Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Christmas She Wanted - Part 4+

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas Day!

If you have NOT signed up on my Read Another Page mailing list (it's on the right sidebar of Read Another Page) you might want to do so now. At least if you like being able to get books on sale or free. I will have promotions that only those on my e-mail list will get notified of. And don't worry, I won't flood your inbox with hundreds of e-mails. :)

Now here is the end of this Christmas story, just like I promised! Enjoy! And we'll return to our regularly scheduled program next Friday, which is the first of the New Year!

The Christmas She Wanted
Part 4+

    The snow had stopped falling some time during the night, leaving a good foot and a half of snow on the ground. “I don’t think it’s done snowing either,” Mr. Rush remarked to his wife after taking an observation from one of the large windows.
    “Well, I’m just glad we aren’t driving right now. Is anyone coming for breakfast?”
    “I’m here, Mom!” and Lester dashed from the ladder to the kitchen. “And Brad is coming too.”
    “What about Shawn?”
    “Nope. He’s still sleeping. Where’s Dixie?”
    Setting a plate of pancakes on the table, Mrs. Rush replied, “Still sleeping. I have a feeling that those two think the only way to survive this delay is by hibernation.”
    “They’re crazy,” was Lester’s observation.
    Mr. Rush looked at his wife as Brad came to the table. “Should we wake them?”
    She shook her head. “No, let’s let them sleep. It might be a long day anyway. And there’s always tomorrow.”

    It was mid-morning before Shawn stumbled sleepily down the ladder. Dixie had beaten him getting up by only five minutes. Dad and the younger two boys were playing a game of Monopoly on the floor before the fire while Mom knitted nearby and acted the part of the real-estate agent and handed over the properties which sold.
    “What’s for breakfast, Mom?” yawned Shawn.
    “There’s some pancake mix on the counter if you and Dixie want to make yourselves some. Or there is bread for toast.” She made no move to rise and fix breakfast, so Shawn and Dixie moved slowly out to the kitchen.

    The rest of the morning dragged. The monopoly game ended with Brad owning over half the properties and building hotels on a third of them. “Let’s play something else,” Lester suggested, putting the lid on the box.
    “Well, what else is in the closet?” Mr. Rush had discovered a closet with some games and things, for which he was thankful. They should at least be interesting enough for Lester and Brad.
    “Hey, what are those long thingies?” Brad asked, pointing to a large box.
    “Oh, let’s get ‘em out and see!” Quickly Lester and Brad pulled out the box and opened it.
    “Lincoln Logs!” Mrs. Rush exclaimed. “I haven’t seen toys like that since I was a girl. Here, look, you can build all kinds of buildings. Why, there looks like enough here to build a small western town.”
    “Cool!” The younger boys began building and even Shawn, having finished breakfast, sat down and began constructing a cabin.
    Seeing her boys busy and her husband dozing by the fire, Mrs. Rush looked around for Dixie. She found her in the kitchen looking at a book. “What did you find, Dix?” she asked.
    “It’s just a cookbook, but don’t these cookies sound good?” And Dixie pointed to a recipe.
    “Um hmm.”
    “Too bad we couldn’t get to the store and buy a few things for making these.”
    After looking at the recipe, Mrs. Rush said, “Actually, Dixie, we may have the ingredients. I thought we might want some cookies and bought what I thought we might need. I also noticed that there were spices and some other things in the cabinets.”
    Dixie looked up with an eager expression. “Do you think we can use them?” she asked.
    “Why don’t you call and find out?”
    “Where’s the phone?”
    It didn’t take Dixie long to make the call and get her answer. There was a family in the cabin last and they had stayed for two weeks. When they left they didn’t want to bother taking all the extra spices and things home. They knew they wouldn’t spoil and so left them. Dixie was thrilled to learn that she could use whatever she wanted.
    “When can we start, Mom?”
    Mrs. Rush looked at the clock. “What about after lunch?”

    The hot tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches were quickly devoured, and Shawn said he didn’t remember tasting such a good lunch.
    No sooner had the lunch dishes been washed and put away then Dixie began looking to see if they had everything for those cookies. They did.

    Gathered around the fire that evening, Mrs. Rush noticed the pleasant expressions on the faces of each one. Lester was leaning against Dixie, curled up in a ball on one end of the couch. “Those cookies were really good, Dixie,” he was telling her. “I could eat them every day.”
    “Yeah, they were good,” Shawn agreed, offering a smile to his sister. “Can you make more tomorrow?”
    “If we have the right stuff, I want to try another kind. I didn’t know baking cookies was so much fun, Mom.” And Dixie laughed.
    “Hey, Dad,” Brad asked, “can we play Charades again tomorrow?”
    A chorus of “Yeah, let’s!” echoed from the other children. The family had passed almost two hours in a hilarious game of charades. Never did Mr. Rush remember laughing so much with his children as he had during that game.
    “Didn’t we use all the cards?”
    Shawn shook his head. “Nope, only half.”
    Putting her hand to her side, Mrs. Rush gave an exaggerated groan. “Just thinking about so much laughter is making my side hurt again.”
    The laugh that followed died out and the bright flames of the fire became the focus of attention for the whole family for some minutes.
    Finally Dixie spoke, her voice quieter in the silent room. “It’s kind of early for bed, Dad. What are we going to do now?”
    “We—l—l,” Dad drew the word out slowly. “When I was looking around the cabin today, I discovered . . .” He paused and looked at each eager face. “I discovered a bookshelf with some books on it. And one of them was a Christmas story.” He held up a red book. “This is one I enjoyed as a boy, and I think we’ll all enjoy it now. That is, if anyone wants to listen to me read it.”
    Only a few days ago Dixie and Shawn, at least, would have declined on the excuse that they were “busy.” But after today, the thought of listening to their Dad read a Christmas story just like he used to do when they were younger was very appealing and each gave an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Brad and Lester eagerly chimed in with their agreement and they all settled a little more comfortably for the story.
    Mr. Rush opened the book and began. “Sleigh Bells for Windy Foot, by Frances Frost. Chapter one, ‘Tish is Coming!’ . . .”

    It was late when the story was at last over. Everyone had sat in silence, lost in the simple, yet well told, story. Only Shawn had gotten up now and then to add another log or two to the fire. As Mr. Rush shut the book softly, a deep sigh was heard.
    “Mom,” Brad said softly, “I think we need to have more books in the house.”
    “Would you read them instead of playing games on the computer or your iPad?”
    No answer came, only thoughtful silence.
    Mr. Rush looked down at his watch. “I had no idea it was so late! No wonder Lester is falling asleep. Tomorrow is Christmas. Let’s read the Christmas story now and then we had all better get to bed. Shawn, will you read it this year?”
    In the dim light of the quiet cabin, the Rush family listened to Shawn read the familiar story of the first Christmas which somehow never grows old. To each of them the story held a new meaning. Always before they had rushed through the day, spending time playing games on their electronic gadgets, complaining when they had to do things, picking on their siblings and going to bed thinking only of the presents they would get in the morning, never really taking the time to understand the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus Christ didn’t come to get everything He could from life, He came to give. And that Gift was for each person who would accept it.
    Somehow a feeling of wonder seemed to creep over the four Rush children, and in a subdued manner, they told their parents good-night and went off to bed with not even a question about tomorrow or asking if they were going to open the presents they had brought along to open at Grandma’s.
    Watching the last flickering flames in the fireplace, Mrs. Rush said softly, “This is the kind of Christmas I was missing, but I didn’t know it would take a snow slide in the mountains and a heavy snowfall to bring it.”
    Mr. Rush smiled. “God does work in many ways.”

If you were stuck like the Rushes were,
what would you have liked to do?
Will you be back next year?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

I know this is the day I usually post a fiction story for you wonderful readers but, since today is Christmas day, I decided to give you the stories yesterday and tomorrow. I hope you have a blessed day rejoicing in the greatest gift ever!

From my "Journey to Bethlehem" – Photo by Angela Covington

And, I know I've posted this before, but I wanted to share it again.

"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called



The Mighty God,

The Everlasting Father,

The Prince of Peace."

