Page One of Fourteen
The Sugar Plums
Ben McKenzie CHRISTMAS AT McCREATY'S
Leon Overbay THE CHRISTMAS PLAY
Gail T. Burton A COWBOY'S CHRISTMAS PRAYER
Rod Nichols CHRISTMAS COMES TO LINE CAMP
CHRISTMAS AT McCREATY'S
The snow had fallen every day for a week, till it topped the fence posts and covered the creek! If had brought all traffic to stop in town, and the day before Christmas, it was still coming down... The McCreaty family had weathered the storm, with ample provisions, they were safe and warm. But the mail couldn't run and it was all too clear, there would be no Christmas, at McCreaty's this year! The Monkey Wards catalog that had brought such joy, as Mother and Grandma had ordered each toy, Lay dog eared and forlorn, its usefulness through, still herralding a promise, that wouldn't come true... But Grandpa, no slouch when it came to bat, still had a trick or two under his hat! He had waxed the runners and oiled the sleigh, then waited in patience for the coming of day. The Post Master had agreed to wait around, in hopes that Grandpa could make it to town... Buster, the plow horse, was grizzled and old, but his coat was shaggy, and he weathered the cold. In his youth he had pulled a two bottom plow, and scarce noticed the sleigh, that was hitched to him now! So with creaking of harness the only sound, Buster and Grandpa was headed to town... Out past the main house, where no light could be seen, moved Buster and Grandpa as if caught in a dream. They skirted the drifts as they strove for high ground, and at ten till eleven they made it to town... They had not taken a blow, nor slackened their pace, until they had come, to the Post Masters place. Now the chore would have been easy, had Grandpa just loaded the sled, and strove straight away, towards the old homestead, but there were other families, who couldn't get through, and Christmas this year, would be bleak for them too... Grandpa, not one to shirk when he'd made up his mind, saw to it their parcels were loaded in kind. The Post Master marveled, as he watched them go, past four wheeled drives, that had succumbed to the snow. And he smiled to himself, as he whispered a prayer, that their toils be rewarded, and their chances be fair! Grandpa clucked, cajoled, and gave Buster his rein, as they broke new snow in many a lane. Then when at last they had none but their own, he gave Buster his head, and struck out for home. But fresh snow was falling, and the sun had died, Grandpa felt the chill of it under his hides. But he trusted in Buster, and loosened the rein, and Buster plowed homeward, with all might and mien! And so it was when he could go no more, it was because he had reached the old barn door... Amidst the animal heat and the smell of hay, Grandpa rubbed Buster down and put him away. That tired old horse could rest a few but Grandpa still had work to do! With lanterns set to give him light, he prepared himself to work all night. There were bikes to assemble, wagons, and sleds, and doll houses, with miniature beds. As he worked, the pile of finished toys kept growing, and somewhere in it all, it finally stopped snowing. But lost in his work, he never knew, and toy by toy the pile just grew! But the thousands of stars that filled the skies, did not escape one persons eyes. Alone in her room, at the top of the stairs, the youngest knelt, to say her prayers. Then from her bedroom window, safe and warm, she stood to watch the dwindling storm. Leaving behind a Christmas scene, that at last was peaceful and serene. Postcard perfect in this world of white, stood the barn diffusing light! Not one to hesitate or stand idly by, when the chance for adventure caught her eye. Quiet as could be, she began to dress, imagination can supply the rest... Of how she tiptoed past family, fast asleep, and brazened the snow, treacherous and deep! To climb the ladder to the loft, without a thought of falling off!. To gain for herself that high loft floor, quite a feat, for a girl of four! There in her perch of new stacked hay, she saw her grandpa working away, and singing to himself a familiar tune, Christmas Day is Coming Soon. For each toy he used in his refrain, he gleefully added a family name! Johnny wanted a brand new sleigh. A doll for Gracie, she heard him say, before the sandman took her away... When she awoke she was alone once more, not a toy could be seen on that old barn floor. So she let herself down the feeding chute, and as fast as her little legs could scoot, through her grandpa's tracks, she plowed her way, the smile on her young face seemed to say, she knew a secret about Christmas day! There sat her grandpa in his easy chair, with toys around him everywhere. She heard a rumbling, low and deep, that told her Grandpa, was fast asleep. And though his job was finally through, there was something else she had to do! She knew for herself just where to look, in her Santa's Helpers coloring book. She knew exactly what each page said, because she memorized every word, her mother had read. The words she needed, just a couple more, could be found on her sisters bedroom door. Moving quietly so not to be heard, she painstakingly copied every word... When her family arose in the morning light, it was to the most amazing sight! There sat Grandpa asleep as could be, with milk and cookies, at his knee. The note on his lap in childish word said, SANTA'S HELPER, DO NOT DISTURB!!!
by Ben McKenzie Read more of his poems here.
