Page Eight





The Christmas Tree

They've been to get their Christmas tree, they hadn't far to go.
They live in that high country where young timber starts to grow.
The day is cold the snow is new, there's not so many tracks.
The dad has got the Christmas tree, the kid he has the ax.

You  notice by the chimney that the fire place is wide.
They have their house built strong and low, it's plenty warm inside.
They've got a good set of good corrals besides a stable too;
They are fixed up pretty handy fer a place to winter through.

And when they put the candles on it's easy to believe
How that tree will look by fire light this comin' Christmas eve.
There won't be any carols sung, there won't no organ play
But they'll have a happy Christmas in them hills so far away.

I'll bet the old man's thinkin' back to when he was a kid.
How folks would spend their Christmas and the things he got and did.
Of course the kid, he looks ahead, he don't think of the past,
But he'll soon have Christmas memories that he'll keep until the last.

Bruce Kiskaddon


Read more classic poetry from Bruce Kiskaddon here.



The Christmases of My Childhood (1930's)

I remember them as being so wonderful!  Our Norwegian family seemed so big, and everyone was so happy to be together.  Grandma and Grandpa lived with my Aunt Margit and Uncle Ed, so everyone congregated there for Christmas Day. The house was big, with large, high-ceilinged rooms. The star on top of the beautifully decorated, enormous tree just barely cleared the 12' ceiling. Presents were piled high beneath the tree.  The house was redolent with the odors of roasting turkey and spicy pumpkin pies.

At home, early on Christmas morning, my little sister and I shared our own gifts, then sat down to a delicious Norwegian snack of lefse and fruit soup. Then we all set off for the big event!

First, I would run to meet Grandma and Grandpa -- "Glade Jul!"  Grandpa, with his white hair and moustache and smiling blue eyes -- and Grandma, soft and cuddly as a feather pillow, her red hair faded to a look of apricots in whipped cream.  Soon, family by family, everybody began to arrive -- until we numbered about 30 in all.

One Norwegian dish I could never learn to like was the lutefisk - hard-dried cod, that had gone through a series of water baths since Thanksgiving, to leach out the lye it contained.  Now, here it was, all soft and white, with accompanying cups of melted butter.  The dining room, large as it was, could only accommodate the grownups, so we children had our own table set up in the kitchen.  It was like a 'rite of passage' in the family, to graduate to the 'big' table!

One of my father's crops on our ranch was Emperor grapes, a late table variety and so delicious that I've tried in vain to find them again ever since. Anyway, after the harvesters had left, Dad and I would glean the vineyard, getting quite a few lugs of various sized bunches.  I would set up a little roadside stand and sell them, which gave me "lots" of money for Christmas presents.  Everyone got a gift in those days - no drawing of names for us!  On some special day before Christmas Mother and I would go to town, and she would deposit me in the wonderful Woolworth store.  Here, I happily bought lace hankies, small jewelry, "Evening in Paris" perfume, things to embroider, mens handkerchiefs, socks and toys, all selected with a particular relative in mind.  I have no memory of gifts I received on those long-ago Christmases, but I do still recall the thrill of making my own spending money, and buying and wrapping all those special little gifts for those I loved!

Christmas 2005 - age 80

2005, LaVonne Houlton
These words poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This story is also posted in our Western Memories project.

Read more of LaVonne Houlton's poetry and prose here.


Holy Smoke!

A Chinook arch was plain t' see in full moon's brightest light.
You won't believe the tale that comes from this December's night.
I'll take the chance of tellin' you in case my thinkin's wrong.
As for a man named Santa Claus, my faith is purdy strong!
It happened on a Christmas Eve in fact 'twas jest last year.
A shock it was and my poor horse is still a wreck from fear!
The two of us was checkin' herd t'word the early hours o' morn'
Fer late December let me say it shore was nice and warm!
A couple times throughout the night I'm shore I heard me bells.
"Yer dreamin' man" I told m'self, "yer such an infidel!"
Anyways, I'll carry on with this here Christmas tale,
and no, good folks, t' set ya' straight, I'd not bin sippin' ale!
I stopped my steed upon a rise and set t' roll a smoke.
I's taken out my fixin's from my ol' t'backy poke.
When all at once a flash of light appeared from out the sky,
My ol' cowpony jumped, I'll guess, 'bout eight or nine feet high!
I lost my poke and 'backy both and barely stayed aboard
The shock was such, I'll tell ya' folks, I couldn't say a word!
This short, fat, grey-haired, bearded dude was piloting a sleigh
Bein' pulled by critters odd and laughin' all the way!
Shore enough I heard the bells I thought I'd heard before.
Though now with sleigh and funny cows I questioned even more.
I questioned my own sanity and that of my old steed.
For both of us t' see this sight was mighty strange indeed!
No sooner had we hit the ground, I heard these loud words spoken,
"Merry Christmas Cowboy Friend and you should not be smokin'!!"
The old dude scared me bad enough I ain't smoked a ciggy since
and as for Santa's bein' real, well folks, I am convinced!
I swear upon my Daddy's grave this story is all true
And while I'm on a Christmas note, a Merry one to you!!

