Illustration by Dee Strickland Johnson
The Star and a Humble Cowboy
Lord, you cared so much for the shepherds,
you sent the glad news first to them --
Before the kings and the wise men,
so you might just speak again
To some other humble herdsman
out here on the range abiding --
A brilliant star, an angel choir
proclaiming "Peace! Glad tidings!"
The shepherds were common people
who slept in the fields near their flocks;
Their clothes might be dirty and ragged
and rugged and rough their talk.
So, Lord, I needn't apologize
for my appearance or my words.
I know you're right here beside me,
and it seems that I've just heard
The shepherds hastening, excited,
Extolling the star they had seen,
A baby born in a manger;
Not to some great king and queen,
But to people who do the menial tasks
That housewives and carpenters do,
And farmers and desk clerks and waitresses --
Just people like me and you.
But famous rich men brought presents,
Which should prove what I know to be true --
Christ came for shepherds and wise men
And kings and cowboys too.
© 1996, Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot")
A Christmas Eve to Remember
We was workin' for a outfit
Way out Arizona way;
It happened on a Christmas Eve,
A cold and snowy day.
Me and Mort was at a line camp
When old Cookie, he showed up
A-bringin' us some Christmas cheer --
A wagon-load of chuck!
When he had fixed us dinner,
We was baskin' in the glow
Of the best durn meal we'd eaten
In about a month or so,
When it suddenly got colder;
Snow'd been fallin' kind of slow,
Now it really come a-drivin'
Old north wind commenced to blow!
We told Cookie he'd best stay the night,
To bring his bedroll in.
He'd just gone out to fetch it,
Midst the blizzard and the wind,
When he come acrost this hombre--
Kinda small and mighty thin --
Lookin' froze plumb to the marrow.
Cookie up and brought him in.
That young stranger was a-shiverin',
Why, his lips was turnin' blue!
His jacket out both elbows
And his shirt a-showin' through!
I handed him hot coffee.
Mort tried to make him sit,
But he shook his head and stood there --
Wouldn't have it -- not a bit!
He said, "My wife's in labor!"
Hands was tremblin' from the cold,
"It's her first and hard a-comin',
And she's just fifteen years old.
I'm afeered I'm goin' to lose her!
It ain't uncommon, so I'm told.
Is one of you a doctor?
I can pay a little gold!"
Cook looked at me; I looked at him
-- Then both of us looked at Mort,
And Cookie to the stranger says,
"He's a doctor -- of a sort!"
Now, Mort warn't no physician --
Why that sure would be a laugh!
But he was best of all us hands
When a heifer dropped a calf.
Mort looked a sight bewildered,
But he didn't know the half
Of what we was gettin' into --
'Cause this warn't no dadburn calf!
Mort went to gatherin' up some stuff.
Stranger said his name was Joe,
And he finally took the coffee
When he saw we meant to go.
He said, "I finally took a place.
Come west on the Santa Fe trail.
I hoped to make it pannin' gold,
But it seems I always fail --
Be it farmin' or at minin' --
Just most everything I've tried.
Then I met and married Mary,
Now her mama's up and died.
"And the baby's comin' early,
That's the way it seems to be;
And my Mary's sure in trouble --
Only help she's got is me!"
Cookie'd packed a bag of vittles,
And him and Mort and me
Was a-puttin' on our dusters,
And the stranger looked relieved.
Me and Mort rolled up our blankets
Because it was cold as sin!
Tossed some firewood in the wagon,
Then we throwed our bedrolls in.
Well, it still was fairly snowin,
Though the wind had slacked a bit.
Then I run back for my mouth harp.
(I'd just up and thought of it).
Back at camp they called me Preacher
(Though that sure was not the case!)
'Cause I owned the only Bible
On that rough and reckless place;
So I thought I'd take that also,
With this new event in view.
Stuck 'em both in my vest pockets,
'Cause it seemed the thing to do.
We'd never seen Cook drive them mules
The way that he did that night
Through that awful blindin' blizzard
With the stranger on his right
A-holdin' high the lantern
For to light us to his home,
And I couldn't help but notice
How well he sat that roan.
In that modest little cabin
The fire was burnin' low.
We heard sounds--like sobs and moanin';
Then a quilt began to show.
In a corner, on a pallet,
In the dim and dusky gloom,
Long dark hair flowed 'crost a pillow
In that small and chilly room.
Cookie went right to the cook stove,
Mort and Joe went to the bed
Where that sweet young girl lay cryin'.
I was hurryin' to the shed
To mind the team and bring in wood
When I saw a brilliant light
Where the heavy clouds had parted --
One bright star lit up the night!
It seemed a awful Christmas Eve --
That sweet darlin's moans and screams.
I never know'd could be like that --
Never in my wildest dreams!
I took out my mouth harp, thinkin'
How that poor young girl must feel;
I played some hymns real soft to help
her get through that rough ordeal.
Now, when the worst was over,
That new family in their nest,
The mother and baby sleepin',
Takin' of their needed rest,
Ol' Cookie served up breakfast,
All the flap jacks we could hold.
Joe offered us a tiny pouch
With a few small flakes of gold.
When he knelt down by that bedside,
An overwhelming sense of peace
Seemed to settle on that cabin;
Sky was lightnin' in the East.
The snow lay unmolested,
And the air was crisp and clear --
Like God was buildin' promises
For a clean and prosperous year.
"Preacher," Cookie says to me,
"It's Christmas Day, and so
That star that's slowly fadin' there
Makes me really want to know:
Does the good book say the Savior
Will return to earth again?
You reckon we just witnessed that?!"
Cookie said it with a grin,
But I could see he meant it,
"That's Mary in that bed!
