Alice is a special case. She has no electricity, phone, and her neighbors are distant. Major shopping is 85 miles away and she’s never had an official driver’s license. Her second husband died in the early 80s. Since then, she and her two mixedbreed stock dogs have managed her ranch and a small herd of cattle.
It was the middle of December, a couple of years after her husband died, and the cattle were pushing snow with their chests. Alice spent her days keeping feed trails in the snow open to the cattle and taking care of her chickens.
She wasn’t worried about being snowed in at the ranch. She had friends in town and one of them had an airplane.
As the snow started to get heavy, her friend arranged to fly over her house. They agreed on a signal where she would come out and wave with one arm if everything was OK. But, if she waved with two arms, he would know she was in trouble.
Christmas day arrived and the snow was still flying. After chores, she fixed a simple dinner and went to bed. Every time her friend flew by, she would cheerfully leave the house and wave—with one arm.
New Year’s Day came and the snow was piling deeper. The exhaustion of keeping her feeding trails open blurred one day into the next. She didn’t celebrate the holiday. Still she went out each day and waved with one arm at her friend.
It wasn’t until the middle of January that Alice began to run out of the basics— flour, sugar and, of course, chicken feed. But what really worried her was the all-important high blood pressure medicine she had finished a couple weeks earlier.
Alice made her decision. The next day when her friend flew by, she walked out the kitchen door and waved to him with both hands. The plane circled her little valley and flew off.
She waited and wondered if he’d really seen her signal. She wasn’t sure what she’d do if he missed it.
The following day two friends from town showed up on snowmobiles. Alice explained her problem and sent them out with a list of needed supplies.
She waited and worried again.
Two days later, she heard an airplane and ran out the kitchen door. Her friend was barnstorming her valley at treetop level. His door was open and a bundle tumbled out. Swooping like a bugeating bird, the plane made several more passes. Each time another parcel landed in the snow.
With the plane buzzing her barnyard, Alice was jumping up and down, sobbing with relief. She gave each dog his own chest-cracking hug. When the last package landed, she waved farewell to her friend—with one arm.
That’s when the work started.
The supplies had landed as close to the house as her friend dared to get them. But they were still heavier than a little old lady could pack through the drifted snow.
Alice rigged a small wooden platform on the back of her tractor and bulled her way through the drifts. When the bundles were safe, first thing Alice did was feed the chickens—then, she took her high blood pressure medicine.
Later that evening, exhausted, Alice sat down to a much-delayed Christmas dinner—and, with a little help from her friends, that was the best Christmas dinner ever. — Bing Bingham [Bing Bingham is a writer, rancher and storyteller. Alice was surrounded with family and friends when she passed away at the age of 94. If you have a Christmas story to pass along, contact him at bing@bingbingbing ham.com.]