THE CHRISTMAS PLAY
The last Sunday night before Christmas everyone in the Church always attended the Christmas Play
For two months before we would study our lines and plan our costumes for that big day
Our teachers would give us verses to memorize as actors they did seek
My twin brother and I knew that the work would be hard so we always volunteered to be sheep
But our teachers would con us into wearing our bathrobes and borrowing our grandfather's cane
They said they needed Shepherds, not sheep; every year was the same
The real trick was finding wise men; they were especially hard to recruit
And considering the pickings in our class; no one appeared that astute
But wearing a beard and a Crown as disguise we could always evade
The fact that every one of the three had twice failed the second grade
The girls were always excited about the play and for the part of Mary they would try
The runners up were never disappointed they were always angles from on high
The hardest part to cast was that of Joseph from Bethlehem
He would always have to stand beside Mary and sometimes have to hold her hand
Girls at that age were not the best part of the boys life
They didn't even like to be around them let alone consider one as their wife
The little kids didn't have to wear costumes they would just stand upon the stage
They would all sing Away in the Manger; What else could you do at that age
But each year there was always something that happened that brought the congregation to tears
Like the time that little Jimmy Spencer pulled his gallowses up over his ears
There was the time that little Flo Patterson pulled her dress up over her head
Her mother was all flushed with embarrassment she wished that she was dead
There was the night that Jimmy Oaks and Johnny Fletcher got into a fight
Their parents picked it up in the back pew; It was not a pretty sight
But always before the evening was over everyone had been blessed
The wisdom of a children's performance can ne'er be second guessed
Now that we are much older we know that our teachers were right
The true meaning of Christmas is the story of the child that was born that night
by Leon Overbay (see more of his poems here)
A COWBOY'S CHRISTMAS PRAYER
The worn and wrinkled cowboy
slowly shaved and combed his hair.
He picked the finest clothes he had
and then he dressed with care.
He stomped into his new bought boots
and shrugged into his coat.
The others would have questioned him,
but his thoughts seemed quite remote.
He stepped out of the bunkhouse,
and pulled his hat down tight,
Then climbed aboard his private horse
and rode into the night.
The single footin' gelding
ate the miles without a pause
And seemed to know the rider
had a most important cause.
Twenty miles on through the night,
with the rider deep in thought,
The stars came out to guide his way
to the goal the ride had bought.
His horse stopped on a gentle rise,
tho' the rider pulled no rein,
And the cowboy raised his head to stare
'Cross the quiet and lonely plain
He crawled down off the weary horse,
loosed the cinch so it could blow,
Then walked a yard or two away
and knelt down in the snow.
He crushed his hat against his chest,
raised his face up to the sky,
And then he started talking
like a friend was standing by.
"Lord, you see I rode a piece tonight
'Cause I knowed that you'd be here.
Course you wuz at the bunkhouse too,
but on this hill ya' seems near.
As I look acrost this prairie
and see the things youšve made,
Why, comparin' things us men has done
really puts 'em in the shade."
"I thank you for the love you show
in everything you do,
And I'm proud to be a top-hand
with a loyal happy crew.
I've still got all my fingers,
my legs are bowed, but tough,
Rheumatiz' ain't touched my bones,
and my mind is sharp enough."
"Your spirit gives me comfort,
and I know that when I die,
You'll let me rest forever
at that bunkhouse in the sky.
Forgive me when I wander off,
like a wild jug-headed hoss,
And I pray You'll not give up on me
'fore I learn that you're the boss."
"I've rode out here to tell you
I'm thankful for a Savior's birth,
And to send you MERRY CHRISTMAS
from your folks down here on earth."
Then he mounted up and rode away
with a casual good-bye nod.
