Well, the old mill closed down on us Tuesday night at 6 P.M. for the rest of the week, so as to give us a holiday for Christmas, which came this year on December 25th inst. And so when I came out of the shop and started home it was sunset, and all back to the west was the prettiest 1 ever did see, with the sky all red and gold and sorter mingly like and the old Blue Ridge Mountains standing out blue and cold, and I knew that we were in for some sort of weather by Christmas.
That morning when I got up I told Mrs. Goodloe that we were going to have a change in the weather by the way my old joints hurt and popped and she said she hoped it would hold off till the children all got in for Christmas, and I said 1 did, too.
You see, all our children are grown up and gone now. Mary, our oldest girl, is teaching school way down in the lower part of the state, and she wrote us that her bough, or bow, whichever it is, was coming to bring her home in his auto. Then Ruth, our next girl, is married to a Methodist preacher, and they are preaching out in Alabama, and they have two of the cutest little grandchildren I ever saw, and we were sure looking for them, for we hadn’t seen them since last Christmas on account of it being so far out to Alabama and on account of his being a Methodist preacher and not having any money.
Then the boys are in business and they all get home on Christmas Eve and we have a reunion and several other things about that time.
Well, when I got home Mrs. Goodloe- was just taking out the last cake and as soon as I got washed up she called me to see them. She surely did have a fine mess of them, too. She had Chockerlate and Carimel and Jelly and Fruit, both white and black, and Lemon cake, and two just plain cakes. You know, I never could understand, why it is that-at Christmas we all have to haul off and try to eat ourselves to death. I bet most of the deaths that die along about January first of each year are on account of eating too much at Christmas. You take old stummucks that have not had anything all the year except plain feed and suddenly you lam them full of cake and pie and cranberries and turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and candied potatoes and nuts and raisons and such like and it just simply scares the tar of of them an’ they lay down and die on your hands.
So we sat down to supper and I saw that Mrs. G. had her hair all frizzed up and I knew that something was going to happen and so she said that she hoped I had not forgot that tonight was the night for us to go to the church and deccerate and practice the Christmas Anthuns and I said no, I had not forgot, but I had, and so as soon as I had shaved and changed my shurt and she had bathed the dishes and sorter primped up herself we lit out and there was a lot of other folks going, too, some to the Methodist and some to the Baptist Church, for we both have Christmas trees on Christmas Eve night. We used to have them on separate nights, but so many folks got to repeating on us till we have to have them the same night now and it nearly runs the, Presbyterians crazy trying to decide which one to go to as they do not have any church here.
So when we got to the church they had the old stove red hot and it was kinder shimmying all over and the crowd was there at work, and old Bill Frisbee was there, and he sure was having a time, dad-gum his old hide! I never did like old Bill. He’s one of these here old flirts. About 6 months ago his poor old wife worked herself into a streak of paralysis or something and died and since,then old Bill has been trying to set-up to every girl in Greenpoint and ain’t got sence enough to see that they all are making fun of him, but thinks they are all crazy about him. And so there he was all swelled out and the girls all running up to him to ast his advice about things and so they had just about got all the wreaths and streamers made out of cedar and holly and popped corn and they were ready to fasten them up so they wanted one fixed, right over the pulpit to the ceiling and they got the step ladder and ast for someone to go up and fasten it, and before any of the young men could say a word out hopped old Bill and grabbed the wreath and the hammer and filled his mouth full of tacks and started up the ladder, and just as he started to make the first stroke the old ladder bucked on him, just like I was hoping and praying it would, and down come Bill, wreath, hammer and all, and old Bill hit on top of the organ and broke off about 25 or 30 little doo-dads off the organ and about the same number off hisself and the old wreath fell down over his head and the hammer hit old Aunt Jane Peasley in the head and knocked her cold and the ladder hit the stove pipe and knocked it down and the fire was shooting up about 6 feet high and you never saw such a mess in your life.
Well, we got old Bill down off the organ, and then he disclosed the fact that he swallowed the tacks he had in his mouth and so we carried him out to the front steps and left him out there in the cool breeze trying to cough up tacks, and so we went on back and got things straightened out again and then Miss Electa Weeks, our organder and choir leader, said we had better run over the Christmas Anthun and so the choir got together.