2005, Tom King
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

See Tom King's web site for Eldon Walls' cartoon drawn for this poem, in Tom's December, 2005 column. 

Read more of Tom King's poetry here.



A Cowboy Christmas Prayer

Lord, as I lean back on this fence post with my dog Bucky,
I'll ask you instead of Santa and see if I get lucky.

Give me the strength to start the day without the help of caffeine,
I know I don't have to explain, you know what I mean.

Give me the strength to always be cheerful, ignoring all my aches and pain,
I've not taken good care of this body you let me use, with only me to blame.

Give me the strength to resist complaining and boring people with my trouble,
I know there are some out there with more problems, maybe even double.

Give me the strength that if I eat the same food everyday to be grateful without a doubt,
and to remember that there are folks out there that are without.

Give me the strength to understand when my loved ones are too busy to give me any time,
they do have their lives and it's not always about mine.

Give me the strength to overlook it when those I love take it out on me when something goes wrong,
sometimes I am weak but you help keep me strong.

Give me the strength to not resent taking criticism and blame,
I know on the cross you had to do the same.

Give me the strength to not give advice unless there's a request,
sometimes our silence is what folks like the best.

Give me the strength to resist treating the rich better than the poor,
we'll all have the same when we walk through your door.

Give me the strength to face the world without deceit and the lies,
We know folks like this and we see through their disguise.

Give me the strength to relax without whiskey, beer or other drink,
to know you're in my heart is all I have to think.

Give me the strength to sleep without the aid of drugs, don't need them for my rest,
you let me sleep without them for years and I know that you know best.

Give me the strength to say that deep in my heart I have no prejudice
against folks with different beliefs or don't look like me, Lord, wouldn't that be great,
if you could return my heart to it's infant stage before it was taught to hate.

As I think back at this long list of prayers it puts my mind in a fog,
Lord, I guess what I'm asking, is can you make me more like Bucky, my dog.


2005, Greg Gilbert
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read more about Greg Gilbert here.



A Wild, Turkey Dinner

Christmas time out in the West,
     can often be a cowboy's best;
          when surrounded by family and friends.

But for the poor old saddle tramps,
     holed up in lonely winter camps,
          it seems the blues and boredom never ends.

I recall just such a pair,
     and the story I will share
          of two cowhands, named Buster and Jake.

They wintered out in Bar-D's camp,
     in a line shack cold and damp,
          saving all the money they could make.

In that cabin, in a nook,
     Buster found an old cookbook,
          it told how to fix a turkey stuffed with dressin'.

The thought of such a Christmas feast,
     made them homesick to say the least,
         but neither even had a cooking lesson!

It seemed that Buster drew short straw,
     and with little time to hem nor haw,
          he gathered all the chuck he thought they'd need

Now Jake came back in 'bout an hour,
     with the wild turkey he'd require.
          Jake started plucking, while Buster tried to read.

The page had begun to tear and tatter;
     they guessed it really shouldn't matter
          since most could still be read as plain as day.

To what directions weren't still there,
     they really didn't give a care.
          They'd figure it all out along the way.

While the stove began to heat,
     Buster stuffed that turkey nice and neat,
         Jake slipped it in the oven good and hot.

Soon that stove commenced to shakin',
     then it rumbled and started quakin',
          belching fire as it blew, as slick as snot!

As the door flew off that oven,
     those cowpokes commenced to shovin";
          each trying hard to flee that devil's lair.