Isaiah 9:6

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Christmas She Wanted - Part 3+

It's Christmas Eve! I decided to give you 1 1/2 parts today, a special post tomorrow and then finish up this story on Saturday. How does that sound? I wasn't sure many of you would be reading anything on here tomorrow anyway. :)

The Christmas She Wanted
Part 3+

    “No, I want Dad to see it. You’ll probably mess up my game.”
    “I would not.”
    “Brad, I can’t look at it now, I’m driving. Diana, you’ll have to read me the directions. Boys, stop fussing at each other. Brad, either put that thing away or let your brother look at it.” Mr. Rush looked in the mirror at his sons.
    Reluctantly Brad handed his iPad back to Shawn with a “Be careful you don’t mess up my game.”
    Shawn only spent a few seconds looking at it. “You’re not getting a signal. No wifi.”
    At that Dixie whipped out her iPhone. “I can not believe this! Dad, we can’t stay here. There’s no signal!”
    “What do you mean, no signal?” Lester wanted to know.
    “It means your iPad won’t work unless you only use the games you’ve already downloaded.”
    “Oh.” At that point Lester could have cared less. All he wanted was to reach where they were going to stay so he could eat.
    “Dad, there’s no signal here,” Dixie repeated a little louder.
    “I heard you, Dix. Now all of you please be quiet. What was that last thing you read, Honey?”
    The tension level in the van was heavy. Dad’s voice had held an “or else” in its tone and the children all knew what that meant. No one even dared whisper but turned their faces to the windows where the darkening dusk was closing in and the snow continued to fall. The roads were still fairly clear and at last Saffell Park was reached. Mr. Rush stopped before the gate and rolled his window down. After a few instructions, a key was handed to him and directions to their cabin were given. “Is there a phone anywhere that we can use?” he asked. “We’re not getting any signal on our cells.”
    “Oh, sure,” the woman replied. “There’s a phone in every cabin. Just push 9 before dialing an outside number. Yeah, when weather like this hits, the signals for just about everything disappear. They’ll probably be out for a week. It’s a usual occurrence in the winter. But who needs those signals at Christmas time, right? Oh, and we’ll call you as soon as the roads are open. If you need anything, let us know. Merry Christmas.”
    “Merry Christmas. And thanks.”
    The woman waved as the van pulled into the park.
    The road wound in and out through the trees. Now and then another cabin could be seen, the windows glowing with the indoor lights, vehicles, covered with snow, parked in front.
    “Looks like we’re not the only ones stuck,” Mr. Rush remarked quietly. “Here we are.”
    He turned the van into a circular driveway and stopped before a cabin. It was small in comparison to the house the family was used to living in, but it was larger than even a hotel suite. Large, bare trees formed a protecting half circle around the cabin as though to guard it from danger. A bird feeder, well filled, was standing near a large window. But the window was dark and no smoke came from the chimney. Everything was quiet and still when Mr. Rush shut the engine off. No one came out to welcome them and no friendly lights could be seen nearby. They seemed to be isolated from all the world they had known only a few hours before.
    “Well,” Mr. Rush let out a sigh, “let’s get everything unloaded.”
    “It looks like someone shoveled the walk once today,” Mrs. Rush remarked. “At least we don’t have to wade through the snow to reach the front door.”
    Everyone was anxious to see the inside of the cabin and quickly carried their load of groceries to the porch and waited as Dad unlocked the door. Lights were flipped on as the family stepped inside.
    They were in a large room which seemed to serve as a combination living room and dining room. To their right, at the end of the room, was a large fireplace, a couch and a few chairs grouped comfortably before it. To their left were the table and chairs which marked the dining area. Directly behind the dining part of the room was a doorway which led to the kitchen. Here the sacks of groceries were set down upon the counters before they continued their tour. A small hall from the middle of the large room led to the back part of the cabin. Two bedrooms opened up on their right and a small bathroom on their left.
    “So we all have to fit in two bedrooms?” Dixie frowned.
    “I think she said there was a loft,” Mr. Rush mused, leading the way back to the large room.
    “I see it!” squealed Lester, spying the ladder against the side of the wall. Like a squirrel he had soon scrambled up. “Cool! There’s four beds up here!” Quickly his brothers followed him, with Dad coming last.
    After the loft had been examined, Dad said, “Okay, let’s get the van unloaded. Come on, boys.”
    “Dad, do I have to help too?” Dixie shivered. She had never liked loading and unloading the van when road trips were involved.
    Glancing from his daughter to his wife, he hesitated and then replied, “You can either help unload the van, or stay inside and help your mother put the groceries away and start supper.”
    “I’ll stay.”

    Supper tasted good to everyone that night, even if it was just frozen box pizzas and carrot sticks. The meal was a quiet affair. Everyone was tired and discouraged. Dad had found the phone, called Grandma, and explained their situation. He told her that they didn’t know when they would arrive but that they were safe in a warm cabin until they could finish their journey. Somehow, just listening to Dad telling Grandma that they might not make it until after Christmas, made it all seem real. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve day and they would probably be stuck where they were until after Christmas.
Tomorrow was Christmas Eve day and they would probably be stuck where they were until after Christmas. Two whole days to spend without internet of any kind, no video games, no phone calls or texting. And it was discovered that their bag of chargers hadn’t ever made it to the van before they left so they had no way to charge their almost dead devices. They couldn’t even watch movies on a computer because they hadn’t brought any along.
    The expressions on Shawn’s and Dixie’s faces read plainly that they were disgusted with the whole thing. Brad wasn’t too sure. He was torn between following the actions and attitudes of his older siblings or letting himself enjoy the time. As for Lester, it all sounded great to him and he could hardly wait till bedtime, for he’d never slept in a loft before.
    Once supper was over and the dishes were washed, Dad called everyone into the living room. He had built a wonderful fire and it snapped and popped in a royal way as the flames danced on the logs and sparks sailed up the chimney. Let the snow fall outside and the winds howl around the chimney, it seemed to be saying, everything inside is warm because of me.
    The family gathered in silence and found seats. The fire seemed to fascinate them all, for no one said a word for several minutes but sat watching the flickering flames. At last Dad spoke.
    “Listen, I know this isn’t what we had planned, and your mom and I are disappointed too. I don’t know why it happened. But we have two choices we can make. One is that we can simply ‘endure’ this enforced delay and complain as little as possible, or we can choose to look at this as an opportunity to grow as a family.” He looked around the room, his eyes sober. “I heard a lot of complaining in the van this afternoon and it made me realize just how much we have lost.”
    “Lost, Dad? What did we lose?” Lester wanted to know.
    “We’ve lost the ability to be happy and content no matter what happens; we’ve lost the ability to function with joy when there is no internet; we’ve lost the desire to just be a family. Kids, perhaps this experience will help us set aside our dependence on outside things and learn to love each other more. I don’t want us to spend our time here complaining and grumbling about what we can’t do and wishing things were different.” He turned and looked at each one of the children. “Let’s make the most of our time here, all right?”
    “Okay, Dad,” Lester nodded.
    “We’ll try,” Shawn said, “but Dad, what are we going to do for two days?”
    “Well, I’m sure we can come up with something. Now, let’s have a word of prayer and then you kids had better get to bed. I know Lester is longing to try out his bed, and it’s getting late.”

    Mr. and Mrs. Rush sat together on the couch after the children had scattered. All was quiet save the crackling of the fire and the voices of the boys up in the loft settling in their beds. Tucking her feet up, Mrs. Rush leaned her head against her husband’s shoulder. “I love that fireplace, Oliver,” she whispered.
    “It is nice,” Mr. Rush agreed, resting an arm on the back of the couch. Loud voices were heard in the loft.
    “Be quiet, Les,” Shawn snapped. “We’re trying to sleep.”
    “Lester,” Dad called, looking up to the dark loft, “stop talking and get to sleep.”
    Silence was the only answer and Mr. Rush sighed. He was tired too. “I don’t know what the next few days are going to be like,” he whispered, “but they should be interesting.”

Have you had your Christmas plans messed up by weather?
Find out what happens on Saturday!
Enjoy tomorrow's post and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tour Garlandsburg - Part 3

    Oh, look, here is a little sledding hill. This is for those not brave enough for the large one. May we borrow your sled? Thank you.

(Our photographer seems to have mislaid the photo of the cobbler's shop.)    Now we’ve come to shop row. Our cobbler is still fairly new to the town, but no one would dream of doing without him now. Why, who would sharpen all the skates or waterproof the boots if Mr. Hansan wasn’t around? Ah, that’s a sweet sight. Do you see those brothers pulling their sister?
The cafe. Oh, dear! Those poor visitors!

    Do you smell that? I’m sure the Grind Central Cafe is doing a fine business. Are you all ready for something hot to drink? Then let’s go in and get something. They have hot chocolate, coffee, and I think I smell hot apple cider!

