Shelli Mader: Road to Ranching 12-10-12
December 10, 2012
New socks, shirts and gloves aren't at the top of most kids' Christmas lists — in fact, kids today probably wouldn't be excited if they received just a gift like that on Christmas morning. But in the 1930s, getting anything new was special for my grandma Evelyn. In fact, she still remembers how thrilled she was to get a pair of red gloves one Christmas morning.
Christmas was simple during Evelyn's growing up years — there were no decorations and very few gifts. Most gifts that were given were homemade and practical. But during those lean times the meager gifts were still exciting and appreciated. Typically, Evelyn got new socks and underwear for Christmas. But every once in a while, she did get an extra-special, out of the ordinary gift. One of her most treasured presents came during her first Christmas in Colorado.
Evelyn was born in the tree-filled, red dirt country of Coyle, Okla., — a small town near Stillwater. Times were tough for her family in the late 1920s, so in 1931 the family sold nearly all of their possessions and made a plan to move to Colorado. Evelyn was 4-years-old when she and all of her family — one brother, parents, three grandparents, uncle, aunt, and two cousins — loaded up their essentials in two old cars and one beat up truck and made the 600 mile long trip to Bennett, Colo.
Evelyn's aunt and uncle and cousins headed for Denver once they arrived at Bennett, but Evelyn and the rest of her family stayed and found a farmhouse in the country. The old house they moved into was split into two sides so Evelyn, her parents and brother lived on one side and her grandparents lived on the other one.
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Evelyn still remembers how shocked she was to see the dusty, treeless Colorado plains for the first time.
"It was a sad and forlorn country. There was nothing to stop the wind from blowing dirt across the land, almost covering up fences and farm machinery. Dust was everywhere," she says. "Livestock had to endure the endless wind and dirt that blew into their shelters and covered the pastureland. Some did not make it. The fine dust invaded our home."
That first year that Evelyn lived in Colorado was difficult. Drought was already affecting the area and the women of the house had a full time job keeping dust out of the living areas. Evelyn helped hang wet sheets and blankets over windows and doors in an effort to keep the dust away. When she set the table for a meal, she put dishes upside down until the food was ready to put on the table.
Thankfully, just before Christmas that year, it snowed. The house was icy cold — except by the wood stove, but the whole family was glad to get relief from the relentless blowing dust.
On Christmas Eve the whole family gathered like usual — sharing the light of the kerosene lamp and the warmth of the stove. But unexpectedly that evening, there was a loud commotion outside.
"We heard bells, stomping of feet and a very loud 'HO,HO,HO,e_SSRq" Evelyn remembers. "My dad told my brother and I to open the door and see what was going on. Normally we were never allowed to open the door after dark, so we were surprised by my dad's request. We cracked it open and saw footprints in the snow and a small green table with two matching chairs. The table and chairs were just our size — we were so excited. We couldn't believe that Santa had found us."
Today, nearly 80 years later, Evelyn still has one of those little chairs and cherishes that Christmas memory and the hope it brought during a difficult year.
You can follow Shelli on her blog at RoadToRanching.com. ❖
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