And I reckon we're the wise guys,
'Cause there's three of us!" he said.
Then I remembered -- on the table
We'd left gifts -- just like of old:
Bag of vittles, my old mouth harp,
Bull Durham sack with flakes of gold
To which we'd added several coins
And what bills we had among us.
That quiet peace -- just like a hymn
Some angel band had sung us.
"Yes, the Bible says he'll come again.
Guess the West could be the place --
Arizona's good as any.
We might fill the shepherds' space!"
"If you guys are right," Mort ventured,
There'll be changes in this world --
Mary's real name's Maria,
And that baby is a girl!"
© 2000, Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot")
Read more of Honored Guest Buckshot Dot's poetry here at the BAR-D.
Ramona's Christmas Box
Lightly, ever lightly, like the soft touch of a mother's hand
Silky snowflakes fall and envelope a sleepy, solemn land.
And the lantern-glow from windows drapes across a whitened lawn,
Framing characters in silhouette as a child in school has drawn.
Within the creaking farmhouse on this deep, December eve,
A classic play in just three acts begins its story-line to weave.
A young woman brought her daughter to this aging cowgirl's cache
To bask in the light of wisdom, and learn Ramona's Christmas past.
"Jessie-girl," said Ramona, "Lift the lid on this old trunk.
It's dusty as a July trail from bein' stored beneath my bunk.
Peel back that Indian Blanket, lay it careful on the floor.
Why, lookie here, I ain't seen this stuff for twenty years or more."
To the blond and bashful five-year old, filled with wistful hopin'
That rusty, worn, old steamer looked like a treasure chest just opened.
Between tender, shaking fingers, with pure, child-like delight,
Ramona lifted each decoration...held it dancing, spinning bright.
"Why, this one was drawn by Billy when he was in the second grade.
We was poor back then and all we had were things that were home-made.
This quilted ball, this wooden horse carved from a block of pine.
These shiny beads sewn on flannel. Oh my! They sure look fine."
"Pa saved these silvery metal strips and twisted them several times.
They looked like sparkly icicles and rang like tinkling chimes.
A garland made from buck-brush leaves that grew out on the ranch.
And, I sewed this little angel to place up on the tip-top branch."
An old trunk full of memories that had been avoided many years.
Because of sadness it inspired, yet joy burst forth through the tears.
Jessie's mom brought in a tall blue spruce, as though it had been ordained
To be the precious symbol of a hurting heart reclaimed.
Each glittering, glistening ornament reflected in the youngster's eyes
Told Ramona, in the truest sense, that Christmas never dies.
Amidst songs and gleeful laughter, adorned with living history,
On a snowy winter's gloaming, stood Ramona's finest Christmas tree.
© Virginia Bennett
Bells of December
There's a heavy strand of engraved, brass bells
That hang on a dusty peg along a barn wall
And if lifted alone or slung over a shoulder
Their sound seems too loud, too noisome to haul.
Yet if buckled, just barely, around the stout girth
Of my winter-coated, black Percheron mare,
Their jangling is muted, their harshness transformed
Into a bouncing, sublime snowy prayer.
As with the instrument in a handbell choir
Whose tone is muted when held to the breast
This solstice symphony sings to frosted land
A rare melody both gifted and blessed.
It's a lesson that skims through the psyche
Like sled runners through a snow covered dell
A poem, a song or the words of a lover
Ring truest when to the heart they are held.
© 1999, Virginia Bennett
Read more of Honored Guest Virginia Bennett's
poetry here at the BAR-D.
I read an article the other day, where some "Einstein" with a PhD. had been doing research about the stress of Christmas shopping. Now we all know that stress is the major cause of every disease from heart attacks and strokes to calf scours. The most interesting statistic coming out of all this was that women suffered less from this seasonal malady than men. This was considered remarkable in light of the fact that women actually do most of the Christmas shopping! What I find remarkable is that a Psychologist who went to school all those years, can't figure out that most women regard shopping as a form of recreation! This project was probably funded by your tax dollars.
I gassed up my old pick-up,
and headed into town.
about the only time I go to a mall,
is when Christmas rolls around.
This ol' Cowboy feels so out of place,
and all them folks are rushing so.
I've got to find that special gift,
but I aint sure where to go.
I saw a lot of stuff we can't afford,
as I wandered up and down.
Then I remembered a little shop
on the other side of town.
Now some folks call that old stuff junk,
but they're wrong as they can be.
Besides I know she's fond of old antiques,
or she would not have married me
Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh,
o'er the fields we go Laughing all the way!
Bells on Bob-tail ring making spirits light?
Oh what fun it is to sing our sleighing song tonight?
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh!
Did you ever look at that song from a horses point of view!
Well! You've got an undernourished horse, and an over loaded sleigh,
filled with tipsy revelers, laughing all the way.
Bells on Bob-tail ring, filling him with fright,
He got that tail bobbed off when he slipped and fell,
on another snowy night.
Jingle bells! Jingle bells! Jingle all the way,
It ain't much fun to have to pull, a one horse open sleigh!
A Cowboy Christmas
As he heads in from the feed-ground,
In the first dim glow of dawn,
The rest of the family is rising,
one by one the house lights come on.
He leaves the breath-fog shrouded cattle,
strung out eating their hay,
Frost on their backs, and his mustache,
It is a bit chilly today.
By the time he gets back to the ranch house,
things are really in gear,
little cowfolks are hollerin'
Look Dad! Santa's bin here!
Now its time for egg-nog and presents,
The family in front of the tree.
And here's wishin' a good cowboy Christmas,
To you, from my family and me!
Read more of Honored Guest Mike Puhallo's
poetry here at the BAR-D.
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