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 Dec 14 - 'Twas the night before christmas

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Calico

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PostSubject: Dec 14 - 'Twas the night before christmas   Mon Dec 01, 2014 2:39 am

Well, IT approaches, catlike as always.

That is, stealthily at first, then with the sudden burst of speed natural to the predator.

But always - one day at a time.

I am talking, of course, about the day some of us, if lucky, get a goose...


And so, this month's twinkling challenge, should you choose to accept it is:



"Twas the night before christmas..."


wreath wreath  wreath  wreath  wreath
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PostSubject: Re: Dec 14 - 'Twas the night before christmas   Mon Dec 01, 2014 5:19 pm

Just a bit of Christmas fun.  Hope it gives you a chuckle.

T'was the Night Before Christmas when all 'cross the West

Two Outlaws were running, no time to seek rest.

Their horses were lathered, all covered with foam

Hooves steadfastly pounding the path that led home.

The posse that followed was hot in pursuit

To claim the rewards, plus recover the loot

The infamous outlaws had stolen from town.

The banker was furious; Said, "Track those boys down!"

So on Christmas Eve, through both snowflakes and gloaming

They chased wanted men through the hills of Wyoming.

Away to the Hole, outlaws few like a flash

Their saddlebags bursting with ill-gotten cash.

The moon, never breaking through clouds filled with snow

Did not light their way, and the wind, it did blow

Whipping up a fair blizzard of epic proportion

But Heyes (Champeen Tracker) employed every caution.

The boys persevered, despite six-gun fire

Which whizzed past their ears.  The situation seemed dire.

More rapid than eagles the posse, they hounded,

But near to the pass, Outlaw voices resounded,

"Hey Lobo!  Hey Kyle! Hey, there, Wheat, if you're listenin'

Let us into the Hole, 'fore this posse quits missin'!"

But, the saddlebag stash had been hit, and a tear

Had developed, and now dollars flew through the air

Reminding the boys of the oath they had given

to Lom, that peaceable lives they'd be livin'.

So, with covering shots from the Devil's Hole Gang

Partners gathered loose cash.  To their steeds they then sprang.

Returning to town, they surrendered their plunder

At the town's village green, 'neath the Christmas Tree--Under.

Just as the boys finished and turned to retreat

A whole bunch of orph'lings appeared at their feet

"Do you see?  It is Santa!" the children, they said,

Though the boys were much slimmer, and not dressed in red.

At this point, the banker rushed out to the throng

Cursing and swearing. "These crooks should be hung!"

T'was right at this moment arrived the town's sheriff.

Cutting right to the point, the guy looked like a cherub.

A plump little fellow, red shirt, rosy cheeks,

And the beard on his chin looked like snow-capped white peeks.

He turned to the banker and firmly he warned him

To check his facts fully 'fore falsely accusin'

Two poor weary travelers, just passing through,

Who'd brought a donation for the orphanage too.

"Donation?  It's robbery!" said the banker.  "Their fault!"

Sheriff gave him a wink and he said, "Check your vault."

T'was then Heyes and Curry exchanged looks of worry

'Cause the banker, a spring in his step, he did hurry

To check in his vault, prove the transients were thieves.

Though the Sheriff, he winked and he said, "This way, please."

They arrived at the vault and, lo and behold

The cash, it was back in its place, hard and cold.

Though the boys never could quite explain this event

The story was told every year, subsequent

How St. Nick's Christmas Magic had sav-ed their hide.

Now to all, a Good Christmas, and to all a good night!

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PostSubject: Re: Dec 14 - 'Twas the night before christmas   Thu Dec 25, 2014 12:14 am

writing This was written back in 2010, so it's an OLD story, not for consideration of the monthly prize, just posting it again in the spirit of the season, becos it'll give ya somethin' to read and it's my presents to you.

                                                       MC


                                      “TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
                                                   ~~ ASJ STYLE ~~
                                                               AKA
                                           “A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS"

                                                           ssleigh
                                             

NOTE: You will notice that while I did take a teensy bit of  'poetic license' with this here holiday favorite, I made sure I left “Santy Claus' description” intact. (I ain't takin' no chances of gettin' on St. Nick's “naughty list” by messin' around with that stuff  ~  nosirree!!)  