A cowboy with his heart at peace
in the palm of the hand of God.
by Gail T. Burton (read more of his poems here)
CHRISTMAS COMES TO LINE CAMP
There's nuthin' more lonesome, nor ragged, nor cramped
than a back-country line shack on a long winter camp,
but that was the choice made by old Miller Tige
who worked as a rider for the 2-Lazy-Y.
Each season that followed the final fall drive
we'd pack up our gear 'fore the first snow arrived,
and head for a warm place as winter set in
'cept for the cowboy who stayed now and then.
He'd have to make do in a small wooden shack
and see to the cattle 'til the spring brought us back.
most of the boys tried to put off that day
'cept for old Miller who liked it that way.
And so for the five years we'd known Miller Tige
he'd stayed on at line camp with no questions why,
'cause none of us hankered to trade for his spot
we liked creature comforts for the small pay we got.
Now that was the subject on many a night
old Miller's line job which didn't sit right,
the boys often wondered 'bout a man all alone
out there in that old shack and left to his own.
So that's how it happened that one night you see
we upped for a visit to be company,
and being near Christmas we cut a small fir
to bring him some peace and goodwill on this earth.
Well the ride was a long one before we arrived
and the cabin was empty so we just stepped inside,
old Miller was somewhere out ridin' the line
so we made ourselves cozy and bided our time.
Then one of the boys who was nosin' a bit
found a half-finished letter and began readin' it,
he read it out loud so that all of us heard
and we sat there in silence at these humble words.
Dear Martha the letter went on to explain
it's winter already and I'm here again,
I'd like to be with you but we still need the pay
for just gettin' by as we do day to day.
With little Bill's illness and doctors and such
it takes all my wages and that ain't that much,
but I ain't complainin' the Lord's good to me
without this here job I don't know where we'd be.
Give Billy a hug, dear, and try to explain
that Christmas won't happen this year once again,,
he's a good boy, our Billy, and he'll understand
why daddy can't be there for his little man.
Somehow we'll get through this I just know it, dear
til then I'll keep workin' and stayin' on here,
but one day I promise a place of our own
for you and our Billy a real proper home.
That's where the note ended but that was enough
five years in a line camp and times had been rough,
five years without Christmas and fam'ly or home
five years every winter out here all alone.
Things might of stayed silent but old Bucky said
we'd best saddle up boys it's a long ride ahead,
we left without lettin' him know we were there
picked up our gear left his note on a chair.
We didn't say much on that ride back to town
the snow slowly covered our tracks on the ground,
when finally we stepped down at Omar's saloon
a silence had filled every man in that room.
We sat there a long time each lost in his thoughts
til Louie remember'd some lumber he'd bought,
and roofin' and nails and then other things too
then each of us added some things we could do.
A whole plan was laid out by dawn's early light
with one lttle detail to do the thing right,
the owner, old DK, would have to agree
and he weren't the type to do nuthin' for free.
But when we recited that letter we'd read
he took just a moment then said go ahead,
in fact that old son did much more than his share
he threw in a deed and then ten head to spare.
By the time it was finished we had quite a load
of supplies and equipment and livestock all told,
and twelve loads of groceries all paid for and clear
by the store keep, Miss Bette, for the rest of the year.
Then we headed back up there to old Miller's shack
but the ride seemed more cheerful than when we'd come back.
we'd build him a real place with stock of his own
a place that his missus and Bill could call home.
Course that would all happen much later that spring
but now after five years it was Christmas again,
the boys would each spell him to be with his kin
a gift from the heart of that small band of men.
We found Miller Tige by the time we arrived
he sort of went speechless with tears in his eyes,
the best he could tell us was God bless you all
but the look on his face is the thing I'll recall.
For the first time I felt it and so did the men
the meaning of Christmas had come back again,
the message of angels we first heard as boys
behold we have brought you great tidings of joy.
There's nuthin' more lonesome, nor ragged, nor cramped
than a back-country line shack on a long winter camp,
'cept for one cabin on the 2-Lazy Y
that's owned by one family and their son, BillyTige.
Merry Christmas everyone.
by Rod Nichols
Read Rod's other Christmas poems Little Britches and Christmas Round the Campfire and read more of his other poems here.
Page One of Fourteen
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