It was a hard road to Oregon for Tabitha Brown. Sixty-six years old, she and members of her party took the newly charted Applegate Road to Oregon country, while other members of the family took the route across the Blue Mountains and down the Columbia River.
Winter was setting in when Brown’s party reached the Umpqua Valley. There were no white settlements close by, so the widow Tabitha and her brother-in-law, Captain Brown, set out for help. “Fly, everyone that can, from starvation,” Tabitha recalled.
They met up with other pioneers at the foot of the Calapooya Mountains, where they soon ran out of food. They reached the shelter of a minister’s home in Salem on Christmas Day, 1846. In Salem, she found a six-and-a-quarter-cent piece and purchased needles. She traded clothes for buckskin and sewed pairs of gloves, which she was able to sell for “upwards of $30.”
Christmases in Oregon country improved for the woman who was later to help found Pacific University near Forest Grove.
Shopping for presents is easier now, but finding a gift for the outdoorsperson is never simple. Here are some ideas.
• For the waterfowl hunter, consider heated insoles from ThermaCell (www.thermacell.com). These foot warmers will make any outdoor activity more comfortable. They are wireless, rechargeable, lightweight and remote-controlled, to keep feet at normal body temperature.
• A predator hunter or an archer might appreciate Cabela’s new ZONZ camouflage, which comes in two styles — Woodlands and Western — in an innovative temperature-sensitive format designed to blend in three different zones within one photorealistic macro pattern.
• A big-game hunter or a birder would like Alpen’s new ED/HD series of binoculars, which come in 10x50 and 15x50 models. I used them for both purposes over the past six months.
• For the hunter or hiker, consider the BaseImage Backcountry Atlas. These high-quality map books can be ordered for any big-game unit or forest region in the state. Options are topographic and aerial photos or a combination. Find them at Bend Mapping and other stores.
• For the female archer with a bowhunting career ahead of her, consider Hoyt’s Vicxen compound. Any young archer may appreciate the gift of archery lessons at a local shop.
• Everyone who heads to the field or stream with a trailer or a pickup or a bike or boat needs to tie something down. Hook & Cord (www.hookandcord.com) is an Oregon-based company with products designed to fit pickup beds, trailers, drift boats and many other applications.
• Have you ever met a hunter who wasn’t interested in the latest calls? Shad Harrison (www.harrisoncalls.com) of Vale makes duck, goose, elk and predator calls out of antler, ebony, macassar, bocote and mountain mahogany.
• A good complement to a new call would be a custom knife, with scales made from a similar material. Lately, I’ve been using a fixed blade by Bitterroot Blades (www.bitterrootblades.com) and a folder from Three Sisters Forge (www.threesistersforge.com).
• Of course, a custom knife should ride on a custom belt. There’s still enough time to order the leather. Stop in at the Cowboy Trading Post located between Bend and Redmond. Need a fancy buckle for the belt? Have one custom-made at Tres Rios at www.tresriossilverbuckles.com.
• The sportsman in the family is the one everyone turns to when knives must be touched up. A sharpening system like the new Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition makes the job easy and leaves no excuse when the kitchen blades go dull.
• For the fly fisherman, check out “Fly-Fishing’s Final Frontier — Specialty Fly Patterns and Fishing Techniques for North America’s Alternate Species,” a new hardcover from Amato Publications. Author Geoff Bernardo takes the angler on a quest for carp, pike, inconnu, stripers, bass and more.
• Know a winter steelhead fisherman or duck hunter? Give them the gift of spray-on water repellency with ReviveX from McNett Corporation.
• Everything else can go wrong on a hunting or fishing trip, but there is no reason to go hungry. Check out Camp Chef (www.campchef.com) for smokers, barbecues, camp stoves and backyard fire pits.
• Speaking of things that can go wrong … If you’ve ever been lost, you probably wished you had a whistle. You can go hoarse shouting for help, but a whistle takes little effort to blow, and it will continue to blow long after you wear out your voice. The Safety Whistle, from Whistles for Life, is the official whistle of the National Association for Search and Rescue. They are inexpensive, made by an Oregon company and available at REI and other outlets.
• For the sportsman who carries a lot of valuable stuff in his or her SUV or pickup, the Truck Vault (www.truckvault.com) is a great way to store firearms and archery equipment away from prying eyes and sticky fingers.
For a train of immigrants in 1846, shelter over a person’s head was the best Christmas gift. This year, when you gather with family or friends, remember the pioneers that built our state and honor them by helping those who need a hand this holiday.
— Gary Lewis is the host of Adventure Journal and author of “John Nosler — Going Ballistic,” “Black Bear Hunting,” “Hunting Oregon” and other titles. Contact Lewis at www.GaryLewisOutdoors.com.