Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas on the Sagebrush

     December 25, 1909 dawned warm on the sagebrush sea of southwestern Wyoming . It was a Saturday, and the “Warmest day so far,” according to my grandfather’s pocket journal. Never a man of a great many words, his terse one-line entries don‘t hint at any particular significance of the day. He was still riding for Franklin and Gilligan, the big sheep outfit owned by his brother-in-law and old Doc Gilligan. So Christmas or not, warm day or not, he was horseback in the gray/white monochrome of winter.   
     Last night in the back pasture, when the Enemy of All Coyotes and I watched the full moon sailing across that cloudless winter sky, I thought of him. I thought of the Christmas only four years later, when he had arrived home from the range on December 19, 1913. He had been married for two years and had a young son. That year, he hadn’t even made an entry in the pocket journal again for almost two weeks. He was home, and he and Harrie and Franklin (their first-born, named for the beloved partner and brother in law) were warm and happy together.
     A little over six years later, he was gone. He didn’t live long enough to watch his children grow into adulthood. But I like to think he was watching when Grandma and I gathered our bunch in off the range like some unruly bunch of woolies yesterday. He couldn’t be there for the family Christmas concert to hear the piano and the violin or sing the old Christmas songs with us. I like to think that he would have loved the Christmas pageant, with a beautiful angel and sweet Mary and Joseph, and the biggest shepherd carrying the littlest sheep on his shoulders. I think he would have liked that part a lot. But even more, I think he would have loved the words from the Book of Luke, read by his eldest great-great grandson:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

From all of us here at Three Elk Meadow, Merry Christmas – and God bless us, every one!


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