Magic – A Holiday Story #4

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Little by little, Frank Pyburn has learned the child’s name is Jasper and that he has no parents. And, it seems the child is determined to keep with family tradition and bring a tree home on Christmas Eve. He needs the luck. And he’s invited Frank to Christmas dinner.

“Well, now that you mention it, I just might.” Frank finished the coffee and leaned forward. “It gets a mite lonely here from time to time. But, I’d have to ask Aunt Nellie first.”

“Oh, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind. She’s nice.”

“That’s good to hear, Jasper. I’m glad she treats you well.” Frank pushed to his feet. “Let’s get you bundled up and we’ll go get the truck.”

He gruffly buttoned the top button on the kid’s worn coat and pulled the wool cap down over his small ears. A lump caught in his throat. He grabbed his coat and opened the door.

He choked back tears that threatened to fall. He’d make sure that Jasper Doolin and Aunt Nellie got their Christmas luck. He could use a big dose of it himself, and a good deed on Christmas never hurt anyone.

They traipsed across the yard to the 1921 GMC pickup parked under a shed.

Young Jasper let out a whistle. “This is a beauty, Mr. Frank.”

“It serves the purpose. My daughter insisted I get it after Emma died.”

Jasper scrunched up his nose. “I’m sorry you lost your Miss Emma.”

“Me too,” Frank growled. “Me too. Now, let’s get you a tree. I know exactly where to find the perfect one, and I’ve got an ax behind the seat.”

Frank cranked the engine. It protested before it finally sprang to life.

The headlights reflected off the snow as Frank eased down a country lane. After a few minutes, he stopped and pulled on the brake. He left the headlights on and they cast a warm glow that allowed Jasper to choose a small tree. Then, with the sharp ax, Frank cut it down and tossed it into the bed of the truck.

They hopped inside, and Frank turned back toward the house. Halfway home, he glanced over at the boy to see him sound asleep with his head laying on the door.

His heart melted. This boy reminded him of himself when he was his age. But, it was evident that life had tossed Jasper Doolin a hard road to walk.

Visions of Emma in the lavender dress he loved so much swam before his eyes. Oh, how he missed her bustling around their small house baking pies and stringing garland. Painful loneliness gnawed at his gut. Emma would want him to help Jasper.

When they reached the ranch house, he gently woke Jasper. “We’re back at my house, Jasper. But, we need to get you on home.”

Jasper sat up, yawned big, and rubbed his eyes. “Okay, Mister Frank. I sure do appreciate you helping me.”

“It’s nothing. But, I’ve got another idea. How about you run inside and get your stuff, and I’ll drive you back to Aunt Nellie’s. Then tomorrow, we can get Magic.”

“Okay.” Jasper opened the door, dashed inside and returned with his saddlebags.

Frank drove while Jasper told him what road Aunt Nellie lived on. He was surprised at how far Jasper had ridden on Magic. No wonder he fell asleep on the horse.

Thirty minutes later, he pulled up in front of a small wood-framed house. Candlelight flickered through the windows and Frank could only guess that Aunt Nellie was worried sick about young Jasper. He didn’t miss small eyes peeking around the edge of a curtain when they walked up to the door dragging the tree.

Jasper knocked. “Aunt Nellie, it’s me, Jasper. Unlock the door.”

A bolt slid across, and a scrawny woman flung the door wide. “Jasper!” She hugged the boy. “You had me worried sick.”

Frank removed his hat. “I found him over by my place. He’d fallen off Magic and hit his head.”

“But, I’m okay now, Aunt Nellie. And look, Mister Frank helped me get us a tree. We can have good luck now and maybe you won’t have to cry so much.”

The woman eyed Frank. “Well, the both of you come on in out of the cold.” She shooed the children back and stepped aside.

Frank lifted the tree over the threshold and followed Jasper. Once inside, he faced the woman and stuck out his hand. “I’m Frank Pyburn, ma’am. I live over on the other side of the creek.”

She shook his hand. “I can’t thank you enough for helping Jasper. He didn’t tell me where he was going, and I just knew something had happened to him.”

Jasper stood beside her and three smaller children huddled close, never taking their eyes off the tree resting against the wall. “I told you, Aunt Nellie, I had to get us a tree, so we would have good luck like Pa always said.”

Her eyes misted. “Can I offer you something hot to drink, Mr. Pyburn?”

“No. I’ve gotta be getting back. But, if it’s okay with you, tomorrow I’ll pick up Jasper and take him to get Magic and see them both home safely.”

