Christmas at Bear
In a House That Love Built
By Peggy Wilson
In just three more days, Santa Claus would come to our house. It was 1955, I was six years old, and wanted only one present from the dog-eared pages of the Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck Christmas catalogs that arrived in early November, which I had studied for weeks now. On long winter evenings, my five sisters and I pored over the selections of dolls, teddy bears, toy trucks, and little red wagons, beautiful dresses, pajamas of all kinds, slippers for our feet, gloves for our hands, coats to keep us warm, boots to wear outside. You could dream for hours.
I was born into a loving family in the little Idaho ranching community of Bear, twenty-nine miles northwest of Council in the Payette National Forest, an area homesteaded and settled by my great- grandparents. Aunts, uncles, and numerous cousins were part of our everyday life, but we sisters and our parents were very close. Each Christmas season my father, Lawrence Warner, and my mother, Millie Viola (Smith), would allow us children to pick one special thing to receive from Santa. We knew that we also would receive practical stuff, and we wrestled with those choices as well: things like panties with the days of the week embroidered on them, or pajamas with teddy bears printed on the fabric and a big red sash. As I recall that year, long flannel nightgowns with pictures of Annie Oakley were popular.
Now, there was a woman a six-year-old could look up to! She was famous, she had traveled in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and, in my mind, there was nothing she could not do. There were Annie Oakley lunch boxes, cowgirl boots and hats. Annie Oakley was my Cinderella. And that lady could shoot.