage.

For the next several weeks, when he was home, he would put the kids to bed, and then with little sleep, work on the sleds.  He replaced broken and rotten wood.  He sanded the runners and replaced the steering ropes (which, if you recall, didn’t offer much control!)  With a little paint, the sleds looked new.

The Meaning of Christmas Echoes Through the Ages

On Christmas morning, my mom and her three brothers clambered out of bed and were ecstatic.  They spent most of that Christmas Day sledding.  Of all the Christmases they shared, it was the only one I recall them talking about as adults.  No Xboxes, robots or mountains of wrapped presents.  Four old runner sleds and the shrieks of happy children racing down a hillside echoed for decades.

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