Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Old Fashioned Christmas - Author Unknown

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 so bad that year 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. So 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 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 the big 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.

When 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, then he turned to me and said, "Matt, go bring enough in to last for 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, 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 and so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy filled my soul that I'd never known before. 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 himself 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 older brothers and two older sisters were 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. So, 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. Just then 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.

~ Author Unknown

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Filling Station

The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn't been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. He had no decorations, no tree, no lights.  It was just another day to him.  He didn't hate Christmas, just couldn't find a reason to celebrate.  There were no children in his life. His wife had gone.

He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened and a homeless man stepped through.  Instead of throwing the man out, George, Old George as he was known by his customers, told the man to come and sit by the space heater and warmup.

"Thank you, but I don't mean to intrude," said the stranger. "I see you're busy.  I'll just go"

"Not without something hot in your belly," George turned and opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger. "It ain't much, but it's hot and tasty.  Stew.  Made it myself. When you're done there's coffee and it's fresh."

Just at that moment he heard the "ding" of the driveway bell. "Excuse me, be right back," George said.

There in the driveway was an old 53 Chevy.  Steam was rolling out of the front.  The driver was panicked.

"Mister can you help me!" said the driver with a deep Spanish accent. "My wife is with child and my car is broken."

George opened the hood.  It was bad.  The block looked cracked from the cold; the car was dead.  "You ain't going in this thing," George said as he turned away.

"But mister.  Please help...."The door of the office closed behind George as he went in.  George went to the office wall and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside. He walked around the building and opened the garage, started the truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting.

"Here, you can borrow my truck," he said.  "She ain't the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good."

George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night.  George turned and walked back inside the office.

"Glad I loaned em the truck.  Their tires were shot too. That 'ol truck has brand new tires........"
George thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone.  The thermos was on the desk, empty with a used coffee cup beside it.

"Well, at least he got something in his belly," George thought. George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start. It cranked slowly, but it started. He pulled it into the garage where the truck had been.  He thought he would tinker with it for something to do.  Christmas Eve meant no customers. He discovered the block hadn't cracked, it was just the bottom hose on the radiator.

"Well, I can fix this," he said to himself.  So he put a new one on.  "Those tires ain't gonna get 'em through the winter either."  He took the snow treads off of his wife's old Lincoln. They were like new and he wasn't going to drive the car.

As he was working he heard a shot being fired.  He ran outside and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground. Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, "Help me." George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic.  He knew the wound needed attention.

"Pressure to stop the bleeding," he thought.  The laundry company had been there that morning and had left clean shop towels.  He used those and duct tape to bind the wound.

"Hey, they say duct tape can fix anything'," he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease.  "Something for pain," George thought.  All he had was the pills he used for his back.  "These ought to work." He put some water in a cup and gave the policeman the pills.

"You hang in there.  I'm going to get you an ambulance." George said, but the phone was dead.  "Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that there talk box out in your police car."

He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard destroying the two way radio.  He went back in to find the policeman sitting up.

"Thanks," said the officer.  "You could have left me there. The guy that shot me is still in the area."

George sat down beside him.  "I would never leave an injured man in the Army and I ain't gonna leave you." George pulled back the bandage to check for bleeding.  "Looks worse than what it is. Bullet passed right through 'ya.  Good thing it missed the important stuff though.  I think with time your gonna be right as rain."

George got up and poured a cup of coffee.  "How do you take it?" he asked.

"None for me," said the officer.

"Oh, yer gonna drink this.  Best in the city." Then George added: "Too bad I ain't got no donuts."

The officer laughed and winced at the same time.  The front door of the office flew open.  In burst a young
man with a gun.

"Give me all your cash!  Do it now!" the young man yelled. His hand was shaking and George could tell
that he had never done anything like this before.

"That's the guy that shot me!" exclaimed the officer.

"Son, why are you doing this?" asked George.  "You need to put the cannon away.  Somebody else might get hurt."

The young man was confused.  "Shut up old man, or I'll shoot you, too.  Now give me the cash!" The cop  was reaching for his gun.

"Put that thing away," George said to the cop.  "We got one too many in here now."

He turned his attention to the young man.  "Son, it's Christmas Eve.  If you need the money, well then, here.  It ain't much but it's all I got.  Now put that pee shooter away."

George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time.  The young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry.

"I'm not very good at this am I?  All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son," he went on.  "I've lost my job. My rent is due.  My car got repossessed last week..."

