It was a Lovely Christmas | TheFencePost.com

It was a Lovely Christmas

by Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.

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She vowed she would not cry this Christmas,

but it was hard to be strong,

For the freighter in that winter of ’81

was late ” what had gone wrong?

Their place was the depot for all the ranchers from 80 miles around,

They expected their goods

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on Christmas day;

how she hated to let them down.

When a rough old cowhand

who stayed with them

(Old Eb was all of his name),

Said, “Things’ll turn out,

don’t worry, Ma’am,”

she raged, then felt ashamed.

Eb swore a lot and seemed so cross,

she never knew just why,

But he was polite; John trusted him,

so she kept her thoughts inside.

The day before Christmas,

she made 10 pies

with venison, apples and raisins,

Plus one extra for husband, John,

who grinned and sang her praises.

The cookstove consumed

great stacks of wood

as she roasted, boiled and baked

Antelope steaks, big pieces of venison,

snow geese, and cake.

Things were ready for all the guests,

but there were no presents or tree,

Or gifts they’d chosen

from the wishing books,

dreaming how Christmas would be.

Then a stomping of horses

she heard without “

“The freighter! He’s here!” she cried,

“He’s here!”

She ran to open the door.

And laughing, brought him inside.

She could have kissed

the grizzled driver,

and maybe he thought she might,

For he back-tracked out

of her warm bright kitchen

as if he’d taken fright.

The freighter and John

unpacked the goods,

marking each neighbor’s belongings;

She envied Daisy’s

packet of needles,

and gazed at them with longing.

But later, one came back to her “

in a handmade Christmas card;

In greetings for women,

Daisy threaded a needle;

for men, a pencil starred.

There were bright shiny cups

for the children,

and popcorn still on the cob;

She and John

rubbed off the kernels,

and John said

he’d make them pop.

She made red coloring

and dipped the corn

for the children

to thread on strings;

Old Eb and the freighter

brought in boughs

laden with cones like wings.

Half a day’s travel

the freighter had lost

to gather those boughs

and that tree;

And everyone helped

hang garlands of corn,

it was pretty as a tree can be.

Then shyly, Old Eb

brought in some rum

and said that he’d be glad

If she would make toddies

for all the folks,

for this was all he had.

She passed cups ’round,

steaming hot,

and John raised his and declared,

“Merry Christmas!” but Eb,

he stomped his foot,

then glowered, grumped

and glared.

“That ain’t’ no way to do it,”

he said,

(he added a lot of swearing),

“Bow your heads,

and I’ll say what’s fittin’.”

(She knew that she was staring).

“Dear Lord,” said Eb,

“here we all be,

we’re just a bunch of critters

Out here in the hills,

but we got us some meat

and fixin’s for Christmas dinners.”

“And we’re gonna remember

tomorrer about

the manger and the Babe “

Now then, folks, drink ‘er down.”

Eb tossed off his with a wave.

She sipped her toddy,

then said she ought

to find her mouth-harp player

For music during

the Christmas carols;

in her room, she said a prayer.

And had that crying spell after all

for misjudging Eb in her mind;

And because she was happy, too,

and so grateful the freight had arrived in time.

John came in and hugged her tight

and held her a moment or two,

Then went to greet

a sleigh-load of guests,

and ” she ” got busy, too.

It was a lovely Christmas.