Mayor Garland and family coloring before the quilt shop.
    Are your toes thawed out now? That’s good, because we still have a ways to go before our tour is ended. But come, let’s go next door and visit Needlework & Quilts. Miss Ann always has some lovely sewing project going on, and you ladies may have a hard time not spending all your money. Aren’t these rugs on the porch cozy?

    Let’s pause here a minute before moving on and listen to Mayor Garland and his family sing. They all have such lovely voices and they do like to sing. That was just wonderful, Mayor Garland. We were just enjoying the song. Oh, I like just about all Christmas carols, but perhaps some of my guests would like to request a song.

The Lodge. See the snowman?

    Ah, here we are at the lodge. Hello, Andrew. I heard you and Sugar have been out pulling sleds today. And what a charming snowman! Did you and your siblings built it? My snowmen never look that good. Yes, we would like to make a quick call on your mother before heading on our way again.

The path coming from the woods.

    Now we must travel through the woods a little ways, but don’t worry, there is a path. Yes, Garlandsburg used to end at the Lodge, but there have always been a few houses farther along the coast, and Rufus Garland was able to purchase the land, and now Garlandsburg has grown. And as you can see by the trampled snow, this path gets used quite frequently.
    Oh, look, up ahead are some other folks. It seems like they might be visitors to Garlandsburg too. Perhaps they are going to catch the stage. Yes, we do have a stage line. I’m sure we’ll see it coming along shortly.

Here comes Mr. Stathem on the stage!

    All right everyone, the stage is coming, so move over by the fence please. Mr. Stathem is a careful driver, but sometimes Chocolate Swirl can get a little frisky. Oh, yes, the kids just love the horse’s name! You see, Mr. Stathem always carries chocolate sticks with him to give to his passengers, and when he got this new horse, the children all agreed that Chocolate Swirl was the perfect name.

The beloved bookstore

    Here we are at Tattered Covers Rare Books. There are a few folks in Garlandsburg who seem to always be here at the bookstore. Yes, here is Mr. Page. How are you today, sir? Did you find a new book? That’s good. Have a Merry Christmas and I’ll see you tonight at the church.
    If you look in the window you’ll see Mrs. Eppingham and Whitney Shields. Whitney is Andrew’s youngest sister and a regular bookworm, and so is Danielle Moore. Yes, she is the sister of Lucas, the one we saw trying to fish. Now, I know some of you would like to go inside and browse, but if we are to finish the tour before it gets too late, we must continue on. But I promise you can come back and wait for the stage here in the bookstore.

Brickston Road and the poultry stand

    To our left is the Brickston road, named in honor of Hank Brickston, who, after Sam Garland moved away, came and helped Rufus for several years in designing the village. The road leads to the next town.
    If you are hungry, you can stop and pick up some fish or poultry for your supper. No one is interested? Well, maybe later.

Barnacle Bill's twins.
    Let us go down the hill now to Barnacle Bill’s Boat House. He’s probably working on a boat, even if it is Christmas Eve. Watch out! Brandon and Brian are having a jolly game of snowballs. Sure, you can throw a few at them if you want. But they might return them!

    Come, across the bridge to the other lighthouse. Excuse us, Travis. Have you been out fishing? I’m sure Crystal will enjoy cooking those. Merry Christmas! Travis is Adam’s brother and lives at the other lighthouse, though he often comes across town to help out at this one or to go fishing, as the cliffs aren’t quite so steep.
The second lighthouse

    We’ll go in and see the other light. I don’t know the keeper that well, but he seems to enjoy taking people up to the top of his light. Don’t worry, there aren’t outside steps like the first lighthouse.

    Well, here we are. Back outside and it’s getting darker and colder. Yes, I think we should button our coats. Suppose we go back to the bookstore and wait for the stage to return. It may be a little while, but you’ll be back before the Christmas Eve service.
    I do hope you all have enjoyed your tour of our fine town. Perhaps you’ll come again next year. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tour Garlandsburg - Part 2

The Big sledding hill
    Here we are, back down from the cliff. We are behind the carriage house now and you can see the other big hill. You won’t believe how much fun that sledding hill can be, unless you try it. You want to? All right, let’s go. I’m sure whoever is sledding will let us have a spin or two. Do the rest of you want to wait for us at the Carriage house?

    Whew! That was fun, but it sure is hard work climbing up that hill again. Some people have suggested a sky lift, but Rufus Garland won’t hear of it. I suppose he is right, for we wouldn’t have seen those deer if we had a sky lift, I’m sure.
Village Square with Skating Pond
The Garlands' House

    But come, here’s the town skating pond. It’s quite busy right now. I’ve heard the best time to really enjoy the pond is first thing in the morning. This is the village park, as you may have guessed. It is very popular. Don’t forget to ring the bell in the gazebo. It’s a village tradition for visitors to ring it when they pass by.

    We’ll pause here just a moment until Little Me and Sissy go by on their homemade dog sled. It doesn’t look like Ruff is sure he wants to pull them both. There he goes. Now be careful you don’t step on any snow-angels.

    This is the town’s pride and joy: the home of Rufus and Betsy Garland. You can see their granddaughter, Hannah, in the window. It sure looks warm and cozy in there.

Ron's Music Shop

    Ah, listen. Ron is playing his violin and it looks like a few other musicians and a singer have joined him. Let’s step inside Ron’s Music Shop. I want to show you some of his music boxes.

Nicholas & Holly

    Oh, do you smell that sweet, surgary, slightly spicy smell? That must be coming from the bakery! We’ll take a shortcut and tramp up this hill to the road. Good day, Postman Owen. You have something for me? Why, thank you, it looks like a Christmas card. Don’t get run over. Here comes Nicholas Goodman and Holly Stone. They are getting married Christmas night and everyone is excited about it. Their story is very sweet. You see, Nicholas came down to visit his brother, the Reverend Goodman, last year, and he met Holly; she’s the eldest daughter of Baker Stone. They make such a lovely couple.

Hearthstone Bakery

    Oh, let’s go inside the Hearthstone Bakery. My mouth is just watering for a taste of his famous cinnamon buns! They must be hot out of the oven by the smell! Don’t run into Peter. He’s Holly’s younger brother, and he’s usually helping his father. It looks like Mrs. Johnson and Joel are buying a few things for supper.

    Now that we are all warm and have had a delicious snack, let’s continue on our way. You didn’t spend all your money, did you? Good, we have more places to stop.

    The hotel is right next door. I hope you all have reservations for tonight. You do? Good, because if you didn’t, I’m afraid you would find yourself without a place to sleep tonight. Garlandsburg is always very crowded in December.
    Oh, here come Reverend Goodman, his wife and daughter. Their horse’s name is Coffee. It looks like they’re out to deliver some packages.

Clockwork Shop

    Here is the Clockwork Shop. Merry Christmas, Dr. Ketchum. Is your watch fixed now? Yes, Mr. Getty does a wonderful job, and it’s always good to have a watch that works. I would think it would be especially important for a doctor. Good bye. Oh, good day, Mrs. Stone. We saw Holly and Nicholas out for a drive not so long ago. Yes, Nicholas’s new horse is quite beautiful. Her name is Nellie? What a lovely name. Yes, it was good to see you too, Mrs. Stone. Merry Christmas! Now before we move on, be sure you all set your watch by the clock here. It’s always accurate. Did anyone want to go in and buy a watch? Or a clock perhaps?
The church (picture taken before Johnny came outside)

    That is a big snowdrift, but I think we can slip between it and the fence if we go single file. Hello, Krista. Are you watching Johnny for his mother this afternoon? I’m sure she appreciates it.
    As you can see, we’ve reached the village church. It may not look like much, but it will be packed this evening, with it being Christmas Eve and all.
    I can see Edwin Ketchum coming to deliver the rest of his poinsettias. So many! They are going to make the church look so lovely. You all will just have to come back tonight and see it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Tour Garlandsburg - Part 1

    Welcome to Garlandsburg, folks. I’m so glad you could come. It’s such a perfect day to take a tour, I know you’ll all enjoy it. The snow is crisp and cold, the air has a nip to it and the sky is clear. I’m going to tantalize your nose with the smell of Christmas baking, get your blood flowing by a our travels, and leave you wishing you had more money to spend in the shops of our little town.

    Before we begin, I’d like to tell you just a little about this village and what makes it so special.
    Garlandsburg was founded many years ago by Rufus and Sam Garland. It was their dream to build a Christmas village that would hold onto the past as much as possible. They succeeded so well in their endeavors that Garlandsburg has become a well known destination for those seeking a slower paced holiday experience; a place where the charm of Christmas lingers everywhere. But I’m sure you’ll catch that charm and the essence of wonder and joy as we take our tour.