Directions: Put your favorite holiday music on low to play in the background, grab a mug of hot cocoa or a nice, warm toddy and curl up next to the fire to relax, read and enjoy!

*In the poem, a “courser” is a swift horse, a charger.

*****

It was just another ordinary, typical day to be riding on the outlaw trail. Well...almost. It would have been ordinary and typical, except for two significant factors.

The first one was that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were once again riding alongside their old buddies, The Devil's Hole Gang. The pair had unexpectedly run into Wheat and Kyle earlier that very morning in the saloon of a small town in which they had stopped to restock their supplies. Over the course of a few drinks, and several hands of poker, the two men had been persuaded to accompany the gang to spend some time up in Devil's Hole.  

It would soon be getting on into deep winter and since the weather had already begun to turn colder, Heyes and Curry reasoned it would settle the problem of where to stay and how to keep out of trouble without any money. The outlaw stronghold high up in the hills would serve as a safe place to abide for some rest and relaxation until the spring thaw.

The second factor was that halfway to their destination it had strangely, and inexplicably, begun to snow without any warning. Too far away from town to turn back, yet not close enough to the Hole to make it by nightfall, they were forced to press onward. This was indeed a rarity for the two men, for they hardly ever encountered snow; in fact, for most of their outlaw career they had managed to avoid the situation entirely. They would never have started out on their journey if snow had been even a remote possibility.

While the white flurries may have been considered a winter wonderland, and beautiful to some people, for the band of outlaws it was just one more obstacle to overcome; another hardship to endure and survive.  It didn't help matters that a biting cold, blustery wind caused the flakes of ice to swirl around them in wild circles that, in turn, decreased visibility and made travel even more difficult. Somewhat to their dismay, the outlaws were quick to realize that this wasn't just an annoying, inconvenient snowstorm, it was fast becoming a full-blown blizzard!

Everyone was cold - chilled to the bone, wet - soaked clean through to their Henleys and uncomfortable, not to mention the fact that the inclement weather did absolutely nothing to improve their already disgruntled dispositions. In short, everyone was thoroughly disgusted, miserable and didn't make an attempt to hide it.  

The heavy flakes were still falling steadily when the decision was made to stop and make camp while there was still enough light left they could see to do so. The bedraggled men managed to find shelter under a small group of trees which provided a scant measure of relief from the relentless frozen crystals of ice that pelted them from every direction. A few large boulders on one side provided further protection and helped to cut down the windy assault.

The dispirited men's conversation was sparse. Also conspicuous by its very absence was the good-natured banter and ribbing that usually accompanied the setting up of camp. Instead, the atmosphere among the out-of-sorts outlaws was somber, as cold, if not colder, than the storm that surrounded them.

A fire was built and supper prepared. Eating and clean-up took even less time. Then, without further ado or discussion, the outlaws crawled inside their bedrolls. Grousing, muttering and grumbling filled the air as they burrowed as far beneath their blankets as possible in an attempt to find some measure of warmth.

Next to the campfire, a solitary figure shivered against the cold, then picked up the coffeepot that rested on the glowing embers and shook it. The corners of his mouth lifted in a quick grin when he heard the sloshing sound inside. He poured the last of the brew into his cup then, as he spied the flask of whiskey, helped himself to a liberal amount and raised the tin cup to his mouth.

“Ahhh,” Curry inhaled deeply, “jus' the smell makes me feel warmer.” He downed the hot liquid as quick as the temperature would allow. With a slight grimace, he set the empty cup down.  “Heyes made the coffee tonight; maybe we'll be lucky an' I'll wake up first tomorrow...” he muttered under his breath.

“Jus’ my luck I drew the short matchstick.” The chore of tending the fire throughout the long night had fallen upon him. Kid looked around and acknowledged the fact that he would be the last one to find his way into bed, however cold, uninviting it was. He eyed the pile of wood beside the fire and mentally crossed his frozen fingers while he stoked the embers, adding enough logs in the hope that it would be a long time before he'd be forced to get up again.  

He took a quick glance downward and made the decision to leave his gloves on. “Maybe they'll help keep my hands warm; they sure couldn't get any colder, that’s for sure!”  He heaved a sigh.  “It don't matter whether I'm pickin' a matchstick or flippin' a coin, my luck jus' don't seem to hold out.”

