Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Tripping--Part Two

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.

Oh, yeah, I also got pregnant.

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 mini van 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 to 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 mini-van unless we left a kid behind. 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 into my 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..)

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