    One other thing you should know is that Garlandsburg is never the same each year and once the month of December is over, the village is closed and the folks of the town go back to their regular jobs and their own houses. It is during this time that Rufus Garland begins to plan. (Sam has since moved away and is no longer a part of the planning of the town.) The village is often completely redesigned, the streams are channeled into new beds, the hills are leveled or build up, and sometimes even the coastline is altered. Once the groundwork is done, all the shops and houses are settled into their new locations. The word is sent out right after Thanksgiving to all the inhabitants of Garlandsburg that it is ready for occupancy, and nothing beats the flurry and hurry as the shop keepers, their families, and friends and neighbors converge on the newly finished village. All are eager to see where they will be living for the month and who will be beside them. Most families live above their shops here in town and, even if they are smaller quarters than most families normally enjoy, no one minds.

    “It’s just all a part of Garlandsburg,” Mrs. Stone told me. “None of us could imagine Christmas time without the cramped quarters, the closeness we feel as a family.”
    The village is only open until December 31st, so I’m glad you arrived when you did. Though, there aren’t many visitors after Christmas. I suppose they’re all too busy with family or else too exhausted to think of traveling.
    Now, let’s get started. I know you are anxious to experience this special New England town.

The Carriage House
    To begin our trip–we’ll leave the warmth of the Carriage House fire behind us and start off across the bridge to the lighthouse. Oh, Landon Moore seems to have so many problems with his fishing. I do hope his uncle can teach him a few things, as he always seems to be in trouble.
    Excuse us, Mr. Thomas. Are you going up to the lighthouse too? How nice. Yes, I do think we might travel a bit faster, so thank you for letting us go ahead.

Lighthouse and Path
    Be careful on this path everyone, it’s right on the edge of the cliff and there are rocks below. Please hold on to the children’s hands. Oh, look, you can see Grandfather Uriah Donovan and his grandson Lucas at the top of the trail. They are no doubt watching for Adam’s ship. (Adam is Lucas’s father and his ship is due any day.) And here comes Torch to great us! Don’t worry, he’s a very friendly dog. A bit more frisky than his mother, Candle, but still nice.
    Down, Torch. Don’t jump on us. We came to see the lighthouse. That’s a good dog.
    Here we are at the top. Beautiful view, isn’t it? Catch your breath now, and we’ll say hello to Grandpa Donovan. No, he’s not everyone’s grandpa, but he’s the oldest man in the town and has been called grandpa for as long as I have known him.
    Come on, Crystal, Lucas’s mother is inside, and I’m sure she’ll be happy for some visitors. Perhaps we can even get Grandfather Uriah to let us climb to the top of the tower. Does anyone want to?

Lower Bridge and Upper Footbridge
    Now we must keep going. We’ll go down the back way. It’s a bit tricky at times, but we’ll be careful and go slowly. Watch these steps. That’s right. We’ll cross the stream on the foot bridge where Mr. Shields and Willie are fishing. Oh, hang on to your pole, Willie! It looks like you caught a fish!

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Christmas She Wanted - Part 2

Good morning Friday Fiction Fans!
Does it seem strange to you that Christmas is a week from today? Did Christmas come suddenly and quickly this year or has it felt like it was dragging? I know for me it's come much too quickly. And it's hard to believe it's Friday again!

I don't think I'll be doing much writing at all until January because I'm so busy and my evenings seem to all be full. I am looking forward to getting back to writing though and especially "The Graham Quartet." Yep, I'm going to be working on book 2 next month. You can all start praying that I get all the ideas I need and am able to get it written.

Oh, I wanted to tell you all that if you like special deals, free books and things like that, then you should go to Read Another Page and sign up for my mailing list. There will be times when I offer one of my books at a special discount or something to my mailing list group only. And no, I'm not going to be flooding your inbox with emails every day. (And for those of you who don't want to put your real name on the form, you can use whatever name you usually use online.)

Heads up readers, if all goes according to plan, I will be posting every day next week except Sunday. I hope you are all ready for lots of things to read. :) And we'll get started right now.

The Christmas She Wanted
Part 2

    The van pulled to a stop and a State Highway patrolman, warmly dressed, stepped over to the driver’s window. “Hello folks. Were you planning on driving farther than the town?”
    “Yes.” There was a note of hesitancy and question in Oliver Rush’s voice.
    The officer had noticed the children in the back. “Sorry, the road is closed past the town up ahead.” Before anyone could say anything, he went on. “There was an avalanche up in the mountains and the force of it sent snow everywhere; the road is blocked for over a mile. With the forecast calling for at least another foot or two of snow, it’ll probably be after Christmas before it’s clear again.”
    Mr. Rush tapped his fingers on the steering wheel for a moment. “Well, I guess if the road is closed, we can’t go on. I’m not sure what we’ll do now. Are there any hotels in town?”
    The officer nodded. “Sure, but I think you folks would be more comfortable at Saffell Park. They have winterized cabins there, fully furnished except for food, and with the size of your family, you might enjoy it more. The roads are clear to the park and it’s not many miles from here. I can give you directions if you want.”
    Leaning over, Mrs. Rush asked, “Will they be able to tell us when the road is open again?”
    “Oh, yes. We keep them informed, and they are always careful to let their guests know.”
    “Are you sure they’ll have a cabin? I mean, I’d hate to drive out there and find them full up.”
    “Hang on a minute and I’ll check for you.” The Highway Patrol walked over to his car and conferred with another officer. Soon he was back. “Yep, they have several cabins. If you want, you can give me your name and I’ll have them hold one for you.”
    Oliver turned and looked at his wife. What should they do? She gave a faint nod and he said, “That would be appreciated. The name is Rush. Oliver Rush, and there’s six of us. And thanks. We’ll have to get some groceries though.”
    “Not a problem. You can drive on to town and there’s a gas station, some grocery stores, and a few restaurants if you need them. Anyone in town can tell you how to get to the park. Drive carefully and have a merry Christmas.”
    “Thanks. Merry Christmas to you too.” Mr. Rush rolled his window closed, shutting out the frigid, snow-laden air, and gave a sigh.
    It wasn’t until the van was around the road block that groans and exclamations of annoyance and dismay filled the back. “You mean we have to stay in some old cabin?”
    “We should’ve flown there. I knew a road trip would be a disaster.”
    “Why can’t we go a different way?”
    “Should we go back home?”
    “Man, this is going to  be boring if we get stuck here too long.”
    “Why don’t we just go home again? At least we wouldn’t have to stay in some uncomfortable cabin.”
    Finally Mrs. Rush had heard enough. “All right everyone, be quiet! All this complaining isn’t helping matters right now. We need to figure out what we are going to do.” She looked appealingly at her husband.
    “I say we spend the night at the park and hope the roads are open in the morning.”
    “But he said they probably wouldn’t be open until after Christmas.”
    “Hmm. That’s right. Well, we’ll pick up some food and we’ll wait it out. I’m not driving all the way back home only to turn around and drive back. Besides, it’s growing late and the snow doesn’t look like it’s going to stop soon.” He carefully turned off the highway on to the off ramp. “If we decide not to go to Grandma’s after all, we can just go home tomorrow. If the roads are open.”
    The gas station was easy to find, and after filling up, Mr. Rush drove down the street to a grocery store. “All right everyone, let’s all go in and pick up some food for our layover.”
    There was some murmuring but no loud complaints this time. Coats were pulled on and buttoned or zipped. The only excited face was that of Lester. He viewed it all as a great adventure and couldn’t wait to get started.
    The shopping took longer than usual because Mrs. Rush didn’t have a shopping list and everyone had a different opinion about what they should get. Finally she turned, “Dixie, take your brothers and go to the front of the store and wait for us there. I cannot think with all of you talking at once.”
    “All of you stay together,” Mr. Rush admonished, looking directly at his youngest son who wasn’t fond of obeying his elder siblings.

    Carrying the grocery bags out to the van some time later, no one was in a very good mood. Lester was hungry and tired of waiting. Brad wanted to get back to the game he had been playing before everyone was interrupted, and he was hungry. Shawn and Dixie were getting on each other’s nerves and neither one wanted to go to the cabin. Mrs. Rush had a headache and was tired and hungry, and Mr. Rush hated having their schedule messed up. He had been looking forward to spending Christmas with his folks and now it didn’t look like that was going to happen.
    “Can’t we get ice cream?” Lester begged as Dad started the van.
    “No, Les,” his mom replied. “We’re going out to the cabin so we can get settled before it’s too dark.”
    “But I’m hungry.”
    “Yeah, me too.” Brad put in. He reached into his bag and pulled out his iPad.
    “You’ll just have to wait a little longer.”
    “Hey!” Brad’s exclamation startled everyone. “What’s wrong with this?”
    “With what, Brad,” Mr. Rush asked.
    “My iPad.”
    “Here, let me see,” Shawn tried to take it, but Brad pulled it away.
    “No, I want Dad to see it. You’ll probably mess up my game.”
    “I would not.”

