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A Christmas Rifle

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  • A Christmas Rifle

    This so much reminded me of days past when I lived in the mountains and was very young. I hope it will touch your heart the way it did mine.

    The Christmas Rifle
    > by Ryan B. Anderson
    > "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 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 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 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 side boards on.
    > After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out
    > with an armload of wood - the wood I'd s pent 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. 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 time. 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 stil l 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 gunny sacks 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
    > understand."
    > 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."

    No Shep, the dates ain't quite right.

    "with the patience of an oyster....I watch and wait"

    Training the US, one shooter at a time.

  • #2
    Very nice story, Vern. And so true. There is no joy like the joy of giving.

    Merry Christmas everyone.


    • #3
      That was beautiful,
      Thank you Vern.


      • #4
        Really touching story. Makes you remember what christmas is all about.

        Have a great one, and stay safe.

        Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.... Now drop and GIVE ME 20!!!


        • #5
          "It's better to live one day as a lion, than one hundred years as a sheep", Old Roman Proverb.
          "For those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know", Author Unknown.
          "Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!", Shakespeare, Julius Ceaser, Act III, Scene I.


          • #6
            Very nice Vern, Merry Christmas all, be safe...
            I am a Patriot...First, Foremost, and Always... "Our Bill Of Rights is not negotiable. Not one single part, not ever. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the range." "Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names." - John F. Kennedy pa?tri?ot?ism -(noun)- devoted love, support, and defense of one's country; national loyalty.


            • #7
              Good stuff Vern. Merry Christmas.
              John 3:16
              "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

              Romans 12:1-2
              Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. [2] Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

              If you find your self in a fair fight, your tactics suck!- Marine 1st Sergeant Jim Ryfinger


              • #8
                Very good story. I liked it very much.

                It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old[/b]

                BTW Vern, how long until your Dad finally got you that rifle?

                It's knowing that when I get up in the morning and my feet hit the floor, the Devil says, "Shit! He's awake!"

                Shortly before World War I, the German Kaiser was the guest of the Swiss government to observe military maneuvers. The Kaiser asked a Swiss militiaman: "You are 500,000 and you shoot well, but if we attack with 1,000,000 men what will you do?" The soldier replied: "We will shoot twice and go home."

                "There are so many Russians, and our country so small, where will we find room to bury them all?" - anonymous Finnish soldier


                • #9
                  Merry Christmas Shep, somehow I just knew you would ..........hehe!
                  "with the patience of an oyster....I watch and wait"

                  Training the US, one shooter at a time.



                  • #10
                    That was a really moving story Vern, thank you for sharing it.
                    America deserves to know her heroes!


                    • #11
                      Beautiful Vern...thanks for sharing...
                      We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." ---George Orwell on a BBC broadcast, April 4, 1942

                      John 15:13 - Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.


                      • #12
                        Nice story. Do you know its origins or author? Edited to add, I see that you already credited the author, I need to pull my head out of my well, you know what.

                        Merry Chistmas

                        "Ever since I was a kid I've had snakes as pets. They're clean and quiet. You give them rodents and they give you pure, unconditional indifference." Carl Hiaasen

                        "The Constitution is NOT and instrument for the government to restrain the people, it IS an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests." - Patrick Henry

                        "War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner." ? Cormac McCarthy


                        • #13
                          That is outstanding Vern. Thank you for sharing it.

                          Merry Christmas my friends, Merry Christmas.
                          "Do the right thing even if it means dying like a dog when no one's there to see you do it." Vice Admiral James Stockdale, NAVY PILOT

                          "Honor, Integrity, Commitment to core values. When they become abstract concepts or "ideals", all is lost." Me.

                          "Character is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking." J.C. Watts

                          "I have never seen a projectile turn in flight and come back at the ship that fired it, I cannot however make that same statement regarding missiles." Me.

                          Deus lo vult! = "God wills it!"