A deeper sigh escaped him. Here it was, Christmas Eve had arrived, an' nobody seemed to care. “Heck, do any of 'em know what day it is? Or even what month we’re in, for that matter?” Curry looked around the camp. Who would be the first to throw something at him if he called out a cheery, “Merry Christmas” before he climbed inside his bedroll, he wondered?

“Probably not worth all the trouble it'd cause,” the sandy-haired outlaw shrugged.  “Yep, words like that don't mean much to a bunch of frozen, misfit outlaws like us.”  They were wanted men on the run from the law, each with a price on their head; celebrating holidays wasn't exactly at the top of anyone’s 'to do list.' Even his partner had been silent for most of the night.  His expression thoughtful, the Kid glanced sideways at the blanketed form to his left and frowned. “Heyes didn't even bother to say goodnight.”  

Then again, maybe his partner did know what day it was. He blew out a breath.

Having resigned himself to the fact that not one single trace of holiday spirit would be found in either the camp or in the hearts of the men, a downhearted Curry shook off the snow that had dusted his clothes, crawled into his bedroll and wrapped his arms around himself.  

Despite his frozen state, it wasn't long before the weary outlaw had drifted off, lulled to sleep by the campfire serenade comprised of flames which crackled and sizzled and wood that smoked, popped and hissed. A cacophony of half a dozen wheezes, snorts and snores of varying decibels were contributions from his frost-covered comrades.

Although none of the outlaws could see it, nor would they have cared if they could, the light from the full moon that hung in the sky directly overhead illuminated the terrain below. It transformed it into a landscape that glistened and glimmered in the pale lunar light. The silvery flakes of crystal gradually began to slack off until they stopped falling altogether. The wind ceased its howling, as if someone had snuffed out a candle.

There was a subtle change in the atmosphere that surrounded the camp; as it shifted, the night became silent and calm...

*****

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the camp,
Not an outlaw was stirring on the ground, cold and damp.
Wet boots circled the campfire, with hopes they would dry,
Wrapped tight inside bedrolls, none dreamed Santa'd drop by.

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were snuggled deep down in their beds,
While visions of safes and floorplans danced in the Gang Leader's head.
Kyle wheezed and sputtered, Wheat rumbled loud and deep,
For The Devil's Hole Gang had jus' settled down for some much-needed sleep.

When from down near the river there arose such a ruckus,
Gun in hand, the Kid sprang from his bed to see what all the fuss was.
Away down the hill, in stockinged feet he made a wild dash;
Never stoppin' to consider he might be quite rash.

The full moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below.
When what to his wonderin', curry-blue eyes should appear,
But an odd-lookin' sleigh, pulled by eight even stranger-lookin' deer.

With a little ol' driver, so lively and quick,
Curry rubbed his tired eyes, 'Could this be St. Nick?'
More rapid than eagles, his coursers* they came,
He whistled, an' shouted, an' called 'em by name!

“Now Dasher!  Now Dancer! Now Prancer an' Vixen!
On Comet! On Cupid! On Donner an' Blitzen!
Over the Red Rocks, an' across the waterfall,
Now dash away! Dash away!, Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild Kansas tornado fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So skimmin' o're the water, the coursers they flew,
With a sleigh full of presents - an' St. Nicholas, too.

An' then in a twinklin', Curry heard sure enough,
The prancin' an' pawin' of each little hoof.
As the Kid stared in awe, his eyes grew big an' round,
For out of the sleigh St. Nicholas leaped with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all covered with ashes and soot.
A magical Saddlebag of presents he had flung over his back,
He looked like a peddler, jus' openin' his pack.

His eyes - oh, how they twinkled!  His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses; his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
An' the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
An' the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face an' a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby an' plump, a right jolly ol' elf,
Curry laughed when he saw him, in spite of himself.
A wink of his eye an' a twist of his head,
Soon let the Kid know he had nothing to dread.

Curry peeked over his shoulder, to where the others lay sleepin',
Jus' how much of this secret was he s'posed to be keepin'?
“They'll never believe me, Santa - they'll swear I've been drinkin'.”
“Jus' tell 'em to look in their boots, Jed - 'specially that one who does all the thinkin'.”