Have you ever had a trip interrupted like this?
Would you have wanted to stay at the cabin?
What's wrong with Brad's iPad?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Christmas She Wanted - Part 1

I almost forgot that I was going to post the start of this story today. Glad I remembered because it's 5 parts long and I am planning on still posting the "Tour of Garlandsburg." Enjoy!

The Christmas She Wanted
Part 1

    The snow was falling and Mr. Rush had the windshield wipers on. The heat in the van had been running since the family had left early that morning.
    “It sure is snowing,” Mrs. Rush remarked. “I hope it doesn’t keep up.”
    There was no answer from the back seats and after a quick glance back, Mrs. Rush looked over at her husband. “I think, Oliver, we could safely mention what their Christmas presents were going to be this year and no one would even know.”
    “Probably,” Oliver replied dryly, looking in the rearview mirror and seeing each one of his four kids utterly absorbed in an electronic device. He sighed. “I’m glad we never had those DVD players installed. At least it’s quiet.”
    Shifting to a more comfortable position, Diana turned and eyed her children. There hadn’t been any fussing or complaining except when they had driven through dead spots and no signal could be reached. But somehow it just didn’t seem right. She thought back to when she was younger and had taken long, family road trips. “We certainly didn’t have iPhones to keep us occupied.”
    “What’s that, Dear?”
    Mrs. Rush shook her head. “Nothing. I was just wishing we could do something as a family once again.”
    Without taking his eyes off the highway, Oliver raised his eyebrows questioningly. “Aren’t we taking a family trip?”
    “Well, it’s a trip, but I don’t think I’d call it a ‘family’ one. Even after we reach your parents’ house, the problem will just be expanded. The cousins will all have their eyes on screens; they’ll text each other instead of talking, and the only ‘activity’ the boys will want to do is play video games.” She gave a sigh. “You know, I wish we could have a real Christmas for a change. I wish the iPhones and iPads and TVs and computers would all stop working and we could sit and really talk, play real games; I wish Dixie and I could bake in the kitchen together using a real cookbook and . . . Oh, I guess I’m just wishing for the impossible.” The sigh she gave was deep and long. “Why did we ever buy into these gadgets anyway, Oliver?”
    “I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Mr. Rush clicked the wipers to a faster pace and changed the subject. “There should be plenty of snow at Mom and Dad’s. We’ll have a white Christmas this year, Hon.”
    The Rush family had moved earlier that year, and this was the first trip back to see Oliver’s family. At Thanksgiving the family had flown to visit Diana’s family in southern Florida, but another plane trip so soon was too expensive for the family purse. Everyone had agreed that a road trip wouldn’t be an unbearable price to pay for a week at Grandma’s and time with all their relatives. It hadn’t been snowing when they left, but the further east they had driven, the more snow they had encountered.
    “We’ll have to stop for gas at the next town,” Mr. Rush remarked, noticing the low gas gauge.
    “Hey, Dad, after we get gas, can I drive?” Dixie had just gotten her license the month before and was eager to be in the driver’s seat.
    “We’ll see how hard it’s snowing, Dix,” was all the promise her dad would make. Lowering his voice he remarked to his wife, “It takes the right word to bring them up for air.”
    “Do you think if I mentioned ice cream—“
    “Are we going to get ice cream, Mom?” twelve-year-old Brad asked eagerly.
    “I want a double dip cone with mint chocolate chip and lime sherbet,” Lester put in. He was the youngest member of the family and had opinions and ideas that only a nine-year-old could have.
    “Hey, are we getting ice cream?” inquired Shawn from the backseat. “Man, it’s snowing. Hey, what’s so funny, Mom?”
    A merry peal of laughter came from the front passenger seat and a hearty chuckle echoed from Dad. “I told you it took the right words. Now you have to decide about the ice cream.”
    Still laughing, Mrs. Rush half turned in her seat. “Do you all really want ice cream in this weather?”
    “Actually,” Dixie said, “I’d rather have something hot from Starbucks. Just looking at this snow makes me cold.”
    “Can we get ice cream, Mom?” Lester begged.
    “Well,” Mrs. Rush hesitated. “Let’s see if there’s any place around when we get gas. With all this snow we can’t drive as fast, so our stops will have to be shorter if we want to reach Grandma’s before tomorrow.”
    The younger two boys took that as a promise of the desired treat. “All right!”
    Shawn glanced over at his sister. He was two years younger than she was, though he was nearly a head taller. “How long’s it been snowing?”
    Dixie shrugged. “I don’t know.”
    For a few minutes the four children were interested in the snow falling outside their windows. It was coming down steadily and no grass was to be seen along the sides of the roads. Every tree had a layer of white on each branch. There was some speculation about how much snow would be at Grandma and Grandpa’s and how much they had gotten back at home. A sign for the next town came along.
    Suddenly Brad exclaimed “Dad! I see lights up ahead!”
    “I see them too!” Lester leaned forward in his seat and peered into the snow. “Maybe it was an accident. You might have to stop, Dad.”
    Mr. Rush was already slowing down. The flashing red and blue lights had caught everyone’s attention. “Looks like the road is blocked.”
    A groan came from the back seat. “I don’t want to get stuck out here,” Dixie said. “There’s not even a house to be seen.”
    The van pulled to a stop and a State Highway patrolman, warmly dressed, stepped over to the driver’s window. “Hello folks. Were you planning on driving farther than the town?”

What do you do when you travel?
Would you rather have ice cream or something hot on a cold, snowy day?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Because of a Christmas Tree - Part 4

Good morning Faithful Friday Fiction Fans!
I hope you've been enjoying this story as I've posted it more than just on Friday. Did I confuse anyone else about what day it was besides Blessing Counter? :)

This hasn't been a really good writing week. Monday night my brother and his family came over and surprised my dad for his birthday. They ate supper with us and hung out for a little while. Tuesday we thought we were going to babysit the kids while my brother, sis-in-law and Dad were at a political meeting so I didn't get ready to write. Then we got a call just before supper saying the kids weren't coming over and my brother had forgotten to let us know. I ended up doing some other things. Like reading. :) Wednesday I did get some writing done. I worked on the "Tour of Garlandsburg." I wrote a little more last night. You won't want to miss this tour. I'm hoping I can write tonight and maybe tomorrow night. We'll see.

We finally got the last of the decorating done. It's taken us a lot longer this year as we weren't sure what we were going to do in the kitchen and I wanted some advice from my sis-in-law about something. Would you all like to see some pictures of our decorations?

Now, if any of you are still shopping for Christmas gifts, here's another code for a book on Amazon. With this one you get 25% off, so don't forget those book lovers on your list. Use the code by the 14th though. Just put in 25OFFBOOK when you place your order.

Oh, and don't forget the giveaway on Read Another Page! Share it with your family and friends! More than one family member can enter if you use different e-mail addresses. 

Okay, I'll let you get on with this story. Enjoy!

