If you’re like me, you’ve probably had your fill of Christmas cheer and gift wrappings about now, and are longing for a little bit of that “peace on earth” we keep hearing about.
Still, no matter how hectic our lives might seem at the moment nothing compares to Christmas in the old west. Instead of forging through crowded malls early pioneer women living in canvas homes, soddies and log cabins, battled blizzards, bitter cold and driving winds. In 1849, Catherine Haun wrote in her diary that her family’s Christmas present was the rising of the Sacramento River that flooded the whole town.
Those of you planning to travel this holiday season might empathize with the passengers who spent Christmas of 1870 on the Kansas-Pacific train stuck in snow. Fortunately, soldiers from a nearby fort provided fresh buffalo meat, which is a whole lot more than you get today if stuck at the airport.
While most pioneers decorated Christmas trees with strung popcorn, berries and pictures from Arbuckle’s coffee, McCade, Texas takes the prize for the most unusual ornaments. On Christmas morning in 1883, three men were found hanging from a tree. If that wasn’t festive enough, the shootout that followed provided “genuine atmosphere” a-plenty.
What is Christmas without a feast? Even the poorest of families managed to splurge a little. Oysters were considered a luxury and one bride in Montana proudly served them to her guests on Christmas Day, unaware that the oysters had spoiled during transport.
Crime never takes a holiday and that was as true back then as it is now. On Christmas day in 1873, Indians stole five army horses near the Concho River resulting in a shootout. In 1877 Sam Bass robbed a Fort Worth stagecoach of $11.25, and in 1889 Butch Cassidy pulled his first bank holdup on Christmas Eve at a Telluride, Colorado bank.
In case you were wondering, Christmas wasn’t all gunfire and fireworks. In 1881 Tombstone, Arizona Territory made news for having a “quiet” holiday. Not to worry, they made up for it the following year.
Come to think of it, maybe those crowded malls aren't so bad, after all, even without the “genuine Christmas atmosphere.”