“Of course, it’s okay. But, only on one condition. If you don’t have any other plans, I’d be pleased to have you join us for Christmas dinner. It’s the least I can do to repay you for looking out after Jasper.”

Frank’s gaze swept the simple dwelling. While the furnishings were sparse, the floors sparkled, clean, and there wasn’t a speck of dust anywhere. He’d be back tomorrow. But, when he came, he’d have his arms full.

He couldn’t stop a grin that spread across his face. Just like Santa Claus.

The idea that he could bring Christmas cheer to this kind woman and children brought him great joy.

Already, he was thinking about the venison in his freezer and the canned vegetables that Emma had left behind. Maybe he could even scrounge up some gifts for the children.

He’d found a purpose for enjoying Christmas again.

With a light heart, he said his goodbyes and drove the faithful old truck back to his empty home. But, somehow, it didn’t seem nearly as lonely or empty as it had a few hours ago.

When he parked under the shed and headed inside, he could almost smell Emma’s wonderful cherry pies and hear her sweet laughter drifting across the snow-covered ground.

He looked up at the black velvet star-filled sky. “You’re one lucky man, Frank Pyburn,” he said.

A whinny from the barn confirmed Magic agreed with him and that was one smart horse. “Christmas Magic,” thought Frank. That should be the horse’s new name for that is what he’d brought…A boy and his pony on one starry Christmas Eve.

THE END

Old Pickup_Tree

 

 

Stories From the Road #14

STORIES FROM THE ROAD!A series of first-hand tales from a Texas Musician and songwriter...

This is part of a series of posts I’ve entitled, “Stories From the Road.” Each week I will post a new story from Rick Sikes, a Texas musician who traveled the roads of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and out to California for well over twenty years. With hours to pass in a bus full of sweaty musicians, they found ways to entertain themselves. These stories are told in Rick Sikes’ words. I’ll do my best to correct grammar, but I want to keep them in his own voice.

THE CHRISTMAS SHIRT

by Rick Sikes

“This is one of those “too-human” stories that took place in Houston in the late sixties. We had played Christmas Eve at Dancetown USA the night before. And, we were playing in Victoria on Christmas night. So, we drug ourselves out of bed and finally found a scroungy looking cafe to grab breakfast. The plan was to eat breakfast around 10 am, get to Victoria and set up at Schroeder Hall. Then we’d get a bit of supper before the gig.

But, back to the story. Being Christmas morning, there were just not any restaurants open except this one little dump. We go in and sit down. Right behind us comes in a hillbilly guy with two backwoods gals. He was puttin’ on the dog for the ol’ gals, and they were giggling and carrying on.

One of the guys in the band said, “Hey, y’all check out the Christmas shirt.”

It was one of those embroidered wagon wheel Yankee cowboy shirts with the folds from being in the package still there. He had on a pair of short-topped Sears & Roebuck boots, a small brimmed Roy Rogers type hat and some kind of cheap blue jeans. He looked at us and asked, “Y’all like my shirt?”

Everyone nodded and someone said, “Yeah man, that’s a cool shirt. Did you get it for Christmas?”

“Yep, shore did, podnuh.” He leaned back in his chair and hooked his thumbs in his belt.

Well, one of the ol’ gals with him was terribly cross-eyed and she started flirting with us…blinking and winking as only a cross-eyed gal can do. It just all came to a head at once. We were all looking at each other, then at them all grinnin’ and carrying on. The ol’ boy told the girls some jokes or riddles or something. The cross-eyed girl got tickled at one of ’em and laughed until tears rolled down both cheeks.

Being the damned fool I am, I looked over there; the ol’ boy doing all sorts of “monkey-shines,” and the gals laughing so hard, and I busted into one of my “rare” moments when I get so tickled that I laughed until my sides hurt and tears streamed down. Often I’d get down on the floor because I laughed so hard. Well, this was one of those times of great mirth. I made an ass out of myself rolling around on the floor laughing. It was just too damned human.

A poor ol’ hillbilly boy dressed to the aces charming two lovely backwoods ladies, plus entertaining a band and the people who worked in the place was just “too human.” He saw his good looks, charm and being well- dressed and dashing for these ladies pay off. And, we got to see a first class show that would have done Tennessee Williams and Erskine Caldwell proud, and supposedly “cool” musicians becoming a fool.”

