Thursday, February 22, 2024

Saunters Creek Christmas


    The wind was biting as he trudged through the knee high snow.  It was a light snow so shouldn't have been difficult but with the wind the way was difficult and keeping to the road was a challenge.  But he persisted.  This type of storm comes around every couple years so it wasn't a rarity, but this year it moved in on Christmas Eve. 
    Cyrus Rolston was what we today would call a peddler.  He was a tinsmith and usually had a small cart pulled by his mule Kip.  Why you could hear him comin' a mile away.  The tinker's cart some called it.  It sounded like a tumbling of thin metal tripping all over its own feet.  This trip was different.  Cyrus was without his cart or Kip.  Knowing the road back into Saunter Creek was treacherous even when dry, he decided to leave them in spare shed building at the Wilkins place until he made it back.  Instead, he slung a pack bag crossed over his shoulder and headed out shortly after daybreak.  He figured he'd have just enough time by foot before cold and dark took their command.   
    He'd not have gone at all if it weren't for the kindly letter he'd received from Cora.  The Bartons had never been one of his better stops in the way of business, but they were always so grateful and genuine, he enjoyed the visit even if it didn't bring the profits of other stops.  This year Cora had written ahead explaining that Myron had been ill.  She was hoping for a special tobacco tin for him for Christmas in hopes to raise his spirit some.  She'd not asked for anything for herself or the children though each year, she would contemplate a certain size cooking pot with particular interest, and those youngins would all be wide eyed and full of questions about the various toys.  He had thought twice about making the trip even with the letter.  He'd had a good year and had been held up by a rock slide near Ruckle Junction.  It took the men a solid week to have it passable by foot, but it was three days more before he could get through with his cart.  But there was something about Cora's letter that nagged at him until he'd resolved to go.  He'd put some wares in a hessian sack and set out.  He wondered at his own sanity as he pushed against the wind and tucked his chin down into his coat and muffler.  He knew he wasn't making very good time and tried not to think about his lack of options.  There were no other homes this far out. And if he stopped moving, he would freeze.  As long as he kept moving, he'd be alright and so he did through the entirety of the day.  
    He was able to stick to the road well enough for the most part as the embankment rose up to the right and the creek though frozen was to his left and was edged primarily of large rocks.  He held out lighting his lantern as long as possible until the last of the daylight was seemingly blown out, and the time finally came that it was too dark and shadows couldn't even be seen.  If there was any light from the moon, the snow and wind used everything in their power to block it.  If he didn't push on faster than he was, he wouldn't make it.  Turning his back to the wind, he kneeled right where he was and pulled the tail of his coat down in back and his sack up to the front of his side creating as much of a barrier from the wind as possible.  His fingers were numb, but he reached his hand into his coat holding it there for a moment to warm against his chest.  Then he pulled out a small pouch of three matchsticks and a scratching stone.   With the lantern sitting on his leg close to his body, he tried to strike the match.  His fingers fumbled and he nearly lost it.  Then he remembered something.  His father had an odd way of holding a match when he struck it with the firing end near the palm of his hand.  Using both hands, he positioned the match in his frozen fingers so not to drop it.  He struck it again.  This time it did fire, but the wind took charge and blew it out as fast as it was lit.  Cyrus again reached for the small pouch.  This time he got the match in his fingers to strike it but held everything closer to his body and the stone near the wick of his lamp.  He struck the match.  It flamed and caught the wick and he quickly shut the glass almost dropping the lamp and scratching stone.  He rolled the little pouch with the last match and his stone and placed it back in his coat.  He gathered himself with an internal sigh of relief.  He stood again pushing his sack back and turned once more into the wind.  As he did, the biting wind burned his face where his muffler had fallen.  Fixing its position at once, he leaned forward and continued on his way.  It's a funny thing what goes through a man's mind when he's alone in a storm like this, he thought.  For he feared not to perish but began trying to calculate how many steps per mile he might be making, knowing he was not in regular stride.  And he began counting his steps in attempt to determine how much farther he had yet to travel, but with no measure of distance, all his figuring was in vain. 
    At times he stumbled loosing count then starting over so to distract himself from the coldness he felt in his numbing limbs.  Still holding the lamp close though it did little good there was comfort in its flame.  He imagined he felt the heat from the inferior torch for his eyes were closed for most of his strides.  As he pushed his right leg forward, both his foot and his arm hit something.  He instinctively turned to the left thinking it was the embankment he'd run into.  But wait, he stopped.  He'd encountered no ditch nor stones at the edge as he had earlier.  He turned back and reached out.  It was the barn.  He thanked Heaven as he began slowly moving along to the left, brushing his left hand up and down following it by his right hand holding the lantern, looking and feeling for the door latch.  The barn seemed like it was made of solid walls as he'd come off the road and approached it at the side wall, but at last he felt it.  He lifted the latch and as he entered, he could have sworn he heard voices come to a halt.  