If you're a Facebook aficionado (or have been reluctantly conscripted), I'm doing a holiday page hop along with a group of my western romance author friends, with lots of great prizes to be had. It starts today (yep, I'm right on the ball as usual, but in my defense, I haven't had a full night's sleep since the National Finals Rodeo started last Thursday, what with staying up to watch, plus actually GOING to Vegas over the weekend).
Anyway, if you want to check it out, everything you need to know is in this post at Kari Lynn Dell Western Author. And that's also where you'll find regular photos and stories from here on the ranch front.
Now on to the real story. Very early in my blogging days I wrote a series of posts about our various adventures back when we used to have to drive ten to fifteen hours to come home for Christmas dinner, instead of walking across the yard from our bunkhouse to my mom's front door. I'm going to share them with you once a week from now until the end of the holidays because sometimes, we all really do need an extra dose of Christmas cheer.
Luggage? What Luggage?
2004 was a strange year for our family. In July, my brother-in-law was deployed to Iraq with the Oregon National Guard. My younger sister was halfway through a degree in Soil Science at Oregon State University via their distance learning program. Plus she had two kids and that pesky job. My mother and older sister spent stretches of time in Oregon while little sis traveled for work.
Me? I had the toughest job of all. I was The Tutor. I had to dredge up what was left of the chemistry I'd learned in high school and college from the deepest, darkest recesses of my brain and hope they hadn't changed all the rules since I graduated.
Meanwhile, the rodeo season had been fair to middling, with stretches of downright ugly. Then in August, I hit a hot streak unlike anything I'd ever experienced. In three weekends I vaulted from the middle of the pack to number one in the Pro West breakaway roping standings and held out to win the year-end championship.
Somewhere in the middle of that hot streak, I also got pregnant. Like I said, weird.
Come December, it was once again time to plan the annual trek home to the ranch for Christmas. Since my sister and I lived thirty miles apart in Oregon, it only made sense that we would travel together, but five of us, a dog and all of our packages and luggage in a minivan would be a tight fit.
My brother was working in Juneau, Alaska. A plane ticket to the airport nearest the ranch was three hundred dollars more than a plane ticket to the airport nearest us. An eighty dollar Amtrak ticket would get him from Pasco, WA to Cut Bank, Montana. He didn't want to wait around to ride with us. Plus, we didn't have room for his shaving kit, let alone six feet three inches and two hundred plus pounds of him.
He flew in at six in the evening. I was assigned the task of collecting him from the airport, feeding him, then dumping him at the train station for a nine o'clock departure. Piece of cake. Except his plane out of Juneau was delayed by fog. He barely made the flight in Seattle. His luggage didn't.
But it would be on the very next flight, the airline representative promised happily. The one that arrived at eight-thirty. As in, fifteen minutes before the train departed from the station. With three miles to cover in between.
His checked luggage consisted of one large trunk. No way it was fitting into the trunk of my Cadillac, but hey, that's why they invented bungee cords, right? And he didn't want to wait and catch the train the next night. We had to try to get him and the trunk onto the train that night.
I dropped him at the depot to check-in and went back to the airport to wait for the eight-thirty flight, fingers crossed that the plane would be early and the train would be late. I was in luck. At eight thirty-five I dragged the trunk off the carousel—what the heck was he giving for Christmas gifts, gold bars from the Yukon?—out the door and heaved it into the car. I squealed out of short term parking and onto the street. I'd carefully mapped the shortest route to the train station and drove it like I'd robbed a bank.
The train was idling at the depot when I skidded to a stop out front. My brother dashed out the door, grabbed the trunk and sprinted for the boarding area. He'd barely disappeared inside the car when the doors slammed shut and the train rolled away.
I climbed back in my car and headed home, pleased that I'd somehow failed to attract the attention of a single officer of the law.
And that was supposed to be the easy part of the family holiday trip.
(Watch for Part Two next week. It gets better. Really..)
Click on the photo to learn about a seriously Cowboy Christmas.
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