Christmas 1881

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by limbkiller, Dec 23, 2018.

  1. limbkiller

    limbkiller Pulling my hair. Supporting Addict

    Aug 18, 2011
    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


    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


    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

    gunnysacks 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


    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


    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, and 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


    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 gunnysacks 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


    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.
    Lineman1982, 1L26, FWoo45 and 28 others like this.
  2. Mike Meints

    Mike Meints Well-Known Member

    Mar 2, 2017
    A great Christmas story and life lesson . Thanks , Ed .
    Kip, Scaramouche, boatdoc and 2 others like this.

  3. Journeyman1234

    Journeyman1234 Well-Known Member

    Feb 28, 2017
    That's beautiful, LK. Thank you for sharing it.
    boatdoc and limbkiller like this.
  4. Trashy

    Trashy Well-Known Member

    Mar 24, 2018
    Thanks Limbkiller, this is a great lesson.
    boatdoc and limbkiller like this.
  5. 41 Charlie

    41 Charlie Get off my lawn...

    Feb 4, 2014
    Perfect timing, Edward! Much thanks!
    boatdoc and limbkiller like this.
  6. 1911 dawg

    1911 dawg Well-Known Member

    Jan 14, 2018
    Thanks for the great story .It brought back good thoughts of my Grand Daddy .Merry Christmas Ed to you and your family.
    limbkiller and boatdoc like this.
  7. boatdoc

    boatdoc Well-Known Member

    Aug 3, 2015
    Great X mas story @LK.should have made this a movie. Gregory Peck could be the dad... touching story about the true meaning of this season.

    THIS kind of life is what is missing from the fabric of America today IMHO
    people caring about theirs and others, helping others without anyone asking and giving to others rather than lining up for the next round of freebies...

    Thanks and merry christmas to you and [email protected]
    Trashy, Scaramouche, Kip and 3 others like this.
  8. Kip

    Kip Sir Kip Esquire

    Apr 12, 2016
    Perfect, Merry Christmas Ed.
    limbkiller likes this.
  9. gaijin

    gaijin Well-Known Member

    May 18, 2015

    Easy to lose sight of how truly blessed (if not spoiled rotten) we are.
    Thank you LK.
    Merry Christmas.
  10. Wheels No More

    Wheels No More Long gone

    May 12, 2015
    This story sucks it made my allergies act up.
    limbkiller and Kip like this.
  11. john_anch_ak

    john_anch_ak Well-Known Member Supporting Addict

    Mar 7, 2017
    If this story does't bring a lump to your throat then you would be the Grinch. Great Christmas story!
    limbkiller likes this.
  12. isialk

    isialk Well-Known Member Supporting Addict

    Jan 7, 2017
    That’s a great Christmas lesson for all who read it. Thanks limbkiller!

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    limbkiller likes this.

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