Cariboo Christmas artwork by Nathan Piner, a Grade 5 student at Horse Lake Elementary.

Cariboo Christmas artwork by Nathan Piner, a Grade 5 student at Horse Lake Elementary.

Caring and Sharing in the Cariboo

Christmas submission by Patrick McGee, Canim Lake

The stars were gazing a mystical light over Canim Lake on this cold crisp night. On the frozen shores and as far as the eye could see, chimneys were puffing and drifting blue-grey smoke across the valley. Moms, dads and children were discussing the upcoming Christmas holidays.

The sweet, wonderful smells of Mom’s baking was already filling the air in the cabin. Tomorrow, Father and I would cut down the tree while my mother and my little sister Mary prepared our special Christmas dinner. It seemed I just laid my head on my pillow, and Father was calling, “I’ll hook up the sleigh, grab a bite and let’s get moving, Normand. Some dark menacing clouds seem to be heading our way.”

Even our horses seem to enjoy whisking the snow chariot through newly fallen snow. Father said we were going where Grandpa took him when he was my age. I was excited, really happy to be spending time with my father. He always seemed to be gone even though he never left our ranch.

We weren’t gone long when the wind tossed the fluffy, drifting snow everywhere. It was mid-afternoon when we reached the meadow, all the trees a beautiful blue hue. Snow was really blowing by the time we secured our tree.

“Let’s go,” he yelled loudly as he rippled the horses’ reins. Darkness soon came and Father spoke very slowly and softly to me, “We don’t seem to be on the right path.”

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The drifting snow looked so deep and the horses seemed not to be enjoying our adventure anymore. My father returned from doing a quick walk around and said he couldn’t see a thing, the storm had put the stars to sleep. I didn’t have to ask. I could tell by my father’s face, we were lost.

The icy white frost on the horses’ faces said the temperature was dropping. Father walked beside the horses talking in a whisper, encouraging them on. Suddenly he stopped. Through the blowing snow, there was a soft, yellow glowing ball of light. We could see people walking with a lantern. How could that be?

As it crossed in front of us, father yelled. But they were too far away, the wind made his voice silent. I jumped and hit the ground running. It was hard to run but ran I did. I am sure I startled them out of a few years of life as I talked so fast explaining that we were lost in this blizzard. Mother would be worried sick. I just kept babbling, until finally, the man said “Are you the Lapointe boy?”

He pulled back his parka. It was Mr. Sonny Sam. Sonny was a local member of the Canim Lake Band, he was trying to get to his mother-in-law’s house as his wife Violet was having their baby. Just then I noticed her all bundled up on the slick black horse he was walking. Suddenly father appeared.

“Sonny, my prayer was answered. I don’t know how much longer we could have gone on. Where are we, Sonny?”

“We are a good mile to Canim Lake, to your place.”

“How can you know this?” My father asked.

“Yeah?” I chirped in.

He told us this was his ancestor’s old trail. Sonny held up the lamp to show us a bent branch two feet above his head, curled toward the way he was walking. About every 10 feet, some were eight inches or more around. Sonny said, “this was done many, many years ago to guide our people’s course in any kind of weather, and high enough to never be buried in snow.”

Violet finally spoke up. “Can we continue this history lesson later, I think we should get going.”

After getting Violet and me tucked in the sleigh, we were off. It was just before midnight when we saw my mother standing at the open door. After the excitement settled, Mom took Violet into the bedroom and told Father to boil a large pot of water. No sooner did the water go into the room than we heard the cry of a baby. All our eyes met at the same time as our smiles. Mother came out. “Sonny, you are the father of a beautiful girl.”

I was only eight years old that year. That Christmas, my family experienced what caring and sharing are all about. And this little boy, well he was feeling like the Cariboo was where he always wanted to be.

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