There was Miss Iona Ford, Miss Amazing Grace Smith and Mrs. Bill Jones on the soprano; Old Miss Tibitha Ticklewood and Mrs. Goodloe on the alto; Jack Snelling and old Bill Friesbee (who had coughed up about half, his tacks by now) on the tenner, and Bub Hanksby and me on the baste, and so we all got a piece of the music and sailed in on that Anthun. It was called Christmas Anthun No. 5. Well, all I’ve got to say about that Christmas Anthun No. 5 is that the fellow that wrote it up was, and still is, a nut. There wasn’t a thing to it but a lot of hallerlujahs and amens. The soprano started off the hallerlujian, and after they had just about hallerlujahed themselves to death, the alto took it up and when they done the same thing quite a spell, the tenners go to hallerlujering like a man with hiccups and they were all of them going it and then the baste got to amening and amened all over the upper end of the school district, and then the thing stopped and it was one of the biggest messes I ever heard. I told old Bub Hanksby his baste sounded like old lady Dillings’ old cow, and Bub got mad an’ said mine sounded worsen hell, which I do not think he ort to have said in the church, and so Miss Electa said that Christmas Anthun No. 5 would require more time and that we would practice it all next year and get it ready for next Christmas, and so we all fell back on the old stand-bys, “O Little Town,” “While Shepherds Watched,” “There’s a Song in the Air,” etc., which are the sweetest and prettiest songs that ever has been written or sung or that ever will be, either, and so we all went home then, the women folks in front all talking about the new preacher and his wife and we old fellows along behind smoking and talking.
And so-up at Smith’s corner we all disbanded and old Bill said he believed he’d go by old Doc Tatum’s and see what old Doc could do about tacks he hadn’t got up, and so we all went home just as the old mill clock struck 10 P.M., December 23, 1930.
Well, it didn’t seem like we had hardly got in bed till Mrs. Goodloe had me up again to help her get things fixed up. First I had to go down in the cellar and bring up the old cot and take it up in the hallway upstairs for some of the boys to sleep on, and of course, going down the cellar steps I had to run into a lot of jelly an mama-laid and chow-chow that Mrs. G. had set out on the cellar steps and so I fell all over the place and got jelly and stuff all over me and broke 4 or 5 jars of the stuff and skinned one perfect good shin all the way up as far as it went, and if it hadn’t been Christmas and the children all coming home I would have sailed in and cussed everything out and Mrs. G. would have got mad and said I done it on purpose, but as it was I limped back upstairs and Mrs. G. got a wrag and wiped most of the mess off, and the rest, in, and then got the iodine and fixed up the old shin so as I could make out with it for awhile, and so we both laughed fit to kill about it all, which shows what a blessed thing Christmas is anyhow.
Well, after we got the house all set, Mrs. G. had me to kill two hens and a ruster and one ham and she put the hens and ruster on in the kitchen and took the ham out behind the garage and made a fire under the wash pot and put me out there to see that the ham didn’t stick to the pot, and I hadn’t been out there but a few minutes before along comes old Pat Murphey and his wife, Kate, all dolled up and going to the county seat to their church.
You see, Pat and Kate are Catholicks — the only ones we have in this village and though they have a mighty funny religion there ain’t no better folks ever lived than old Pat and his wife, and nobody ever gets sick or in trouble here in Greenpoint that they ain’t there to help all they can. Old Pat says he has to go to church once in ever so often to confess his meaness to the priest, which is why I am glad that I am not a Catherlick as the priest would have me locked up, sure, and I would be ashamed to let him or anybody else know all my meaness — I’m almost ashamed for the dear, good Lord to know it sometimes.
Well, then along comes George Waters, our next door neighbor. Well, I got to braggin to George about the fine little grandchildren coming that morning, and I seen old George’s eyes fill up with tears and I seen right away that I had said the wrong thing. You see, George and Sue, his wife, never had but one child, little Paul. He surely was a fine little fellow, too, tho he never was right strong. They lived right next to us and the little fellow use to come over to our house nearly every day and he’d sit out on the steps with me in the evening and talk his baby talk to me and his big blue eyes would just glisten as he’d tell me of things that had happened and I’d look at his pale little face and wish that he had more blood in his vanes then he did have, and most every day I’d see him sitting there on his back porch watching for his daddy at noon, and so along about the middle of August little Paul got sick one day and by Sunday morning he was dead, and it sure did break me all up, too, for I had got used to the little fellow, but what it did to me was nothing to what it did to George and Sue. It like to have run them crazy. And so when I thought about it all I tried to change off on something else, but George just had to tell somebody and so he said that the thought of Christmas coming was about to ruin him and Sue. He said he got to tell somebody and so he said he got to thinking about last Christmas when little Paul was just 3 years old and how happy they all were and he would never forget how on Christmas morning the little fellow got up and saw that old Santa had come and left him a little red wagon and a boy doll and a book and how, as he stood there looking at it all, he just trembled all over like he was having a chill and how they dressed him in the little britches that Mrs. Goodloe had made for him out of one of my old ones, and how happy and proud they all were.
And then, George said, late that evening he took the little fellow out for a little walk and as they were coming back home and turned into the gate little Paul throwed his thin little arms around George’s neck and kissed him and said I loves my daddy, and poor old George just busted and had to leave and I stood out there and shed enough tears into that pot to pickle that old ham for life, and I said to myself, well, it certainly does take a whole lot of joy, sorrow, happiness, misery, laughter and tears all mixed up together to make out a life.