I hope this brought a chuckle, as that was all Rick intended by telling the story.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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I hope you've enjoyed this segment of-STORIES FROM THE ROAD-from Texas SingerSongwriterRICK SIKES

 

 

Magic – A Holiday Story #3

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Frank Pyburn now knows he has rescued a young boy. But, why would such a young child be out by himself in this weather on Christmas Eve? But even more puzzling, what was that smell? 

 

“What in tarnation do you think you’re doing?” Frank gasped at the sight of the boy trying to light a crooked pipe. He jerked the contraption from the child. “You are way too young to be smoking, kid, and besides that, I don’t allow it in my house.”

Jasper’s bottom lip quivered. “I’m almost eleven, and that was my granddaddy’s pipe, Mister Frank. I just figured since I am all grown up now I needed to start learning how to smoke it like he did.”

Frank chuckled. “There’s plenty of time for that if you are damned and determined to do it, but now is not that time.” He clapped a hand on the boys shoulder, then emptied the contents of the pipe into the fireplace. “You hungry?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll get you a nice bowl of stew, and then you’re going to tell me what you’re doing out on a night like this and where your family is.”

Jasper looked away. “Ain’t got no ma or pa anymore.”

Frank swallowed hard. “Just rest. I’ll be right back.”

Before he returned, Frank refilled his coffee cup and doused it good with bourbon. He set a tray on the floor beside the boy with stew, crackers, and milk, then plopped down in his easy chair.

Silence swirled around the old man and boy like gentle snowflakes. While curiosity nagged at him, Frank could be patient.

Finally, Jasper scooped up the last bite of stew and drank the milk. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and got to his feet. “You’ve been awful nice, Mr. Frank, but I have to get going. Maybe if you could just point me toward Hamilton Road, I won’t get lost again.”

Frank motioned for Jasper to sit. “You’re not going anywhere until you tell me everything.” He set his jaw. “And, I want every detail.”

Jasper sank onto the sofa. “Well, you see, Aunt Nellie tries her best, but she just can’t do it all. Me being the oldest, it seemed that I needed to be the one to make sure we got our Christmas luck.”

“Christmas luck?” Frank sipped his coffee.

“Sure.” Jasper ran a small hand through his red hair. “Don’t you know the story about the Christmas tree and good luck for the whole year?”

“Don’t reckon I do. Tell me.”

“Well, my pa always told me that for us to have good luck for the whole year, we had to cut down a sapling on Christmas Eve and bring it in the house. But, Ma and Pa are gone. They got killed last summer in an accident. I live with Aunt Nellie and her kids. And, we need a tree. So, I headed out after I finished my chores and got lost.”

Frank squinted. “I’m sorry about your ma and pa, Jasper. How did you fall off Magic?”

Jasper shrugged. “Don’t know exactly. I was so tired, and maybe I fell asleep. The next thing I know, I was here with you.”

“How did Magic get so smart?”

Jasper grinned. “My pa taught him to be a trick horse. You ought to see all the stuff he can do. He can shake hands and dance.”

“And,” Frank interrupted him, “Damned near talk.”

“That too. He’s a good horse. And, he’s the only thing I’ve got left.” His small voice trailed away.

“Where does Aunt Nellie live?” Frank asked.

“Over in Grover Valley.”

“I’m sure she’s worried to death about you. We need to let her know you’re okay.”

Frank reached for the black phone on a table.

“Won’t do no good to use that thing, Mr. Frank. We ain’t got one.” Jasper shuffled his feet on the rug. “I have to get our tree and get home. We need a whole lot of luck.”

Frank’s heart broke for the boy. Here was a child that should be warm and safe on Christmas eve, not out traipsing through the woods looking for a tree to bring much-needed good luck.

“Tell you what. Let me finish my coffee, and I’ll pull the old truck pulled around. We’ll get you a tree. But, then I’m taking you home.”

“Thank you, Mr. Frank.” Jasper’s eyes danced. “Thank you!”

“Want any more stew?”

“No, sir. I’m okay,” Jasper looked around the room. “Don’t you have any kids, Mr. Frank?”

“Yeah, sure. But, they’re all grown and living in the big city. I’ve got grandkids older than you. My wife, Emma, died three years ago, and now it’s just me.” He remembered how hard his daughters tried to convince him to leave the ranch and move to the city after Emma’s death. But, this was home and he wasn’t budging. They’d installed the phone for him and called now and then. But, they’re much too busy to mess with an old man. Most times, he only had the voices in his head to keep him company…that and the characters in Zane Grey’s books.

“You want to spend Christmas with us?” Jasper squinted one eye.

