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Christmas tradition lives on after 83 years

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A subtle patina veils the aged wooden floor at the North Crow Clubhouse, where neighbors gather for the annual Christmas program. The furnace slumbers quietly near the kitchen, warmth from flannel-clad bodies keeping the quaint meeting place a cozy temperature. 

Christmas lights twinkle on a tree in the darkened room. Only the stage is lit, where a young girl dressed in a Christmas frock picks out the melody of “Silent Night” on the piano keys while silhouettes of cowboy hats listen politely.

It’s pretty hard to tell what year it is.

Not much has changed since the first celebration in 1929. Narrow wooden benches have withstood generations of Carhartt overalls — and several coats of paint. A beastly furnace has replaced the original wood stove. The glowing plastic nativity scene in the entry looks vintage, perhaps 1960s or ’70s era. The interior walls have been recently updated with tan paint, and the exterior siding was brightened last summer with a layer of white. 

Yet the heart of the little ranching community remains the same.

“I think I’ve been to every one of these Christmas programs,” Bill Hocker Sr. said with a chuckle. “I remember reading a poem as a child, but I couldn’t tell you what it was.”

On Monday, Dec. 10, a new generation of children walks confidently on stage, announcing their name to an attentive audience of neighbors and family. They perform on the piano, the trumpet, the violin. Others sing simple carols without the comfort of accompaniment. 

As the crowed ends with “Jingle Bells,” Santa and Mrs. Claus enter right on cue. Youngsters scurry to visit St. Nick as he rewards each child with a hug and a gift.

Even the adults go home with a token treat — the traditional popcorn ball.

When all the reindeer cookies, cider and hot chocolate are consumed, neighbors fold up chairs and hug each other, offering warm wishes for another blessed Christmas. 

 

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