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An Angel Tradition

Story ID:3266
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family History
Writers Conference:My Favorite Holiday Story
Location:Broken Tree Ranch Montana USA
Year:1984
Person:St. Nick & Co.
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An Angel Tradition

An Angel Tradition

An Angel Tradition

By Kathe Campbell

After homesteading 28 acres, erecting log buildings and acquiring a donkey family, this transplanted city family faced a first Christmas atop a Montana mountain. Our neighbors had welcomed us with baked goods and helpful favors, a lovely custom nearly lost and forgotten by city folk. We were truly in love with our surroundings and all who dwelled here.

My husband, Ken, who customarily preferred leaving holiday fussing up to me and the children, surprised us by announcing he had been mulling over a wondrous plan. Celebrating common bonds and perpetuating a new lifestyle would culminate in 20 or so mailbox stops inviting all to join us for a Christmas party. Holiday visions triggered fanciful pictures as we planned sleigh rides, refreshments, carols and, of course, a visit from St. Nick.

With such an invitation 'tis no wonder the entire neighborhood, our grandchildren, and a few strangers from town showed up at Broken Tree Ranch for the festivities. No problem. I (aka Mrs. Claus), am one of those disgustingly organized ladies always ready for the least and especially the most. Ken (aka Santa), however, was spending his morning down in the barn grooming and harnessing our big gray donkey, Gabriel, (aka Rudolph). Gabe was the first to learn sleighing and he loved the attention. Nor did he seem to mind the sudden appearance of deer antlers protruding betwixt his massive ears. After all, what did Mary ride to Bethlehem?

The Lord smiled down on us that last Sunday before Christmas by warming the air and showering our mountains with sunbeams. We squinted joyfully as a fresh snowfall glittered like diamonds over the pond and fields. Just past noon our two young riding students arrived as elves and our lodge began to overflow.

Guests strained to listen and children's eyes grew huge with anticipation as the rhythmic sound of our grandpa's antique sleigh bells came jing-jing-jingling from within the woods. Santa shouted, "Whoa . . . Rudolph," as they approached the front deck where a child blurted out, "Where's Rudolph's red nose, mom?" Santa had pulled off the scam of the year bearing the distinction as the best ho-ho-ho'er ever heard in these parts. To this day nary a soul knows how St. Nick attached those antlers, but they looked mighty fine.

The red clad Santa stepped from the sleigh asking the elves to mind his toy-filled pack while he tended to sleigh rides. Shouts, laughter, and carols penetrated the cold air while Rudolph trotted and jingled his way through snowy pasture and forest, time and again. While Rudolph rested, Santa took each and every child to his knee for Little Lord Jesus Christmas day reminders and presenting each with a gift.

The day had become a happening while newspaper and television folks took pictures and interviewed children. Why even our local scrooge arrived with a truck load of goodies from his store. This dedicated recluse had always seemed a crotchety old fella, but proved us wrong, and a tiny bit ashamed. He never cracked a smile, but stated he liked our sense of Christmas while passing out goodies to all. Encouraging him to enjoy scrumptious holiday fare fell on deaf ears as he hurried off playing his scrooge moniker to the hilt.

As twilight fell, Mrs. Claus lighted a dozen or so candles on the mantel. Sleigh rides had been a roaring success. The media had their stories, Santa had passed out gifts and Rudolph was in his stall enjoying a richly deserved rubdown by the elves. Some folks retreated to the loft to relish the scene as our local music teacher struck a note on the organ. A deafening hush prompted all to settle down with cookies and cocoa while 16 children bedecked in white paper collars and red bows, ascended the stairway. Behind soft lights nestled in fir boughs at their feet, the well rehearsed angels sent shivers down many a spine. "Silent Night" and "Joy To The World" in harmony. "The Little Drummer Boy" and a glorious "Carol Of The Bells" conjured up more than one mother's tear.

Although we are mainly surrounded by lodge pole pine, that year we brought in the biggest Christmas tree ever, a 14 foot fragrant Douglas fir to tower along side the fireplace. And as I drank in the scene and looked across the room, I wondered that I ever got the mammoth thing decorated. My pièce de résistance of all time, and yet so simple. Wisps of angel hair covered copious strings of tiny red lights intermingled with golden plated angel ornaments and a sweet red and white angel at the top, so befitting our young carolers.

The tradition continued for years and through generations of children on our mountain until, alas, Mr. and Mrs. Claus grew weak and weary and Rudolph had long since retired. Not long ago a young woman stopped us in the mall and threw her arms around our necks. The young caroler had grown up and married and was in town visiting her family. She thanked us for giving her the happiest and most meaningful Christmas ever. She was so welcome.