“But, Santa - we're outlaws!” the Kid ducked his head, both contrite and sad.
“We've done plenty of things,” he mumbled, “an' some were bad.”
“You may be outlaws,” Santa allowed, “but you're all still boys at heart;
An' from what I've been seein', you've made a fresh start.”

“It's said you're two of the most successful outlaws in the history of the West,
But you're tryin' to go straight - you're doin' your best.
Outlaws can celebrate holidays; there's no law 'gainst havin' some fun,
But it's Christmas - the season for peace; be a good Kid an' put away your gun.”

Looking down at the Colt he still held, forgotten in his hand,
Curry nodded and holstered his weapon, hopin' things went as planned.
“I'll pass on your message of peace, Santa; make sure it gets 'round;
“I bet they'll all want to be good, once your presents they've found.”

Santa nodded, then winked, an' went straight to his work,
He filled all their boots and turned with a jerk.
Then, layin' a finger aside of his nose,
An' giving a nod, 'cross the riverbank he strolled.

He sprang into his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
An' away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But the Kid heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove outta sight,
“Merry Christmas to y'all, an' to y'all a good-night!”

*****

Curry's eyes followed them until they were nothing more than tiny specks in the midnight sky.  A bemused expression on his face, he turned to make his way back, taking his time to walk up the frozen hillside.  

“So...how come nobody else but me woke up?” he wondered aloud as he walked into the silent camp. When his eyes lit on the coffeepot he stopped dead in his tracks and raised a gloved hand.  “I am never, EVER gonna drink Heyes' coffee again so late at night!” he swore out the solemn promise to whomsoever might be listening to a poor, humble outlaw in the wee hours of the morn.  “That stuff can do funny things to a fella,” he grumbled with a shake of his head.

Before he could crawl back under his blanket, curiosity got the better of him.  Curry tip-toed over to the boots drying around the fire.  He stared at them with indecision for a few moments.  Back and forth his eyes went, torn between the choices.  One of his own boots...or one of Heyes'?  

His choice made, he reached down to pick it up, turned it over and stared at what dropped out and landed with a soft plop in the palm of his hand.  He set the boot down to unwrap the blue bandana, then went slack-jawed at the object that stared back at him.  

“Well, I'll be...” he whispered, “if this don't convince 'em, nothin' will!”  The Kid turned to look up into the clear, star-filled sky, a huge, ear-to-ear grin across his face.  “Thanks... an' Merry Christmas, Santa!” he whispered.

Heyes had wanted one exactly like the one he held in his hand when he was twelve.  The dark-haired boy had spied it in the mercantile window one day in town.  Jed had been forced to drag his cousin away so the boys wouldn't be in trouble for getting back late at Valparaiso.  Heyes would stop every chance he got to stare at it in the window.

“Just you wait 'n see, Jed,” he solemnly swore, “some day I'm going to have one like this for my very own!”  

And Jed had believed his cousin.  Hannibal Heyes was a boy of his word.  He did what he said and there were few things he coveted enough to make that kind of promise about.  

So, while Heyes planned and saved every cent he made, the two boys soon discovered a flaw.  The fly in the ointment, so to say, with his plan was that there weren't very many ways or opportunities for a kid Han's age to earn money.   Although Jed did his bit and helped whenever he could, the two boys found it very slow-going.

Then one day, without any warning, it disappeared from the window display.  Heyes had raced inside, only to return a few moments later at a far slower pace than he'd entered, his boyish features downcast.  

“Someone bought it just before school let out today!” he announced, his face full of dejection.

But, with the resilience of youth, Heyes had gotten over his disappointment.  And although he'd never mentioned it again, Curry knew his partner had continued to look for the object in every town they visited. Thus far, his search had proved fruitless.

After he carefully re-wrapped the present inside the dark blue bandana, the Kid tucked the object back into the toe of his cousin's boot and set it down, next to the fire.  He added more wood to the pit, then made his way to his bedroll without disturbing any of the sleeping men.  Before he ducked down beneath his blanket, Curry took one last look around, his twinkling blue eyes coming to rest on his friend.  