George handed the gun to the cop.  "Son, we all get in a bit of squeeze now and then.  The road gets hard sometimes, but we make it through the best we can."

He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair across from the cop.  "Sometimes we do  stupid things." George handed the young man a cup of coffee.  "Being stupid is one of the things that makes us human.  Comin' in here with a gun ain't the answer.  Now sit there and get warm and we'll sort this thing out."

The young man had stopped crying.  He looked over to the cop. "Sorry I shot you.  It just went off.  I'm sorry officer."

"Shut up and drink your coffee." the cop said.

George could hear the sounds of sirens outside.  A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt.  Two cops came through the door, guns drawn.

"Chuck!  You ok?" one of the cops asked the wounded officer.

"Not bad for a guy who took a bullet.  How did you find me?"

"GPS locator in the car.  Best thing since sliced bread.  Who did this?" the other cop asked as he approached the young man.

Chuck answered him, "I don't know.  The guy ran off into the dark.  Just dropped his gun and ran."

George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other. "That guy works here," the wounded cop continued.

"Yep," George said.  "Just hired him this morning. Boy lost his job."

The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, "Why?"

Chuck just said, "Merry Christmas, boy.  And you too, George, and thanks for everything."

"Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. That ought to solve some of your problems." George went into the back room and came out with a box.  He pulled out a ring box.

"Here you go.  Something for the little woman.  I don't think Martha would mind.  She said it would come in handy some day."

The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he ever saw.  "I can't take this," said the young man. "It means something to you."

"And now it means something to you," replied George. "I got my memories.  That's all I need."

George reached into the box again.  A toy airplane, a racing car and a little metal truck appeared next. They were toys that the oil company had left for him to sell.  "Here's something for that little man of yours."

The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that the old man had handed him earlier.  "And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with?  You keep that, too. Count it as part of your first week's pay." George said. "Now git home to your family."

The young man turned with tears streaming down his face. "I'll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good."

"Nope.  I'm closed Christmas day," George said.  "See ya the day after."

George turned around to find that the stranger had returned. "Where'd you come from? I thought you left?"

"I have been here.  I have always been here," said the stranger. "You say you don't celebrate Christmas. Why?"

"Well, after my wife passed away I just couldn't see what all the bother was.  Puttin' up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree.  Bakin' cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn't the same by myself and  besides I was getting a little chubby."

The stranger put his hand on George's shoulder.  "But you do celebrate the holiday, George.  You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry.  The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great doctor.

The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists.  The young man who tried to rob you will become a rich man and share his wealth with many people.

That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man."

George was taken aback by all this stranger had said.  "And how do you know all this?" asked the old man.

"Trust me, George.  I have the inside track on this sort of thing.  And when your days are done you will be with Martha again."  The stranger moved toward the door.

"If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now.  I have to go home where there is a big celebration planned."

George watched as the man's old leather jacket and his torn pants turned into a white robe.  A golden light began to fill the room.

"You see, George, it's My birthday.  Merry Christmas."

~Author Unknown

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mountainman Breakfast

Tonight we are having breakfast for dinner so I am making my "Mountainman Breakfast Casserole" in out 12" dutch oven. This meal can be made over a campfire of in the oven. Ours was in the oven tonight.

2 pounds of sausage
2 pounds hash brown potatoes
8 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup of water
2 cups of shredded cheese

Step 1 - If using a campfire,heat fire to a bed of hot coals, else preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2 - Beat 8 eggs with 1/4 cup of water.


Step 3 - Crumble sausage and cook. I choose to do this in a separate pan, but you can do it in the dutch oven as well.

Step 4 - Remove cooked sausage and drain on paper towels, reserving sausage grease in the pan.


Step 5 - Using the sausage drippings, brown the hash browns.

Step 6 - Coat the bottom of the dutch oven with the layer of hash browns. Here is where cooking the sausage and hash browns in the dutch oven would've saved some time (and clean up).
Step 7- Place the cooked sausage over the layer of the hashbrowns.

Step 8 - Pour your eggs over the sausage layer

Step 9 - Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the 2 cups of cheese. We used Colby-Jack for ours.

Step 10a - Cover the dutch oven and place in the oven, or...

Step 10b - Cover the dutch oven and cook with 8 coals underneath and 16 coals on top

Step 11 - Cook for 20-35 minutes, until the eggs are done

Step 12 - Enjoy!

I hope that you enjoy this recipe!