EAGLE POINT — For the past seven years, Joanie Doss has gradually been filling up her home with an army of nutcrackers.
"If you saw them, you'd have to laugh," she said with a chuckle. "It's ridiculous. I mean, this year there are 508 pairs of eyes staring at you.
"People walk in and they go — Oh! — It's like Disneyland north. I look forward to it every year."
Her passion for nutcrackers began innocently enough.
"My daughter is a ballerina and, of course, every year from when she was about 4 years old there was The Nutcracker, and almost all ballet schools at Christmas time each do a version of it.
"A few of her friends gave her a couple of small nutcrackers that were kind of cute, so I thought, well, maybe for Christmas I'll get a nutcracker, too."
Doss bought one but soon found that one wasn't enough. Soon after, she realized she was on the verge of an obsession.
"You know, they're kind of like pretzels," she said. "I got one, and then I got another one, and then bought another, and pretty soon I had a lot of nutcrackers staring back at me."
Her nutcrackers range in size from about a half-inch tall up to 5 feet, and they come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
"They're all unique," she said. "I don't have any two that are alike.
"I've got animals that are nutcrackers, storybook-character nutcrackers and even sewing ones, such as the one with a thimble for a body and a spool of thread for its hat."
Around Christmas 2004, she "finally got serious" about her collection and decided she wanted to share it.
"I've got some wonderful neighbors and friends," she said, "and wondered what I could do for them that would be something they would remember, something nice, and something that wouldn't take up a lot of space."
The annual "Nutcracker Party" was born, but you had to be invited.
"There's a naughty list, too," Doss said with a big laugh. "If you're naughty, you get scratched off the guest list and you're not coming."
Guests receive a coffee cup with an ornament inside and draw numbers for inexpensive gifts, but the highlight of the party is guessing how many nutcrackers Doss has on display.
"Every year there are more," said friend Linda Adamson. "It's a fun game for us to guess how many there are. The winner gets Christmas dishware, candles or something simple like that."
Adamson said she admires how hard Doss works and had to admit that none of her guesses have ever come close.
"It's so much fun, and I look forward to it every year," Doss said. "I usually start unpacking around Halloween, and it's a steady job, just working and working. The first climb up the ladder is the scariest. "… After the holidays, it takes about two weeks to put everything away."
Ask Doss' husband, Bill, what he thinks of her collection, and he just laughs, preferring to "turn you over to the collector."
"He used to think I was crazy," said Doss, "but now he'll say things like, 'Hey, did you see that nutcracker over there?' Now he's enabling me."
Doss never knows how many nutcrackers she'll buy in a given year, but 2011 looks like a "bad year," she said, explaining she found more "cute ones" than usual, which means "you wind up buying more."
She lives by one nutcracker rule.
"They have to be cute and have something about them that is unique. I don't want just another nutcracker. They have to appeal to me."
And that's how — one by one — 1,016 nutcracker eyes have found themselves a warm and happy home for Christmas.
Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.