“Merry Christmas, Heyes,” he dared to whisper, then held his breath as his partner turned over.  The Kid bit back a smile when he heard Heyes mumble something that sounded like ' inside straights' and waited until the sound of even breathing told him Heyes had fallen back asleep.  He could hardly stand the wait until morning when his cousin woke up and discovered the brand new pocketknife nestled inside his boot!

“An' when the rest of the boys wake up...”

Curry grinned in eager anticipation and left the thought unfinished.  How long had it been since any of them had celebrated, really celebrated Christmas?  As strange as the concept seemed, over the years this motley assortment of men had become his family and the idea that none of them were alone tonight made him feel good inside.

Curry glanced up at the moon, then closed his eyes as he pulled the blanket over his head.  “You know, it's kinda funny, but it doesn't feel quite as cold as it did before; yep, tomorrow's definitely gonna be a better day...” A deep yawn escaped him.  “I wonder what Santa put inside MY boots?”

As Jedediah “Kid” Curry once more drifted off to sleep, amidst the visions of lemon drops and black licorice sticks that danced a merry jig in his head, the image of a bright, shiny brand new Colt .45 caused the corners of his mouth to turn up in a grin much like that of the Cheshire Cat.

So...what's in YOUR stockin' ????   merryC

*****

While doing my research, I ran across some interesting facts about the original poem that I'd like to share with you.

The author**, Clement Clarke Moore, was born in 1779 to a well-known New York family.  His father, Reverend Benjamin Moore, was president of (what is now) Columbia University & was the first Episcopal Bishop of  New York.  The Reverend participated in George Washington's first inauguration and gave last rites to Alexander Hamilton after Hamilton was mortally wounded in an 1804 duel with Aaron Burr.  

Moore himself was an author and noted Hebrew scholar.  He could speak five languages and was a real estate owner and developer in Manhattan.  Despite his other accomplishments, he is remembered solely for this poem.  

Legend says he wrote it on Christmas Eve in 1822, at the age of 43, during a sleigh ride home from Greenwich Village after buying a turkey for the family Christmas dinner.  Some say the inspiration for the pot-bellied St. Nicholas was the chubby, bewhiskered Dutchman who drove Moore that night.

Moore read the poem to his wife and six children the night he wrote it, put it away in a drawer, and supposedly gave it no more thought.  A family friend, Miss H. Butler, heard about it and submitted a copy of the poem to the New York Sentinel.  Under the condition that the author was to remain anonymous, the poem was published the following Christmas on December 23, 1823.  Moore's poem immediately caught the attention and imagination of first the state, then the nation, and finally the world.  

Moore never copyrighted his poem and only claimed it as his own, over a decade after it was first made public.  In 1844, at the age of 65, he included it in a book of his poetry.  He died in 1863, at the age of 84, and is buried in Trinity Cemetery in Washington Heights, New York.

Because of his “mere trifle” as he called it, 187 years ago Clement Clarke Moore almost single-handedly defined our now timeless image of Santa Clause.  Before the creation of the story, St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, had never been associated with either a sleigh or reindeer!  Since then, the poem has been reprinted, translated into innumerable languages and circulated throughout the world.

**Although Clement C. Moore is attributed with the penning of the holiday poem, there are some who believe that it was actually written by Major Henry Livingston, Jr.

*****

“Happy Holidays” to you and your family.  However you choose to celebrate them, be safe and treasure the times together, wherever you are and whomever you're with.  

May 2015 be a wonderful year for all of us!!!
God bless us, everyone!

~~ moonshadow ~~

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writing "My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel -- it is, before all, to make you see..." ~~ Joseph Conrad ~~ study
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PostSubject: Re: Dec 14 - 'Twas the night before christmas   Wed Dec 31, 2014 6:45 pm

"Twas the night before Christmas..."


“Heyes,” Curry shouted to his friend in front of him, the air vapor showing how cold it was.

Hannibal Heyes slowed his tired mount so his partner could ride beside him. He pulled up his collar and pushed his hat down further as he shivered.

“The horses aren’t gonna last much longer and it’s gettin’ dark.”

“I know.”

“We ain’t gonna last much longer, either.” Kid Curry made sure his collar was up as high as it would go.

“I know that, too.”

“They sure are a persistent bunch.”

“They sure are.”

“As much as I’m enjoyin’ you finally agreein’ with me all the time, I’d rather hear if you have a plan to get rid of ‘em.”