The whole dang cabin turned chaotic,
     though it seemed downright  patriotic
          when the turkey flew by, trailing a rocket's bright red glare!

It bounced from floor to ceiling beam,
     and like a boiler venting steam,
          the "Tom" soon began to scream and whistle.

It smacked Jake hard enough to lame em'.
     Buster built a loop and tried to claim him.
          he'd wish he never snared that turkey missile.

Once the bird had took the slack;
     it yanked it hard then doubled back
          'twas Buster's turn to face the demon bird!

The turkey reared and thumped its breast,
     then sailed right into Buster's chest
          poor Buster thought he'd been trampled by the herd.

It broke the table and three chairs,
     then scattered all the silverware,
          and finally blew itself plumb to bits.

Their Christmas feast now lay in waste,
     they never even got a taste
          I swear those cowboys thought it was the ....pits!

Now though it seems the turkey bird,
     had surely gotten the last word,
          our cowpokes know it could have been much worse.

They both had gained a hard-earned lesson:
     When stuffing turkey with popcorn dressin'.
           Make sure that ya cook the popcorn.... FIRST!

2005, Carl Condray
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Read more of Carl Condray's poetry here.


Christmas Cattle-Call

Snow-white beard down to his chest...but this weren't Santa Claus;
Ol' Mitch came in the bunkhouse with a gloved fist full o' straws.
We all knew it was comin', an' was only fair an' right...
'cause someone had to sit the herd, even Christmas-Eve night.

We drew, an' I drew short.  I knew it 'fore the next man pulled
his straw.  Every man pulled out his own, to show I wasn't gulled.
I hit my bunk, to sack a few more hours before sundown.
Fair's fair, an' what needs doin', we do here without a frown.

Rico fed up Cricket, an' he calmed her in her stall
so's she'be rested up like me, since we'd both be out all
night long.  I woke 'bout four o'clock for chow
then dressed up warm, an' saddled up an' said "Let's go watch cow."

Now, Cricket makes a fine mare for a watch on winter nights;
she coats up warm an' shaggy, an' she never gets the frights.
We hit the herd-camp, out there on the backside of the range
'bout sundown.  Jimmy's radio was blastin' out "La Grange."

He shook my hand an' said "It's quiet...they're all settlin' in.
Looks like you'll have a peaceful watch."  He gave a little grin
then tipped his hat an' mounted up,  "The wood pile's stacked up good.
Merry Christmas, Partner.  I'll tell Santa you been good."

Then he handed me a thermos...he had coffee fresh an' ready,
an' he said "It's got a touch of Irish in the mix, t'keep ya steady."
then he headed for the ranch-house, where the turkey was a-waitin'
an' me and Cricket rode the rounds.  We'd do our celebratin'

come mornin', with the kids around, the stockin's an' the tree.
For now, we'll keep the cattle close, this shaggy mare an' me
and watch out for the predators that winter always brings
while the hands all help the owner's kids thread popcorn on the strings

with cranberries.  They'll all sing carols an' sip egg-nog
while we watch the grass cool down' pull on its coat of fog
an' the calves all snuggle close to Mama, an' the bulls keep guard
like me an Cricket.  There'll be that same ol' snowman in the yard

when I ride in, tomorrow, swearin that I'm bound for bed
(but I know the young-uns' laughs'll drive that straight outta my head)
there'll be them Pe-can Pancakes, eggs an' ham-steaks on the table
an' I'll set down with the rest an' eat all I'm dang-well able!

Then Cricket interrupts that dream, an' nickers at the sky
where there's a bright red fallin' star trailin' fire as it streaks by
an' maybe I'm jes' wrapped up in my imaginin's, but hey!
That jes' might be a reindeer's nose, ahead of a shiny red sleigh.

I climb down to fill that thermos, an' add a touch of Jimmy's gift
an' from somewhere in the herd, a calf gives my young heart a lift
while Cricket dips her muzzle in that cold spring-water barrel
an' I listen while that calf sings out that Lonesome Cattle Carol.

2005, by eric lee
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Read more of eric lee's poetry here.

Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of



Visit our Art Spur project collection of poems inspired by 
"A Christmas Tale" by Mick Harrison. 



See a complete list of all the holiday poems from 2000-2005 here.

See the links here for holiday news and more.



Page Eight




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