Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My Christmas Gifts to My Blog Readers

Every year, I write a Christmas short story to share with people and bless them. But first, I want to share a video with you.

Gifts from the Blizzard

A ranch five miles from Plainview, Texas, Christmas Eve, 1899

Eleanor Johnson paced from the parlor, through the library, and back. Never in all of her twenty-four years had this house felt so large ... or so empty. With the wind whistling around the house, carrying a cumbersome load of snow, she’d never felt so cut off and alone.

All the ranch hands had today and tomorrow off. Most went into Plainview. She’d planned to follow later. The Methodist Church was having a special Christmas program tonight, followed by a community fellowship she’d really looked forward to. When she’d opened the back door to head to the barn, the gale tried to pull it from its hinges.

Thinking back, Eleanor couldn’t remember a snowstorm this fierce at Christmastime. She didn’t dare risk the ride into town. The horses could spook, and the strength of the whirling wind might flip the wagon and kill her. Not a fit night for man or beast to be outside.

Nothing like being all dressed up with nowhere to go. Trying to calm her queasy stomach, she smoothed her hands over the skirt of the red and green taffeta dress she’d had made for the holidays.

At least, she had plenty of wood stacked in the mud room. And the food she planned to take into town sat under tea towels on the kitchen table. Enough to feed all her ranch hands, but at the moment, eating was the farthest thing from her mind.

She barely heard the knock on the front door over the howling blizzard. Who in the world could that be? For a moment, fear shot through her like an arrow. Maybe she should just ignore the summons. She took a deep breath, her hand covering her wildly-beating heart.

The sound of a fist flailing the door was accompanied by words she couldn’t make out, but the voice was familiar. She pulled open the heavy oaken door, and enough snow to build a snowman accompanied two men into her parlor. She’d have quite a puddle to mop up.

“Jackson, what are you and José doing here?”

Her foreman and her horse wrangler stomped their feet and more slushy snow added to the melting puddle while she tried to push the door closed.

“Here.” Jackson reached above her head and added his strength to hers. “We turned around and headed back when the storm struck. Didn’t want you out here alone.”

“Come on back to the kitchen.” Smiling she headed toward the linen closet. “I’ve got enough food cooked to last us several days. We might as well keep it from going to waste.”

She turned with a stack of towels in her arms.

“Señorita, I’ll clean the mess.” José had lost much of his Mexican accent, but he always called her that. He quickly relieved her of her burden and went to work.

“Thanks, come on back when you’re finished. I’ll have a plate ready for you.”

Jackson followed Eleanor into the kitchen where the black cast-iron stove glowed. He hovered near the heat while he removed his wet gloves and fleece-lined coat. “This feels good.”

“But the rest of your clothes are wet.”

His gaze captured hers and a magnetism, she’d often felt, connected them. Did he feel it, too?

A couple years ago, her father had hired Jackson only a few months before the bull gored him, eventually ending his life. When she inherited this ranch, she continued running it the way her father had, keeping all the same hands.

“I still have my father’s clothes. I’ll get you and José something dry. Then you can change out of your wet things.” She hurried away before he could say anything.


Just as they finished the last of their Christmas pie, something hit the wall hard outside the kitchen. Eleanor quickly arose and pressed her hand over her heart. “What was that?”

Both men jerked on their coats and headed out through the mud room. Soon Jackson returned. “The sound came from a burro pulling a two-wheeled cart. José took them to the barn. He’ll be back when he gets the shivering animal settled. I hope its owner is somewhere safe.”

“Would you like more coffee?” She held up the tin pot. “I was just pouring myself some.” He nodded.

She and Jackson sat at the table warming up and chatting. Once again, she felt a strong connection with him. Her spinsterhood clung to her like a leech. The desire to have a husband and family drained the life out of her conversation, so they sat in silence for a few minutes ... or an eon.
Finally, Jackson cleared his throat, drawing her gaze toward him.

“Eleanor, we’ve known each other for a quite awhile, and I know you’re ... my boss, ... but have you ever thought about ...”

His words lingered between them, awakening her heart to interesting possibilities. “Yes ... yes, I have.”

He started turning his mug in slow circles. “I was planning to ask your father if I could court you, ... but he died before I worked up the gumption.”

Did Jackson just say ... “Yes.”

His coffee-hued eyes probed hers. “Yes, what?”

She could see his uncertainty. Had she spoken too quickly? As she glanced down at the table, her finger traced the Christmas design her mother had embroidered so many years ago. “Yes, you may court me.” She glanced up in time to catch a special gleam in his eyes.

“Thank You, Jesus.” The words came out on a baritone, whispery breath.

They heard José enter the back door, then the mud room door burst open. He carried a bundle in his arms. The bundle emitted a mewling whimper.

Eleanor jumped up. “What do you have?”

He thrust the snow-covered bundle into her arms. “When I was cleaning the snow from the bundles in the cart, I found this niño.”

Dark brown eyes stared up at her from a tiny face. “A baby? Where did he come from?”

“I don’t know, señorita.” Jose’s face stretched into a wide smile. “Many bundles are in the cart. Some contain baby things. I cleaned him up by the stove in the barn. I’ll go back and bring the bundles into the house. Maybe we can figure out something about this little one.”

Jackson came to stand beside her, staring down at the babe. “How old do you think he is?”

“I’d say only a few months ... no more than three. After the storm, we’ll see if we can find his parents.” She automatically started swaying and humming, as if she were born to do this.

“If not, maybe we could keep him.” Jackson’s gentle words took her breath away. “Well, the blizzard brought a few surprises, didn’t it?”

“Yes.” Eleanor nodded. “Wonderful surprises.” She flashed him her warmest smile.

Jackson pulled Eleanor into an embrace with the baby cradled between them. The tender kiss he pressed to her forehead held promise of much more to come. ... Life-changing events.

She would never be the same. Thank You, Jesus.
©2013 Lena Nelson Dooley. All rights reserved.

Historical note: The worst winter storm hit in February 1899. Most of the United States was covered with ice and snow. Texas was almost completely covered. That year even Galveston Bay froze over. I took the liberty of moving the storm up two months to fit my story.


Melanie Backus said...

Merry Christmas, Lena

Melanie Backus, TX

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Thank you, Melanie.

Norma S said...

Merry CHRISTma Lena. Blessings.
Norma. From Ohio

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Thank you, Norma.

rubynreba said...

Very nice! I enjoyed it.
Beth from Iowa