A Christmas story

Discussion in 'The Club House' started by Maverick, May 20, 2011.

  1. Maverick

    Maverick Member

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    I borrowed this from another of my forums. I doubt your eyes will be dry by the end.


    Pa and The Rifle
    ================

    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 sideboards 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 Jensen's, 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.
     
  2. General_lee

    General_lee New Member

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    That was very good, Mav. Thanks for posting:)
     

  3. CA357

    CA357 New Member Supporter

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    Great stuff. Thanks.