Because of a Christmas Tree
Part 4

    Left in the shack with the sleeping man, Soper paced the floor muttering to himself. He should never have mentioned Christmas to the boy. But he had asked, and who could refuse his questions? Well then, he should have told him Christmas wasn’t for another week. But somehow one just couldn’t lie while looking into those trusting eyes. Pausing near the window, the young man pulled out his pocket watch for the seventh time. He stared at the face of it and then held it to his ear and heard the steady ticking of the second hand. With a grunt he shoved it back in his pocket. He didn’t know if he wanted the time to go by faster or slower. Oh, if only he could have joined in the search. Had they found Sonny yet? He resumed his pacing.
    So absorbed had Soper been in his thoughts, that he started when Old Marley’s voice sounded from the bed.
    “Doc? What’s got into you? I ain’t never seen ya so restless. Where’s Sonny?”
    “Out. I reckon I’d best get the soup heatin’ up. Sonny’ll be hungry.” Hurrying over to the stove so Old Marley wouldn’t see his face, Soper jostled into the bed.
    Old Marley, having lain in bed and watched the young man pace the floor of the small shack for a good ten minutes before he spoke, knew something was wrong. “Doc, what’s wrong? Why ain’t Sonny here? I know he ain’t just visitin’, else ya wouldn’t be wearin’ the floorboards out with all yer trampin’ to and fro. Now spit it out.”
    There was nothing for it. The young man knew he had to tell. He could only hope that Old Marley would have enough sense to remain where he was, in bed. Drawing a deep breath he turned and said. “Sonny’s disappeared. I reckon he’s gone out to find that Christmas tree you and he were wanting. But don’t worry,” he hastened to add, seeing a strange look cross the sick man’s face. “All the men’ve gone lookin’ for him an’ they’ll find him. He can’t have gone too far.”
    For several minutes, Old Marley didn’t speak. When he did, it wasn’t to Soper. “Ya know what that boy means to me, God. I’ve tried my best ta care for him an’ now he’s lost. If’n I hadn’t got sick we could a found that tree he was wantin’, but I did. It ain’t yer fault. But please be close to Sonny now. And God, it’s been a heap a years since I talked to You. I’m most ‘shamed a the way I’ve been leavin’ You out a my life. I want to come back to You, just like that son did in the story Sonny read the other night. Please take me back. An’ I reckon, God, I’d still be ignorin’ You if’n You hadn’t let me find Sonny that day back in the spring. He’s such a good little fellow, please . . .”
    Soper had stood with head bowed at the foot of the bed. Now, as Old Marley’s voice choked up, he dropped to his knees and took up the prayer. “Oh, Father in Heaven, I too have slipped away. It wasn’t intentional, but I reckon I haven’t done much thinking of you. Least ways not till Sonny came. But now, Father, Sonny needs help. Please let the men find him before it’s too late. Please, Father! You sent Your Son to be born so mankind might not be lost in sin, but Sonny is lost right now out in the snow, and he needs found. Help him, please.”
    The prayers weren’t eloquent, but they came straight from the heart of the two men. And after they were over, a strange feeling of peace seemed to settle over the little shack. Soper built up the fire in the stove, made a stew and heated the kettle of water for some tea. Neither one spoke, but waited and listened.

    At last the sound of many feet outside the shack was heard above the howling of the wind. The door was opened and the men from the other shacks came in bringing with them the missing boy and his Christmas tree. There wasn’t much room in the small shack for everyone, but somehow they all managed to fit in, even with the tree, which was soon sitting in a pail on the table in the corner of the room.
    Sonny’s wet boots and socks were quickly taken off and he was established, as bright as ever, though a little chilled, on the bed beside Old Marley. “Uncle Marley! I’m so glad you are feeling better. See, I found the right Christmas tree. Only it was hard to cut down and it started to snow before I finished. But the men came and carried it back. Now we can have a Christmas party!” He hugged the old man and beamed on the men crowded around.
    “It’ll be a wonder if’n that boy don’t catch phumonia,” muttered one older man to Soper who was fixing a pot of coffee.
    Soper looked anxiously at the bright face of the lad and sighed. He hoped Sonny wasn’t going to get sick.
    A few of the men had hurried to their shacks to fetch mugs and bowls, for all had accepted Sonny and Old Marley’s invitation to stay and have something hot. The smell of the pine tree, mingling with the sent of coffee and stew, filled the small room and no one thought they had seen a prettier tree.
    Slipping from the bed, Sonny pulled his Bible from the chest and holding it out said softly, “Mr. Soper, would you read the Christmas story to us, please?”
    Every voice became hushed as “Doc” Soper sat down on a stool near the lamp and opened the book.
    “. . . And the angel said unto them, fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people . . . Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will, toward men . . .”
    Old Marley lay on his rough bed, Sonny beside him, and watched the faces of the other men and looked at the tree in the corner. Sonny had taken a risk going out alone to find it for him. “And on earth, peace.” Those words seemed to repeat themselves in Old Marley’s mind and he remembered that feeling of peace which had come over him when he prayed.
    Slowly the men rose and slipped quietly from the lighted shack to tramp away through the snow, leaving the fragrant Christmas tree behind. Soper wasn’t to be coaxed into leaving Old Marley or Sonny that night and, wrapped in a blanket, he settled himself before the stove after seeing the boy fall asleep with a contented look on his young face.
    As for Old Marley, he lay awake for a little while longer, enjoying the smell of the pine, the sound of Sonny’s steady breathing and even “Doc’s” snore.
    “God sent His Son as a baby that first Christmas ta bring us peace. An’ this Christmas,” he thought, “He used another child ta bring me back to true peace. I’ll ain’t never gona smell another Christmas tree without rememberin’ this one.”

Do certain smells bring memories back to you?
If you could only have 1 thing at Christmas time, what would you choose?
Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Because of a Christmas Tree - Part 3

And now the next part! Enjoy!

Because of a Christmas Tree
Part 3

    With anxious eyes, Sonny watched as Mr. Soper examined the old man, feeling his hot face, taking his pulse and listening to his labored breathing and hoarse coughs. After what felt like hours to the waiting boy, he turned and said quietly, “Sonny, I need to fetch some things from my place. I won’t be gone long. Can you get some water heating up to make some tea?”
    The boy nodded, glad to be able to something for this man who had taken him in and cared for him.

    All that day Sonny and Mr. Soper remained in the shack with Old Marley. The other men in the mining camp wandered by during the day to “see how things was goin,’ an’ did Doc need anything.” Mr. Soper, though he was young, was considered the “town doc” for he had spent one year at a medical school before lack of funds had sent him out west in search of gold to finish his training. All during the day Sonny had been quiet, which was quite unlike his usual talkative self.
    Sitting down for some supper that evening, Mr. Soper turned to the boy and asked, “Are you feeling all right, Sonny? You’re awfully quiet.”
    Sonny nodded. “Yes, sir, I'm all right. I’ve just been thinking about Uncle Marley and Christmas. How many more days until Christmas, Mr. Soper?” Though the other men in camp might call the young man “Doc,” Sonny never did. His polite manners and speech around the mining camp hinted that he had been used to more refined ways.
    Rubbing his stubby beard, Mr. Soper thought a moment before answering. “Well, the day after tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Did you have some plans?” His voice was kind, for the boy interested him and he promised himself that if anything should happen to Old Marley, he would take care of the boy.
    “Yes, Uncle Marley and I want a Christmas tree. We were out hunting for one all day yesterday, but we never found the right one. Do you think Uncle Marley will be able to go look for a tree before Christmas?”
    “Let’s just wait and see,” Mr. Soper replied softly, rising to add another stick of wood to the stove.

    The following day was much the same. Old Marley didn’t get any worse, but neither did he seem to improve.
    On Christmas Eve, Sonny sat on his stool by the stove, his chin resting in his hands, and stared at the floor. Uncle Marley was still sick. He couldn’t go with him to find a Christmas tree. And Mr. Soper couldn’t go because he must stay and take care of Uncle Marley. Could Sonny talk one of the other men into going to find a Christmas tree? “Uncle Marley wants a tree,” Sonny whispered to himself. “I just know it would make him better.” With the quick decision of a child, Sonny stood up and pulled on his coat.
    “Mr. Soper,” he said softly, “I’m going to go visiting, if you don’t think Uncle Marley needs me.”
    The young man looked up. “No, Sonny, Old Marley isn’t likely to be needin’ you for a while. And I reckon it’ll do you a heap of good to get out of this shack for a while. You just run along now and enjoy the sunshine.”
    Only pausing a moment beside the bed to touch the old man’s hand, Sonny hurried from the shack and up the road.