It was his ears ringing from the wind, he marveled.  Then as the light of the lantern made its way into the barn, he saw just as his grandpap had described when he was but a child, the animals were kneeling and rose as he entered.  Feeling both blessed and ashamed to have interrupted.  He stood both frozen and in awe.  He uttered lowly something about forgiveness, but it didn't really matter.  He wasn't certain how long he stood there his mind reveling with what he'd seen, wondering if it was real or if he was even really there.  Had he indeed stopped to rest and was perhaps dreaming?  He wasn't sure.  It was the noise of the tin that woke him from his stupor.  The animals looked when it shifted and clanked.  Cyrus blinked then blinked several more times trying to rid his lashes of the ice that had built on them as he'd walked, rubbing them with the back of this mitted hand.  It wasn't a dream.  The absence of the wind in the shelter of the barn created a sense of warmth.  He wouldn't try making it to the house tonight for according to what he'd just seen, it was midnight.  The family would be asleep and the storm had only increased in strength.  There was no guarantee he would make it without the creek and the cliff to keep him in the right direction.  He made his way up the ladder to the hay loft, removed his sack and arranged himself in the warmth and softness of the hay.  He put out the light and was quickly satisfying his exhaustion with sleep.  He slept deep and fast for it seemed scarcely more than a minute had lapsed when he was roused by the movement of the animals below.  It was barely light, but he could see well enough without his lamp and wouldn't risk lighting it in a hay loft on any account.  Gathering his things, "Those beasts," he thought then descending the ladder, "act as if nothing had happened."  He knew better and knew why he'd decided to make the trip.  He wasted no time making his way to the door.  Looking in the direction of the house, he could see the smoke rising.  Good, at least Cora is awake.  That will be perfect.  The storm had calmed.  It was still snowing but the wind had blown itself out but for a sharp breeze.
    It wasn't easy, but he could determine his target and seemed to have an energy that warmed his heart.  Once he made it to the door, he threw out all the formalities of knocking.  He opened the door with a boisterous "Happy Christmas."  Cora jumped as she was setting the coffee on the stove.  He heard shuffling from behind the wall and above the ceiling.  Cora was in tears and Myron wore a pleased expression on his thin face as he entered the room.  And in a blink there were little bodies shimmying down from the loft all busy with excitement.  Well Cyrus indeed took advantage of the situation stating Santa was having some trouble getting around in the storm.  So he'd offered to help him out.  Let's see here, not waiting for an invitation, he began pulling things from his satchel: a toy wagon, a miniature teapot with two miniature tin cups, a pinwheel for the baby, a spinning top, then out came a perfect sized pot.  Cora had regained the ability to speak since he entered but now only made a high pitched cry resembling the word, "Oh."  Myron had found a spot on the corner of the bench and watched with admiration as Cora ran her hand around the inside of the pot as she finally found voice enough to say, "Thank you."  
    The children were buzzing and talking over one another with glee still garbed in their night shirts.  The lot of them were in a kind of merry frenzy.  Cyrus stopped his jovial manner and held up the bag and stepped towards Cora.  She looked at him wide eyed.
    "There's one more gift, but I think Mrs. Barton should share it."
    She wasn't sure what to think.  In the excitement, she'd forgotten her request made long ago.  She took the bag and pulled out a beautifully embossed tobacco box.  All were watching her now.  Cyrus moved back while Cora stepped towards Myron.  
    "Happy Christmas," she held it out towards him.  Myron looked surprised.  
    "Me?" and he took it and opened it to see the cedarwood interior.  "It's perfect."  He looked at Cora and the kids then to Cyrus.  "How on earth did you get here this morning?"  
His heart was filled with gratitude and curiosity.  With that Cyrus burst out with a jolly laugh and inquired after the coffee.  Cora quickly obliged and began pouring the hot nourishment that was by this time ready then set to work on the biscuits.  
    It was nearly a week before the weather broke to the point that Cyrus dared the journey back to town.  But before he left, he made sure to tell the children the story of the animals talking and kneeling at midnight on Christmas Eve just as he'd heard it so many years prior.

The One I Owe You

 Hi All!

Hope this finds you all warm and well.
I've been amiss lately.
Honestly, I've been enjoying winter.
It's been quiet for the most part.
I like quiet.
(Heading Over the Mountain)

For the past several years, I've posted either a Christmas poem or story.
Well, this year I didn't quite get it finished in time.
Then, in January I finished it and didn't get it typed into the computer.
When I write, I write with a pen and paper then type it
from what I have written.
I realize that's old-fashioned.
Does that surprise you?
My brain works better with a pen and paper than with a screen.
(Blueberry Scones)

That said, I did finally get it all typed up, but then
it being so late debated whether I should post it at all.
I know we are beyond the Christmas season,
but I'm still going to post it.
We need the goodness of Christmas as much now as we did 2 months ago.
So that story will follow this post directly.
(Our latest addition.)

As far as what other things have entertained us,
we've had a couple special visits from out of area friends and family.
Those visits are what memories are made of and are treasures
in our hearts.

Also, I am still posting videos and will attach a couple below if you are interested
in money saving tips and ideas.

So in the spirit of Christmas yet still!
Glad Tidings to you and yours.