Cowboys and cowgirls celebrate Christmas, too |

Cowboys and cowgirls celebrate Christmas, too

Record Courier Staff Reports

Last week we were once again honored to be invited by Jan Lopes to view her annual Cowboy-Christmas tree. Greeting us first were her three dogs, Weena, Annie and Bear, followed by her horses, Sutter and Rosie.

Perched high above Markleeville Creek, her little house belongs to the Jubilee Ranch owners Ted and Lee Bacon, but Markleeville resident ranch foreman Jan Lopes has turned it into a cowgirl’s dream house. Every inch is decorated with the Cowboy-Christmas theme.

Her Yuletide tree is truly amazing, not just for an abundance of red bows and balls, but more for the predominance of western-style ornaments. There are cowboy Santas, cows and horses, boots and spurs, lariats and Stetsons; everything that goes into the life of a rancher.

“It takes me several days to place all of the lights and ornaments on this tree,” Lopes said. Indeed, there are literally hundreds of cowboy ornaments on this tree, along with decorations handmade by her kids, Lance and Laurie.

In summertime, Lopes is charged with irrigating the pastures of Jubilee Ranch’s Markleeville holdings, tending the cattle and repairing fences, but yearly, after the roundup, when the cattle leave for warmer climates, she turns to decorating and re-decorating her house.

Tools of choice are saws, planes, hammers and nails, along with sewing machine, scissors, needle and thread. When she isn’t building furniture, she’s sewing curtains. Lopes built her canopy bed, and she’s saved old cabinets from being relegated to the scrap heap by carefully sanding and varnishing worn surfaces. She constructed her coffee table, which doubles as a magazine library, from an old irrigation box.

Lights over the kitchen counter are shaded with baskets that are draped with suede-cloth, fringed by her scissors and tied with red paisley bandannas. Curtains are also fringed and tied in western style. Swags of greens and red bows are interspersed with cowboy boot stockings hung-with-care. Images of cows are everywhere.

Lopes, who has lived in Markleeville since 1978, claims to “love being outside with the cows and calves,” and is shy about being with people, proving that our town contains a few hidden-from-view treasured personalities.

If anyone is interested in purchasing western-style ornaments, they can be found at the Odd Pony gift shop at Woodfords Station, along with unique Christmas bears, angels, fairies, decorations and stocking stuffers.

Alpine County Public Works employee Russell Wood has hung lights on a conifer tree in the newly renovated Markleeville Park and strung lights on the new ramada in the park. There is some discussion about the name of this structure. I would love to collect opinions from readers. Do you think that it should be called the ramada, pavilion, gazebo, bandstand, pergola or some other name?

n Gina Gigli is a Markleeville resident. Reach her at