So along about 3 P.M. in comes Mary and her bough. He was a fine, humble, meek looking little fellow and acted like he was scared to death. Every time I made a move he kinder drawed up like he was expecting a swift kick or some other form of assault and batter. We went out in the front room and then Mary and her Ma went up stairs to straighten things out and me and the bough was left to entertain each other and I done my best. I remarked in his hearing about 18 times that we certainly was having a plumb pretty spell of mighty nice, open weather at this time (tho it was looking right then like it was going to start snowing any minute), and he said 17 times that we certainly did have a mighty cozy little village and outside of those few, well chosen remarks, we didn’t get anywhere, and I reckon we’d been going on that way till now if the bough hadn’t got all excited and mixed up and hauled off and said my piece about the weather which left me nothing else to say.
Well, just about dusk up drove Ruth and her folks in the old Ford and it was hitting on about 2 cyl. and the steam was just a boiling out and all of them covered with mud but mighty happy, and Ruth looked mighty nice in her new clothes and the grandchildren looked like little angels all dolled up in their sweaters and caps, but I noticed Ruth’s husband didn’t have any new clothes and his old hat looked like it had fought thru the Civil War, and I knew right straight that things had been sorter tight with them down in Alabama.
Well, it wasn’t long till we were all sitting down to supper — and home again. And say, boy, that was the best Christmas present anybody could have bought me with a million dollars — with those boys and girls of mine and those blessed little old grandchildren and Mary’s bough all sitting around that old dining table that they had been raised on and all well and hearty and happy. And how we did laugh and talk and told jokes to each other about things that happened years ago, and Mary’s bough got to where he could swallow soft food without choking up, for which I was mighty thankful.
And so after supper and after we had got things done up we all lit out to the church, and when we got there everything was about ready to begin and’ the church was full and it surely did look nice with all the wreaths and fixings and the Christmas tree all decerrated up with electric doo-dads, and so we all sang the Anthuns and the preacher made a mighty nice talk about the first Christmas Anthun that the angels sung two thousands years ago, and he said that if we would only keep our hearts right and our ears cleaned out we could still hear that Anthun of peace and goodwill ringing through the earth and just about the time he finished in comes Bubber Hill, old Aunt Hill’s half-wit son, just a bawling because some of the bad boys out in front of the church had told him old Santa Claus wasn’t coming this Christmas on account of having the jake paralysis, or something, and we had to call off the extrasizes till we got him pacified and then we give out the presents and most everybody got one or more. Old Bob Jones got the same mustache cup he got for the last 20 years. That old cup has certainly held out well. The preacher got 4 testaments, 16 handkerchiefs, 2 ties, a bottle of beet pickle, and a peck of dried peaches. I got 2 ties, a pair of socks, 1 testament and something done up in a paper, and so after all the presents was give out we all stood and sang, “It Came Upon a Midnight.”
And so we went home and when we got out of the church it was snowing a little and so we all went home and I opened the bundle I got off the tree and it was a pair of knit bedroom slippers that poor old blind Aunt Sallie Peasley had knitted for me with her own hands. Say, that sure did make me feel mighty humble and the Lord knows I did appreciate them, but there never has been a foot created that would fit them slippers or them slippers fit, either. They were knitted and sewed onto a paseboard soul and the heel part run out behind just about as far as the foot part run out in front and the main entrance was right in the center and all you had to anchor them to your leg with was a puckering string, and so while I would not have been found dead in the woods with them on, yet I surely did appreciate old Aunt Sallie making them for me.
Well, after so long a time we got the grandchildren off to bed and then the rest of the folks kinder gave out of anything else to say and they went to bed and left just me and the two little stockings hanging on the mantel piece in the room, and so I put on my old hat and went out in the yard to look around like I always do, and it was snowing to beat the band, and I stood out beside the garage and watched her come down, and I thought how well the good Lord had treated me the past year, and I was thankful for it, too. I was thankful that we were all at home together again, well and hearty and broke.
Well, I knew I was getting older and 1930 had been a hard year on me, with money scarce and my joints getting sorter stiff and hurting lots and the old mill curtailing all over herself and me, too, but still there was lots to be happy over as I thought of them 11 cakes, 2 hens, 1 ruster and 1 ham all ready to be eaten up tomorrow, to say nothing of the cranberry sauce and the dressing and gravy.
And so I went back to the house and stood on the back steps just a moment and I saw poor old George and Sue come out on their back porch and they stood together and George had his arm around Sue’s waist and they was both standing there looking through the driving snow out toward old Bide-A-While cemetary where, under a whitening mound, their Christmas lay asleep. And so I took off my old hat and I ast God to please kinder soften the thing down for George and Sue, and then I wound it up with the prayer of Tiny Little Tim: God Bless Us Everyone, and then the old mill bell struck the hour and it was 12 o’clock, December 25th, 1930, and it was snowing, and so I went to bed.
This story was originally published in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal in December 1930.