“I’m guessing it has to be a day or two until Christmas. If we can dodge them for a few more hours, they’re likely to head back home.” Heyes glanced around at their surroundings. “Isn’t Pine Valley near here?”

“Probably over that ridge.”

“Let’s head that way.” Heyes kicked his gelding back into a lope.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Two riders cautiously walked their horses through town as the stars were appearing in the sky. The stores were closed and the saloon appeared quiet. At the end of Main Street, the church windows were brightly shining and carols were heard being sung.

“Heyes, it must be Christmas Eve.”

“That’s what I’m thinking.”

“Now what?”

Heyes grinned. “Kid, when was the last time you went to church?”

“Church? With a posse right behind us?”

“Sure! What posse would think that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry would stop to go to church?”

The Kid rubbed his cold fingers together for warmth. “I dunno. What if they checked? We’ll be stickin’ out dressed like this.”

“Then we’ll change.”

“Huh?”

“Come on,” Heyes encouraged his partner.

They rode past the church and into the nearby pine forest.

Heyes dismounted and tied the reins to a tree. He loosened his bedroll. “Hurry up! We have to be in there before they arrive.”

Curry followed Heyes’ lead. “What are we doin’?”

“Changing into some proper clothes! You have a clean white shirt and a different jacket, don’t you?”

“Yeah, but it’s cold out here!”

“It’ll be warmer in the jail…”

“Okay, you have a point.”

Both men removed their jackets, hats, gloves, and shirts.

“Use your shirt to get the grime off your face.” Heyes used his own shirt to wipe his face, neck and hands.

Curry unbuttoned his pants. “If I’m goin’ to church, I may as well put clean pants on, too. These have too much mud on them.”

“You’re right – mine need changing, too.” Heyes removed his boots and then pants. “Probably should wipe the mud off the boots, too.

Soon new pants were on and they stomped their feet into the cleaner boots.

The Kid put on a white shirt. “I can hardly button up my shirt – my fingers are so cold.”

Heyes put the string tie around his neck, put the collar down over it, and tied it in a bow. Next he put on a corduroy vest.

Curry finished his tie and shrugged into his nice corduroy jacket. He shivered. “How do I look?”

“Better than you did.” Heyes put the stampede straps from his hat over the saddle horn. “This will have to be good enough. Let’s go.”

The men hurried over to the church and quietly opened the door and slipped inside. They were greeted with warmth and a few welcoming smiles from a few members as they made their way in. A pew in the middle was half empty and they sat down. An elderly man handed them an opened songbook and pointed to verse of the song they were singing. Heyes took the book and nodded his thanks. A moment later a new baritone and tenor voice were heard singing with the congregation.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

A tired posse of five men slowly rode through the town of Pine Valley.

“Where in the heck did they go?” the leader asked to no one in particular.

“It’s Christmas Eve… I need to be home!” one mumbled.

“If we don’t find them here, I’m turnin’ back!” another grumbled.

“You two check out the hotel, you check out the livery and see if the two horses are in there and the rest of us will check out the town. We’ll meet back in the saloon.”

The men separated and thoroughly searched the town for the two wanted outlaws. The night clerk assured them no one new checked into hotel all day. The livery owner was padlocking the stable for the night, but let them see that the two horses described were not in there. All the stores were dark and locked. A deputy was half asleep in the jail with no one in the cells. The posse gathered around the bar, only a few other men were playing a game of poker.

“Is there anything else open?” the leader asked the bartender.

“It’s the night before Christmas… Nothin’ is open but the church.” The rotund man with a handlebar mustache poured five more whiskeys.

“Have you seen two men?”

“Seen plenty of men,” the bartender gruffed.

The leader sighed, exasperated. “Have you seen two strangers? One has dark hair and the other’s fair?”

The man pondered a moment and shook his head. “Nope.”

“I’m done and headin’ home,” one of the posse men declared. “My Beth is gonna have my hide that I’m not home yet.”

“Me too,” agreed another.

The leader scratched his head. “We were so close. It’s like they vanished into thin air.”

“Maybe they met up with Santa Claus and made him take them in his sleigh by gun-point,” another satirically answered.

