The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Christmas Prayer

By Wm. Axley Allen © 1984

Issue: December, 1984

(Editor's Note: This is a Caleb & Henry story.)

"We gonna get shot for chicken thieves is what we gonna do, Caleb," said Henry as the two old men sneaked up to the ramshackle old house in total darkness.

"They traded the last of their chickens over a month ago to Jesse Seavers for a new ax to cut firewood and a hundred pound sack of cornmeal, Henry. Jesse told me so himself. Said he tried to give 'em the ax and the cornmeal but Jim wouldn't hear of it. Jesse said he was sure it hurt Jim's feelings that he offered it, but he was just trying to help."

"That Jim Evans is sure a proud man," whispered Henry.

"Yea he sure is," agreed Caleb. "Why you'd think he was the only man in the world to ever face hard times."

The two old men quietly made their way up to the porch of the Evans home. It was well past midnight and into the early morning hours of Christmas day. Caleb was carrying a Christmas tree complete with decorations and an angel on top and Henry had a hundred pound feed sack slung over his shoulder that was filled til it was bursting at the seams with toys and gifts for the Evans family.

They eased up on the rickety old front porch and their hearts nearly stopped as the boards squeaked beneath their feet. Caleb sat the tree beside the front door and Henry proceeded to empty the contents of his bag beneath it. The two old men knew there'd be no visit from Santa at the Evans house this year, what with Jim being laid off from the plant in Mount Airy and Hilda his wife being in and outa the hospital for cancer treatments. Jim had looked for work all over but odd jobs were all that was to be found and they didn't make ends meet. The two old friends had decided to do their best to bring a little cheer to their neighbors this Christmas, even if they had to sneak up after midnight to do it. They both knew Jim wouldn't a heard of accepting their help, his pride wouldn't of let him. But maybe, just maybe, they could sneak a little Christmas cheer to a family that could sure use it.

After sitting down the tree and arranging the presents, which included one toy and two items of warm clothing for each of the three Evans children, plus a country ham that Caleb had cured and an assortment of canned goods from Henry's pantry, the two old men turned and crossed the porch on their way back home.

They crossed the farm yard and rounded the corn crib when they both stopped short. A voice coming from inside the crib froze the two old men in their tracks. It was Jim Evans' voice and it had a waver to it that Caleb and Henry had never heard in his voice before.

As the two old men stood there in the dark, they heard Jim saying, "Well Lord, I guess I've spoke to you more'n my share from this old corn crib lately, and I don't mean to be a wasting so much of your time, but I want you to know I appreciate having you to talk to lately more'n ever. Hilda and me faced a lot of hard times in our lives and Sir, you know we ain't never been ones to complain. We know that we don't always understand the reasons for things in life and it's our duty to just keep on doing our best. Now I don't mean to be a pest, Lord, and it seems that lately all I've done is ask for help for Hilda and I want to thank you for that, cause Doc Prichett said yesterday that she seems to be improving and doing real well, but I couldn't sleep tonight, so here I am in the corn crib asking for your help again. Now I know today's your birthday and somehow things have got all turned around to the point that folks seem to be more concerned with what they are giving and getting than they are with what they supposed to be celebrating today. Why it is, Lord, I don't rightly know, cause all this to-do over presents to one another when it's your birthday is a real puzzlement to me. Trouble is though, that while I know it all seems backward, and Hilda does too, the kids don't seem to understand. All this talk about Santa Claus has got their hopes up, Lord, and you know what our money's like this year. Why we lucky to be having a cornbread and fatback dinner today, let alone a bunch of store bought toys. Now don't get me wrong, Lord. I ain't asking for all them fancy trappings for the kids, but when the time comes, if they could be let down easy without too much hurt, I sure would be thankful, Sir. I've tried to tell 'em not to get their hopes up, but you know how kids are Lord, they can't help but get excited what with all their friends in school planning such a big time today. They'll be waking up 'fore long and if you could just give me the words to help make it easy on 'em when the hurt comes, I sure would appreciate it Lord. Well, I guess I better go check on Hilda now. She wasn't sleeping too easy tonight either. But before I go Lord, I want to wish you a happy birthday and thank you for all you've done for us. It ain't much of a birthday present, but you know it comes from my heart. Good night, Sir."

Caleb and Henry heard the door on the other side of the crib open and Jim walk to the house and go in the back door. The two old friends didn't say a word or move for what seemed like an eternity. Then as if on cue, they both muffled a sniff and headed on back across the field and through the patch of woods that separated their place from the Evans.

Who says prayers aren't ever answered and that there's not a Santa Claus? The world is full of Santas and this Christmas you can be one of them by finding a child that will be left out of the holiday cheer or an organization that answers children's Christmas prayers, and give whatever you can. It could be a few dollars, an old toy or a little of your time. Whatever you contribute will be a gift of love and after all, the love of a child is what this holiday season is supposed to be all about.