TO BE CONTINUED…..

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HANDS – A #Christmas Story

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A heavy blanket of snow covered the city. tdy_dylan_storm_160125

The commute had been brutal and after finally arriving at my office building, two hours late, I hurried across the street to the front door.

Homeless people are not an uncommon sight in the city. We become immune to them after a while. Why don’t they just get a job like the rest of us?

But, on this frigid morning, I found my attention drawn to a thin man huddled against the wall as if he could somehow draw warmth from the bricks.

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Humph! Well, he made the choice to be out in this blizzard. But then, my attention went to his hands. He wore a coat and hat, but no gloves. As I watched, he drew his coat collar up higher and tugged his hat down, then thrust his hands into his pockets.

I wore expensive leather fur-lined gloves and still  my hands were numb. I couldn’t imagine how his frozen his fingers must burn from the cold. While I watched, he drew them back out of his pockets, blew on them, then quickly thrust them back inside as if to hold that minute bit of heat.

I rushed through the door into the warmth of the building, the man forgotten. After all, as I said, it is a common sight in the city.

At lunch, I dashed outside with two co-workers to the Deli two doors down. Once again, the thin man with no gloves drew my attention. I must be getting soft. Maybe because it’s almost Christmas and we all get sentimental around the holiday.

What was it about him? He didn’t hold a sign and didn’t appear to be begging. He simply appeared to be melting into the side of the building he leaned against. Then he raised his eyes to meet mine and I saw a depth of pain that shook me down to my toes. Once again, I turned my back and darted into the Deli to a bowl of hot soup.

Maybe I should take some to the man. That would ease my conscience. When I checked out, I ordered a bowl to go. After my co-workers headed back inside, I made my way through the drifts across the street to the thin man. Without a word, I approached and held out the sack from the Deli.

He looked away as if embarrassed.

“Here. I got this for you. Maybe it will help warm you.”

His hands trembled when he took the bag. He mumbled. “Thanks, mister.”

“Do you have somewhere you could go to get out of the cold today?”

He shook his head.

“Well, try to stay warm.” I turned and rushed back to work.

That evening, as I pulled on my fur-lined leather gloves, I once again thought of the thin man and his cold hands.

When I stepped out onto the snowy sidewalk, he remained huddled in the same spot that he’d been glued to all day. Once again, I trudged across the street.

“Hey, mister. You’re going to freeze to death out here. You need to go to the Salvation Army or somewhere.”

Tears filled the old man’s eyes when he looked up at me. “She’ll be here any minute.”

“Someone is coming to get you?”

He nodded.

“Well, then the least I can do is give you some gloves to help keep your hands warm while you wait.” I slipped off my expensive gloves and thrust them into the man’s hands.

He gave me a toothless grin and slipped them on. He flexed his fingers, nodded and huddled even closer to the building.

When I turned to walk away, I knew the old man would be dead before morning and he would die with my fur-lined gloves on. I couldn’t stop the tears that filled my eyes.

I plunged my now cold hands deep into my pockets and made my way toward the train for the long journey home. Somehow I felt redeemed by giving the old fellow my gloves.

When I passed by a department store, I ducked inside and bought a new pair for myself.

Cold hands, warm heart. Wasn’t that how the saying went?

Merry Christmas!

“It is better to give than to receive.”

Phrases

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It’s that time of year

When we feel nostalgic

The tree stands tall

And Jingle Bells we hear…..

Phrases are often what triggers the memory of a person, especially once they have passed on.

Rick Sikes’ favorite saying and one he lived by was, “Always do the best you can with what you have where you are.” It was coined by Teddy Roosevelt, but fit Rick’s life philosophy.

He said lots more and many of them passed down through his family such as, “Colder than a well digger’s ass,” and “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

My mother had several, but the one I heard hundreds of times throughout her life was this bit of advice – “Just back your ears and do it.” 

Anytime I face a difficult task today, I can hear her saying it still. When she passed, I wrote Mama’s House as a tribute to her in song. That phrase had to be included in the lyrics.

My grandpa, who died when I was a teenager, had a pat answer whenever anyone asked him how he was getting along. He would always say, “Oh, fair to middlin’.” 

It has been said that as long as one person on earth still remembers you, that you are never truly gone.

I’d love to hear some of the phrases that have stuck with you and that you remember someone by.

Merry Christmas and Happy Winter Solstice day!  cowboychristmaswp

And, just in case you are still looking for a Christmas gift, I have specials on books and CDs through my website.