    A sudden shaking of the shack roused Soper from his light doze beside the bed. The room was dusky even though it was mid-afternoon. “Huh,” he muttered, rising and lighting the lamp. “Sounds like a storm might be blowin’ in. I wonder which shack the boy’s in.” Peering out the window, Soper took notice of the few flakes of snow which danced in the wind.
    The young man turned, stepping over to the bed and placing a hand against the old man’s face. “Yep, it’s me, Marley. How’re you feeling?”
    “Like I’ve been huntin’ for a week with no sleep. Where’s the boy?”
    Lifting the old man’s head, Soper held a tin mug of tea to his lips. “Take a drink of this and then get some more sleep. I reckon Sonny’ll be ‘round before too long. He’s gone visiting.”
    Taking several swallows before turning his head away, Old Marley relaxed for a moment. Another gust of wind shook the shack. “Winter storm comin'?”
    “Reckon so.” Soper rubbed his hand over the back of this neck and looked towards the door. Where was Sonny?
    Soper turned. “Yep.”
    “Sonny might like yer company tonight for dinner. I ain’t feelin’ up to fixin’ it jest yet.”
    “Just get some sleep, Marley. I’m not goin’ any place.” He watched as Old Marley’s eyes closed and saw him fall into a deep, healthy slumber. It was only then that he crossed the room to the window. It wasn’t snowing much, but he could feel the cold wind drifting through the cracks around the windowpane. If Sonny didn’t return soon, he might become stuck in another shack.
    Just then a step was heard outside, the door was pushed open, and someone almost blew inside. It wasn’t Sonny.
    “Bronson!” Doc Soper’s voice was low. “Anything wrong?”
    The newcomer shook his head, his tones equally low as he replied, “Nope, jest thought I’d see if’n ya needed anything. How’s Old Marley?”
    “Fever’s broke. He’ll mend quickly I reckon. Could you find Sonny and bring him back here? Old Marley was askin’ for him when he woke up. He’s gone visitin’.”
    “Sure thing.” And the rough miner stepped back out into the cold afternoon.
    Within an hour he was back with a few of the other men. “He ain’t around the town, Doc,” Bronson reported. “Ain’t nobody seen hide nor hair a him fer hours.”
    “Hours?” The young man’s eyes were wide and anxious. “But he’s been gone since this morning. Has he been to see any of you?”
    The men nodded and one spoke up. “Yep, asked me if’n I wanted to go hunt some tree with him.”
    Giving a gasp, Soper’s face turned pale. He had forgotten Sonny’s talk of finding a Christmas tree with Uncle Marley before Christmas. If no one in the shacks had seen him, he must have gone off to find a tree alone. And a winter storm would soon be on them!
    With a few rapid, but low words, he told the men of Sonny’s desire for a Christmas tree. It didn’t take more then five minutes for the men to comprehend everything and immediately they started off to round up the others and begin their search for the young boy.

Where is Sonny?
Did you see the giveaway on Read Another Page?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Garlandsburg - The Lodge

The Lodge

    Stepping out of the warm lodge onto the porch, Mrs. Shields glanced about. “Andrew,” she called to her son, “have you seen your father and Willie?”
    Looking over the back of his pony, Andrew nodded. “They went fishing some time ago. Want me to ride Sugar and go find them?”
    With a shake of her head, Mrs. Shields pulled her shawl about her shoulders and replied, “They’ll be home by supper time. By the way,” she called over her shoulder just before she stepped inside, “I’m afraid you’ll either have to get your snowman to come sweep the kitchen after supper or bring the broom in. We can’t have a dirty floor for Christmas Day.”
    Andrew grinned and led his pony to the shed. “I wish that snowman could sweep the floor.” He chuckled at the thought. “Wouldn’t that be a funny sight, Sugar? Poor Mr. Snowman would melt if he stepped into Mom’s kitchen. I’m sure she and the girls are still busy baking.” As he talked, he rubbed his pony down and fed him. “You did so well pulling those sleds, Sugar,” Andrew went on, talking to the pony. “Maybe next year I’ll get a real sleigh you can pull. Wouldn’t the kids all like that?”
    As though she understood, Sugar nickered and nudged Andrew’s shoulder.
    With a final pat, Andrew left the shed and trudged across the yard through the snow. Standing beside the snowman he and his brothers had made, he gazed out across the valley where most of Garlandsburg lay. The hill on the other side rose in the gathering dusk, and the light from the lighthouse shone brightly. “I wonder if Mr. Donovan’s ship will come in for Christmas?” he thought. “It sure would make an exciting day if it did, what with the wedding in the evening and it being Christmas Day and all.”
    A door shut behind him, and Andrew turned to see his sister, Ashley, hurrying down the steps. “Andrew, Mama said we are to go to the bookstore and get Whitney. She’s been gone all afternoon and it’s going to be dark very soon.” The girl had pulled on her mittens as she spoke.
    “Is Jeanette coming too?”
    Ashley shook her head. “No, she said she’d stay and help Mama, and Willie’s with Papa. If John wasn’t working, he could go with us. But he is.”
    “If I had a sleigh built, Sugar could take us,” Andrew said, looking over at his pony. “We could fit the three of us in a small sleigh.”
    “Well, maybe we can catch a ride in the stage, if it’s not too full,” Ashley suggested. “I love riding with Mr. Stathem, he tells such wonderful stories.” Then she added, “If we can get Whitney away from the books before the stage leaves.”
    Andrew laughed. Their youngest sister was never happier than when she had a book in her hand. “Let’s hurry then. I’m getting hungry and can’t wait till supper.”
    “And the Christmas Eve service,” Ashley added.

Stay tuned for another visit to Garlandsburg

Friday, December 4, 2015

Because of a Christmas Tree - Part 2

Happy First Friday in December!
Have you been staying busy getting ready for Christmas? I have. But I've also found some time to just read. I do so love to read Christmas stories! Perhaps that's why I enjoy writing them.

Tomorrow my best friend and I are heading to the Carthage Library for an "Authors for the Holidays" book signing event. Hopefully there will be a good turn out. I wish you all could come, but I know it's a bit of a distance for many of you. ;) We'll see how many of my books sell. I'll have all 13 of them there. It should be fun anyway as there will be at least 23 authors.

Tonight the kids are coming over and we're going to finish decorating the tree and make cookies. Making cookies with all the kids is bound to be interesting. Ti-Kay is going to want to do it too, but she's a little young being only 10 months old. But Little Me is going to be fun to watch. Ah, the joys of little ones at Christmas time!

I won't keep you from your story now. Here's part 2 of our story. (If you didn't read Part 1, go to the post below this.)

Because of a Christmas Tree
Part 2

    The meal in the shack was quiet. Both the old man and the boy were too hungry to do much talking. But once the simple meal was over, and the dishes had been cleared away, Sonny sat down with the dirty boots and began the long task of cleaning them. It was only then that he began to talk again.
    “Uncle Marley, did you know it is almost Christmas? Mr. Soper told me so when he brought the meat over. What did you do for Christmas when you were my age?”
    “I don’t recall exactly, Sonny. That were a heap of a time ago.”
    Sonny looked up. “Can’t you think of one thing you did that you enjoyed most of all?” he coaxed.
    “W-e-ll.” Old Marley leaned back against the wall, propped his feet up on the table before the stove, and thought. “I reckon the thing I most remember is the tree. Yep, them trees were purty nice.”
    Sonny gave a slight sigh. “I like the trees best too.” His hands continued cleaning the boots but he had a far away look in his eyes, as though he was seeing a different time and a different place. “Yes, the trees were best,” he said again after some time. “I like to think that a Christmas tree stood outside the stable and that the Baby Jesus looked at it when he was awake. Papa said they didn’t have that kind of tree in Bethlehem, but I think Baby Jesus would have liked it, they smell so nice.” Again there was a long pause and a look in Sonny’s eyes which Old Marley didn’t quite understand.
    At last Sonny finished cleaning the last boot and set it down. “Uncle Marley, let’s have a Christmas tree this year.”
    Old Marley looked down at the boy and a smile crossed his face. “So we will, Sonny, so we will.” If a tree was what Sonny needed to make Christmas right for his first Christmas in the mining town, they would have a tree. He didn’t care that most of the other men said it was foolish to try and have a Christmas for the boy.

    The sun did come out the next day, and together Old Marley and Sonny set off in search of the perfect Christmas tree. It was harder than either of them had figured for there weren’t many pine or spruce trees in the area.
    “They’re either too big or such little things we’d have to have four of them to make a real tree,” Sonny remarked, stopping before yet another pine of the wrong size.
    “Well, we ain’t goin’ to give up yet,” Old Marley replied between coughs. “It jest may take us a might longer to locate the right one.”
    “But we’ll find it,” Sonny agreed, slipping his hand into the rough, work hardened one of his companion.
    “Yep, we’ll find it, but I reckon we ought to build ourselves a fire and eat a bite or two before we circle ‘round that ridge an’ head back to the shack.”
    To this Sonny was agreeable and helped gather some branches and small sticks, saying as he did so, “Perhaps the tree is over there.”
    But it wasn’t. The two searchers reached their cold, dark shack just as the sun was going down and the wind turning cold again. A fire was soon going in the stove and supper was made. Old Marley mixed up some biscuits while Sonny fried bacon. Neither one spoke much that evening. Both were tired and Old Marley’s cough seemed worse.
    Before bed, Sonny took his Bible out of Old Marley’s chest, as he had every night since he had come to live there, and read a little of it aloud. Then, kneeling down beside his rough bed, he prayed and ended with, “And please, Dear Lord, bless Mama, Papa, and dear Uncle Marley. And let us find the right Christmas tree. Amen.”
    Old Marley remained where he was beside the warm stove until he heard the boy’s steady, even breathing. Then he too retired, coughing.