Three men finished their drinks and buttoned up their coats. “We’re headin’ back home,” one of them stated.

“If you leave, you’re gonna miss out on that $20,000 reward,” the leader warned.

“We ain’t gonna find them and we need to be home.”

The leader turned to the last man remaining from the posse. “Are you goin’ home, too, Joe?”

Joe threw back the last of his whiskey. “Nah, not tonight. Don’t have anyone waitin’ for me so I may as well stay.”

The leader patted him on the back. “Thanks for stayin’ with me. Bartender, another round for my partner and me.”

About an hour later, the leader and his partner were on their way from the saloon to the hotel. The church was the only thing lit brightly on that dark night and music continued to resonate from it.

“Guess it wouldn’t hurt to check out the church. I doubt we’d find those two loathsome outlaws there, but…” The leader changed directions and headed for the beacon of light with Joe staggering after him.

They stomped up the stairs and loudly entered the church. The congregation turned to see who was disturbing their musical vigil. Gruff, dirty men stared back at them and then turned to leave. Two sighs were barely audible because of the singing.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

At midnight, the service came to an end with a joyful round of “Joy to the World”.

The elderly man smiled at the two strangers next to him. “I’ll put the songbook away. It’s been a pleasure listening to you two singing – got nice voices.”

“Thank you.” Heyes handed the man the hymnal. “We’ve enjoyed the service.”

“Haven’t sung some of those songs in a long time,” the Kid commented.

“Where’s my manners – I’m Mike Ramsey.” The man held out his hand. “And this pretty lady next to me is my wife Sue.

“Joshua Smith.” Heyes shook the man’s hand and nodded to the woman sitting next to him.

“Thaddeus Jones.” Kid Curry also shook the man’s hand and nodded to older woman.

“Where are you two staying this evening?” Sue asked. “Do you have a room at the hotel?”

“No, ma’am.” Heyes hesitated.

“Our funds are kinda low… We were hopin’ to see if we could stay at the saloon overnight,” Curry explained with his partner giving him a curt glance.

“The saloon… on Christmas?” Mike Ramsey looked at his wife and she nodded. “We don’t have much, but we do have a loft our children used to sleep in. It’ll be warm up there. And Sue has some chicken ‘n dumplings simmering on the stove that we were planning to have before going to bed. That and some fresh bread. We won’t hear of you sleeping in the saloon on Christmas.”

Heyes glanced at the Kid, who nodded. “That’s mighty kind of you folks. If it won’t be much of a bother.”

“No bother at all,” Sue assured them.

The four walked out of church, the Kid inconspicuously checking the town for the posse.

“Do you have horses?”

“We do. They’re just in the pine trees. We got to town and saw the service had started,” Heyes explained. “Thought we’d change into better clothes and hurry before we missed much of it. We thought they’d be okay there with our stuff until after church.”

“Well, you go get them and follow us home. There is room for them in the barn and some feed for them, too.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

An hour later, the horses were bedded down and the light supper of soup and bread had been served.

Mike Ramsey yawned. “It’s way past our bedtime! We’ll see you boys in the morning.”

“You will stay for Christmas dinner, won’t you?” Sue asked.

“We’d love to,” the Kid replied and then stifled his own yawn.

The Ramseys closed the door to their bedroom while Heyes and Curry climbed up into the loft. There were two feather mattresses and several wool blankets. They removed their clothes and crawled into the beds.

“This sure beats sleeping outside.” The Kid snuggled down into his covers. “And the soup filled me up.”

Heyes yawned. “It sure was good.”

“That was close tonight.”

“Too close,” Heyes agreed.

“Merry Christmas, Joshua.”

“Merry Christmas, Thaddeus.”




Done with the challenge and just in a nick of time... the party is starting in an hour. Happy New Year, everyone!

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PostSubject: Christmas Prayers - Enjoy - and a Happy New Year!   Wed Dec 31, 2014 10:16 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Dec 14 - 'Twas the night before christmas   Sun Feb 15, 2015 9:36 pm

thankyou Ty - I can just see The Devil's Hole Gang all whomped up together as they sit around the fire takin' turns blowin' each other away!

Seriously,  thankyou for introducing me to the Crum Horn. I had heard them mentioned in stories, but had never looked one up - now I know!!
study

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