An Appalachian Christmas
Ten-year-old Gary Huston trudged home from church along snow-covered, Trace Branch Holler with his mother, brother, and sister.
“I liked the Christmas play this mornin’, young’ens. Ya’ll did a fine job playin’ Joseph, the shepherd, and the angel.”
“Mommy, why couldn’t I keep the wings?” Asked six-year-old Sarah.
“Sarah, you have to leave ‘em at the church so they kin be used in more plays.”
“Yeth, Tharah, I left my thepherd thaff there, teacher thaid we’ll uth it netht year,” Lisped eight-year-old Ellis.
Gary remained quiet. He was thinking about Christmases past, happier times when his daddy was alive; the family lived in a better house, ate plenty of good food, and received nice presents along with pokes filled with candy and fruit. The 1930’s depression had hit the Huston family hard. Gary’s daddy lost his coal mining job, which led to the loss of their home and most of the furniture. One of the church members let them live in a two-room shack, rent free. One year later David Huston succumbed to tuberculosis. His wife and children were left grieving and destitute.
Carol Huston did the best she could to provide for her children by working as a part-time housekeeper in a nearby hospital. Jobs were scarce in Hazard, Kentucky; she had been blessed to find this one. A nurse working at the hospital picked her up on her way to work everyday and dropped her off every evening. Carol thanked God for providing for her family. She remembered the Bible verse, “God has said ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV)
“Mommy?” Asked Gary.
“What is it, Gary?”
“The skies are dark; it looks like another snowstorm’s comin’ through. Maybe I can make some money by clearing the snow off the sidewalk in front of Mr. Fleming’s store.”
“Sounds good, Gary, take Ellis with you he kin help. I thank you kin wait ‘til the mornin’ to ask Mr. Fleming. Here we are, let’s go in, build a far and I’ll fry up some fatback, taters, make a cake of cornbread, and we’ll eat supper."
The next morning Gary spoke with Mr. Fleming about clearing the sidewalk. An agreement was made but instead of money, he would be paid with fruit. Two hours later Gary and Ellis had shoveled a foot of powdery snow from the long sidewalk in front of the grocery store. Mr. Fleming came out of the store and said, “Thank you for a good job, boys. Someone will drop off the fruit later today, Murry Christmas to you and yer family.”
“Murry Christmas, Mr. Fleming, Murry Chrithmath, Mithter Fleming,”
When the boys arrived home, they told their mother to expect a delivery later that day as payment for their work.
Around 4 P.M. the local coal mine supervisor, Bill Hall arrived with his son, Bobby. Mr. Hall introduced himself to Mrs. Huston and said,
“I brought a crate from the store and one from the coal company.”
“You kin put ‘em right in here,” Mrs. Huston said, pointing to a corner of the kitchen. Kin you open them crates please, Mr. Hall?”
“Surely kin,” he said, using the poker from the coal stove.
The crate from the store was full of huge oranges. “Mommy, did you ever see so many ornges,” Gary commented.
The other crate contained hams, sausages, bacon, potatoes, apples, oranges, bananas, nuts, numerous cans of food, a box of candy canes and three gifts wrapped in pretty Christmas paper. A twenty-five pound sack of cornmeal and flour were also inside.
“Oh, almost forgot” said Bobby, there’s a truck full of coal comin’,” Miss Huston.
“I’m powerful thankful to you, the food and coal are much appreciated.” Mrs. Huston said, wiping her eyes.
“Thank you,” said the children, picking up the presents and shaking them.
“You’re very welcome; Well, time for us to leave, we still have a fer piece to go. Murry Christmas.”
“Murry Christmas to you and yer family,” Mrs. Huston replied.
“Murry Christmas,” the children repeated.
Gary turned to his mother and said, “Mommy, we have lots of ornges, can we give some of ‘em away to needy people?”
“Why shore we kin, Gary, the Lord’s bin good to us. There’s twelve children who’s going to spend Christmas in the hospital. I think they would like to git some of these ornges. We’ll go see ‘em tomorrow. Let’s bow our heads and thank the Lord for our blessin’s.”
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