    When morning dawned, it found Old Marley still in bed. The shack was cold for the fire had gone out in the stove some hours before. This state of things startled Sonny who sat up in bed and looked quickly at the old man. “Uncle Marley. Uncle Marley!”
    There was no answer save a hoarse cough and a moan.
    Sonny shivered and hugged himself, but whether from cold or fright, it was hard to tell. Quickly he pulled on his clothes and slipped his feet into his boots. They were cold. Stumbling over to the stove, the young boy opened it and stirred the ashes. Not a single glow remained. His hands shook as he placed kindling in the stove and struck a light. Right then he was thankful Uncle Marley had taught him how to make a fire. “He probably just didn’t want to get up when it was so cold,” he thought, glancing over at the form in the bed. “I’ll warm it up and then wake him.”
    Carefully he added a few larger sticks and soon a good fire was burning. After adding some larger pieces of wood, Sonny held his hands to the blaze and shivered with delight as the delicious warmth crept up his arms and raced down his spine. After a few minutes, he stood up. “Uncle Marley,” he called softly. “Uncle Marley, wake up. I have the stove going and it’s getting warmer. And Uncle Marley, the sun is shining again! Maybe we can find our Christmas tree today.”
    The old man didn’t stir.
    Growing alarmed, Sonny crept up to the bed and placed a hand on the man’s face. The heat of it startled the boy and he stepped back. After a quick glance at the stove to see that all was in order, the boy snatched up his coat and slipped outside.
    Hesitating for only a moment, Sonny ran up the still muddy street past two shacks, before stopping before a third one. Breathless, he rapped on the door.
    Seconds later it was opened and a rough looking young man in his shirt sleeves stared in astonishment at the boy before him. “Why, Sonny, what’s goin’ on? What’s wrong? Come in out of the cold, boy!” Almost pulling the lad inside, the man shut the door behind him with a thud, and picking up a warm flannel shirt, put it on. “Now what’s wrong?” His fingers were rapidly moving down his front, fastening the buttons.
    “Oh, Mr. Soper!” Sonny had caught his breath with a gulp and his words tumbled over themselves in his hurry. “He’s burning up and I got the fire going, ‘cause it was so cold, but he didn’t wake up and he coughs and . . .” The boy gripped the unfastened ends of his coat until his knuckles turned white.
    Stuffing his feet into his boots, Mr. Soper didn’t need to be told who “he” was. He knew it was Old Marley. Quickly he snatched up his own coat and said, “Let’s go, Sonny.”
    Down the street the two hurried, Sonny taking three steps to the one stride of Mr. Soper. In the shack they found all just as Sonny had left it, only the room had warmed from the fire in the stove.

Have you ever woken to a cold room because the heat wasn't on?
Have you made Christmas cookies yet?
Come back on Monday for . . .

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Because of a Christmas Tree - Part 1

Here is the first part of this story. Check back soon for part 2

Because of a Christmas Tree
Part 1

    There was a chill in the air, not a bitter cold one which would freeze a person quite through if they ventured outdoors, but a biting nip that speaks of colder weather coming, the kind which causes coats to be pulled closer, shoulders to shiver and breaths to create little clouds in the air. It was also raining. Not a steady, gentle rain, but a miserable, dreary, unending drizzle which was almost sleet, but not quite. It would almost have been a relief if it had been sleet or snow.
    The steps of the lone figure, hunched in an old coat, trudging down the muddy street, if it could be called by such a lofty name, were slow and weary. Each step seemed harder to take than the last one, and it well might be, for each time a booted foot sank down into the miry, sticky mud, it acquired a new layer of the miserable muck, thus making the boot a little heavier and the wearer work a little harder to take yet another one.
    “Fiddlesticks!” the man muttered half-aloud. “That boy’s goin’ to have a Christmas if’n I have to hike clear ‘cross the mountains to get it. Humph! They ain’t got the boy livin’ with ‘em, else . . .”
    He gave another snort which turned into a cough, yet he didn’t pause but struggled on through the thick mud until at last he reached a small shack set back in the woods and somewhat apart from the others in the small, ramshackle mining camp. Most who lived there had some pride and called their living place a “town.” However the actual look of the settlement was so far removed from what most folks would think of as a town, that I hesitate to call it one. The shacks where the miners lived were simple, one room affairs, drafty and bare. Only a dozen or so such shelters could be found in the area and not one of them had a Christmas tree, though that special day was rapidly approaching; nor was there any sign of Christmas festivities. No where could be seen the touch which bespoke of a woman’s hand, for there were no women. Not one of the men in that mining camp would have considered bringing his wife, daughter, sister or sweetheart to share such a rough and dangerous life.
    When Old Marley, as the other miners called him, opened the door and stepped into his shack, a small boy of about nine years of age, with light brown locks of curling hair and golden brown eyes which sparkled with delight, hurried over to greet him.
    “Oh, Uncle Marley, you’re back! I’ve been waiting for you. Just think, Mr. Soper has just brought us part of a deer he shot yesterday. I put it in a pot and tonight we can have stew! I think it’ll be ready in a little while.” As the boy talked, he had pulled the older man over near the hot stove and was trying to take off his coat. “Sit down, Uncle Marley, and take your boots off. They are covered in mud again. Maybe the sun will come out tomorrow and the mud will dry. Do you think it might?”
    Sinking down onto the three-legged stool, Old Marley coughed before he struggled to remove his boots. “Well, now, I ain’t fer sure, but it don’t look like the sun’s goin’ to remember we’re here ‘till new year, Sonny.”
    At that the boy laughed a merry laugh while he assisted in removing the mud covered boots. “Of course the sun remembers us, Uncle Marley,” he smiled. “The sun is always shining, my papa used to tell me.” His young face grew sober but he went on steadily. “It’s just that the clouds get in the way of our seeing it. And there have been a lot of clouds.” This last was almost to himself, but the older man heard.
    There were several long minutes of silence in the little shack as the old man and the young boy sat together before the fire in the stove. The wind picked up outside and shook the stove pipe, thereby sending small bits of soot into the small house. A branch knocked against the one window with a gentle tapping, and a soft pattering of rain was heard on the roof.
    At last the old man roused himself and got to his feet stiffly. Lifting the lid of the pot on the stove, he sniffed the simmering stew and nodded. “Sure’ll taste good tonight,” was all the remark he made as he set the lid back on, shuffled over to a small cabinet and brought out two tin bowls and mugs.
    Instantly the boy was also on his feet and hurried over to help set the small, rough hewn slab of wood they called their table.
    “One of these days we’ll make us a real table, Sonny,” Old Marley often said, but there never seemed to be time, for gold hunting and game hunting took up most of the daylight hours, and there were stories to be told in the evening or visiting with the other men.
    After bringing over the two stools, the boy asked, “Uncle Marley, do you think we’ll have snow tomorrow?”
    Old Marley turned around. “I thought you said it was goin’ to be sunny, boy?”
    The boy laughed again. “So it will, but perhaps snow clouds will get in the way and send us something besides rain. Wouldn’t the woods and hills look pretty with a blanket of snow, Uncle Marley? I think they would. And then your boots wouldn’t be so heavy because the mud would all be frozen. I’ll clean them for you just as soon as we finish eating.”
    Old Marley carried the two bowls full of the steaming stew over and set them on the table. Then he poured himself a cup of strong tea. Most of the other men in the nearby shacks preferred coffee to tea, but Old Marley was different. No one knew how old he really was, for, though his hair was heavily sprinkled with grey,in the warmer months he was almost as spry as the young men. It was only during the cold of winter that he seemed older, though he tried not to show it, especially now that the boy was living with him.
    The boy’s full name was Michael Edwin McCormick, it said so in the small Bible which had been discovered in the saddle bag and I’m sure it was right, but everyone called him Sonny. The name just seemed to fit the small boy, for he was almost always smiling and laughing. He took delight in all the little things he or the men found in the woods, and when one of the men found a bit of gold, Sonny was as excited as though he himself had discovered it.
    Since it was Old Marley who had first discovered the boy, he seemed to feel it was up to him to take care of Sonny. At least until some kin folk came to claim him. That had been several months ago and Old Marley often wondered how hard it would be to give him up.

Would you like living in a mining camp?