This is what Christmas is all about...

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  1. #16
    Member Array MoMike's Avatar
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    Let's just say I work for a major retailer, and I really needed this!
    Cape Locum Et Fac Vestigium

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  3. #17
    Member Array mg27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ANGLICO View Post
    Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

    It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

    After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn't worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity. Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight." I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We'd already done all the chores, and I couldn't think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what..

    Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. "I think we'll put on the high sideboards," he said. "Here, help me." The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high side boards on.

    After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood - the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked, "what are you doing?" "You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd been by, but so what?
    Yeah," I said, "Why?"

    "I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt." That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the little sack?" I asked. Shoes, they're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy."

    We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern.

    We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?"

    "Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt, could we come in for a bit?"

    Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

    "We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children - sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out.
    "We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to me and said, "Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up to size and heat this place up." I wasn't the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak.

    My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before, filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

    I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. "God bless you," she said. "I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us."

    In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.
    Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

    Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

    At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away.

    Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to say, May the Lord bless you, I know for certain that He will."
    Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, "Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand."

    I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

    For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life.
    Brought tear to my eyes.. Funny I was thinking today that the best cure for depression is to give or help others and I dont have depression but I have been a little low. This story hit me in the heart..

  4. #18
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    The Christmas Rifle and Christmas Eve 1896 are both Christmas traditions on Paco Kelly's Leverguns.com

    Christmas Eve 1896
    by Jim Taylor



    The old man leaned forward and began speaking. The look in his eyes and his voice kept me spellbound, and transported me back to a time long ago.......

    It was along about suppertime Christmas eve when I noticed one of the calves was gone. We had them in a pen by the barn where they could get in out of the cold and somehow one of them was missing. The temperature was hovering around 10 below and figured to go colder that night. Being as Pa was sick I was looking after the stock and keeping firewood hauled up to the house, chopping ice so's we could get water for ourselves and the livestock, and trying to keep Ma from worrying herself to death. Now here we were missing a calf!

    Tracks in the snow told the story. I could see where several people had come up behind the barn from the woods and slipped around into the side gate. Looked to me like three of 'em ... a big one and two smaller ones. I could see where they had led the calf back around behind the barn and toward the woods.

    Light was failing fast but I figured I could track them down easily enough since they couldn't hardly hide their trail. Nights had been clear and cold with plenty of light even just by the stars. I didn't want to worry Ma none since she had her hands full with Pa and taking care of my little sisters and brothers, so I told her I was going after fresh meat. I taken Pa's Winchester 73 rifle and headed out.

    The trail led into the woods and I followed along, trying not to be too noisy. I did not want cattle rustlers aware somebody was on their trail. I figured it being so cold and all they would hole up somewhere's not too far away. I didn't have a plan other than finding them. I reckoned it would sort itself out once I found them and the calf.

    The tracks were easy enough to follow but after a time they kinda began to work on me. I mean, they weren't ordinary boot or shoe tracks. They looked kind of "smudged" I guess would be the word. In the failing light it was hard to see distinctly, but I could see they was odd. Wondering about it I followed on, slipping through the woods as easy as I could without making too much noise.

    After an hour or so I come out into a small clearing overlooking a valley. The valley ran north and south and had 4 or 5 other little valley's and draws feeding it. There was a small stream running through it and off to the north in a sheltered spot I could see a fire. Looked to me like the rustlers had made camp and I looked over the area for the best approach. After a bit I figured if I stuck to the edge of the woods I could circle around and come in from the east side without being seen. A little planning and some luck and I reckoned I could get the drop on them before they knew I was there.

    I taken my time and worked around the edge of the woods like I seen deer do many times. Half an hour later found me slipping up to their camp and so far them still none the wiser. It was still eatin' on me, them smudged tracks... and the little footprints. Could it be children? What would they be doing out here, stealing calves? I had no answers but figured I would get some when I jumped their camp.

    Now you got to understand I was 16 years old and considered a growed man. I did a man's work and had a man's responsibilities. While I had never shot no body I had been in my share of fist fights and knew what it was to stick up for your own self. I wasn't looking to kill anyone but I was resolved to do whatever I had to do to get Pa's property back and make this thing right. It was my duty.

    I come up the edge of the treeline and when I was about 60 feet from their camp I had a clear view of them. I was all primed and cocked and ready to go off as I slipped up, but what I saw took the fight out of me.

    There were three of them alright. A girl and two youngsters. The young'uns had their bare feet wrapped in old tote sacks in place of shoes. They had different sorts of rags wrapped around them to try and keep the cold out and it appeared to me they were all starving.

    The old man paused here and wiped his eyes, the memory still fresh from all those years ago.

    They had killed the calf and cut meat off'n it. Some of the meat was on the fire cooking, but all of them was chewing at raw meat, like as if they was too hungry to wait til it cooked. They looked miserable. I could tell they was Indian though what tribe I did not know. Why they were out here by themselves was a mystery to me at the time.

    And it puzzled me as to what I should do.

    At first I was inclined to back up and slip away, back the way I came. But I couldn't do that. The girl looked about my age and the other two were just little 'uns. Then I thought, I can bring them some food and clothes and almost made up my mind to do that when I heard the Parson's words "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." and the thought went through my mind, Here we are celebrating His birth ... would He leave them out here in cold? Well! Now I was in the pickle brine for sure! We had been having a hard time of it with Pa so sick and all ... but there was room in our "inn" ... so how could I not help them?

    I eased back the way I came for a couple hundred feet, then cut out into the open and started walking toward their fire, easy like. I called "Hello the camp!" to let them know someone was coming. I sure hoped they would not cut and run for it and they did not. They might have if they had not been so hungry and just gotten some fresh meat, but as it was they stood their ground.

    They all looked pretty scared when I walked into the firelight. The kids were big-eyed and hid behind the girl. She offered me some of the meat that was cooking and I was pleased to find she spoke good English. I told her, "No thank you ma'am" and asked what they were doing out here in the cold. Seems her and her family were traveling south, trying to get to Oklahoma, when her folks took sick and died. She kept on heading south, having no other place to go. Her and her little sister and brother had been on their own for nigh a month and were pretty wore down.

    We talked for awhile and I told her it was getting colder and she should pack up her brother and sister and come on back with me. She did not want to but eventually I convinced her. When I told her my ma was there it seemed to make up her mind.

    Well, I tell you ma was fit to be tied when I come in with the three of them. She listened to my story .. I told her about the calf and tracking 'em down and how they was freezing and starving... and she started fluttering around them like a hen fussing over her chicks. And I tell you son, it was that year I really understood Christmas! See, I thought we was having a hard time up til I found those three "rustler's". Then I found out we had something we could give .. a real present.

    Now you probably already figured out that young Indian girl became my wife, your great-grandma. I thought I was doing the Lord's work by helping the needy when all the time He had something more in mind.

    I looked across the kitchen at the old lady standing by the stove and for a moment I was transported back in time, seeing her as a young girl. I looked back at the old man setting across from me and he smiled.

    No, he said, still smiling, I never did talk to her about that calf.
    "The pistol, learn it well, carry it always ..." ~ Jeff Cooper

    "Diligentia Vis Celeritas"

    "There is very little new, and the forgotten is constantly being rediscovered."
    ~ Tiger McKee

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