A Visit from St. Ferrell

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the peaks
Not a billy was stirring; it had been snowing for weeks.
The ewes and kids were all snug in their beds;
While visions of salt licks danced in their heads;

My hiking partner wore her Scotchmans bandana; I my volunteer cap;
We had just settled inside our tent for a winter’s nightcap,
When out on the slopes there arose such a clatter,
I zipped open my sleeping bag to see what was the matter.

Out of the tent I crawled in a flash,
Tore open the rain fly, oh how the snow splashed!

The moon on the crust of the new-fallen snow,
Shined like midday on Lake Pend d’Oreille below,
When in front of my wondering eyes something hovers and floats,
a huge sleigh pulled by four mighty mountain goats.

With a tall lanky driver who whistled and caroled,
I knew in a moment he must be Doug Ferrell.
More rapid than picas his couriers came,
He whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Compton! now, Mireley! now Brown and Hough!
Get your legs flying, it’s not that rough!
To the top of the peaks! To the top of the crags!
Dash away! Dash away! Above all the snags!”

To the top the mountains the intrepid four flew
With a sleigh full of wildness, and Doug Ferrell too—
Then, in a twinkling, I heard on the summit
The tapping of each cloven hoof, dag-gummit.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the slippery slope Doug Ferrell came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fleece, from his head to his toe,
And his clothes were all white from his slide on the snow;

A bundle of MREs he had flung on his back,
He looked like a hungry hiker just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His knowing smile was drawn up like a hunter’s bow,
While the beard on his chin was just starting to grow;
A tough sprig of Engelmann he held tight in his teeth,
While smoke from our campfire circled his head like a wreath.

Laying his finger aside of his nose,
He gave a knowing nod and up the peaks he arose;
He flew his sleigh high, and gave his team just one whistle,
Then away they all flew, like a mountain goat missile.

And I heard him exclaim, wiping away a small tear
We will save our Wilderness, for sure some year;
Meanwhile, it’s not gone anyway; it’s staying right here.

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Categories: Blog
About The Author:

Phil Hough is the Executive Director of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

He has hiked the "triple crown": the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest trail (twice). He has also paddled the length of the Yukon river. Phil's love of wilderness guides him as he works to save the incrediblly wild Scotchman Peaks, one of the last and largest roadless places in northern Idaho and western Montana.

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  1. Love the “Visit from St. Ferrell,” Phil! This is a keeper!

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