Galvanized Yankee Christmas :On Line Western Story

Santa Clause 1863 Harpers Weekly Magazine
Santa Clause 1863 Harpers Weekly Magazine | Source

Except for the weather, everything was calm on the plains. We got the telegraph wires in working order, and the weather would most likely prevent any Indian attacks for a while. We were soldiers who patrolled the Plaines along the Overland stagecoach route to protect travelers, keep the telegraph lines fixed, and fight Indians when necessary and anything else that comes up. Since the weather was getting dangerous we were going back to the home station. We followed the telegraph lines to the home station of the Overland Stage. Maybe we could celebrate the holiday of Christmas, which was becoming popular now according to Harper’s magazine that the mail brought in a few days ago. Course it had been celebrated before but only by those who liked to drink and carouse—hardly the holy day that it should be, considering what it was meant to represent.

I was glad to see Mary Hutchins there. She's a very attractive blond woman that I had met a few months ago. She had gone out to Dodge City as a mail order bride. Her man was killed there and she eventually decided to stay around here for a while. She told me they gave her a job as cook at the station and she likes it pretty well. Seeing her again made the bad weather take second place. “Jacob,” She said. “I'm glad you are here. Ever since we met I worry about you out on those lonely patrols.”

“It's a soldiers life. This weather looks like a real blizzard. I'm glad we came off the patrol. With that wind over the plains it is really dangerous, what with drifting and all. The good side is we can stay at the station here for a bit

a miltary type wagon from Civil War era.
a miltary type wagon from Civil War era. | Source
Old Ox Wagon sitting in Yard
Old Ox Wagon sitting in Yard | Source


Mary brushed back that blonde hair of hers and a worried look showed in her brown eyes.”I hope we have enough supplies to feed everyone. It seems like we will have more people seeking shelter.”

I didn't think there would be too many folks wandering around in this weather, although there may be a few teamsters with wagons of goods. Of course that's the kind of supplies she was worried about. “ Reckon we will get by,” I told her. I didn't want to worry about things that might happen. “It’s not often I get to sit with a pretty woman. Let me enjoy it.”

“Alright,” she said. “How about helping me decorate the dining room. I think green and red are the suggested colors. There will be a dance tonight. I think it's better to have a party than to sit around and grumble.”

We started the decorating and I was going to ask her if I could escort her to the dance when a private came in with a message for me. “What is it, Jacob?”

“There's a bullwhacker stranded and they need help to get him into the station. One of driver got in to the station to get help. If I get back in time, can I take you to the dance tonight?”

“I'd like to go with you,” she said. “What's a bullwhacker?

“It’s another name for teamsters, they haul freight with oxen. I guess it's cheaper than horses. It’s a good thing because I think they have a better chance of getting through than horses would.”

Mary's smile made me feel good and I felt even better that she said she would wait for me to take her. At least we shouldn't have to worry about the Indians. Not with this storm. I met with the bullwhacker by the name of David, who had come in with a couple of oxen. They had one wagon and a team. The animals were in good shape he told me but the wagon was bogged down. Snow was drifting. The animals could most likely plow through it, but the wheels sink down and the wagon bottoms out. He said there were two other bullwhackers with the wagons. They would manage to build fires and survive for a while. Then I talked to the shop people on the station about making some skids in a hurry. Luckily they had just what I wanted left over from another project. It was a frame with one side covered with tin. I asked them to bend it in the front so it would slide over the snow. I also wanted it coated with wax. David had brought in two oxen and we decided the oxen could pull the skids back.


We followed the telegraph lines. Each of us had a rope tied around our waist. We took turns. First one of us would make it to the next. It’s easy to get lost in a storm. With blowing snow and drifts covering familiar landmarks it is hard to find your way. Where I come from there isn’t much cold or snow, but out here you learn fast or die. Having an ox with us helped to break a path, so that made it a little easier. When we got to the wagons we found the bullwhackers cooking over a fire. They had managed to shelter it between the wagons and let the animals rest around it.

After that it was easy, sort of. The trick was to get the wagons lifted and put the skids under them. I’m sure glad they had a good fire going because it made it easier for us to work after getting so cold. Wit some stout poles we found in the cargo we levered the wagons up, one at a time. We got the skids under them. Luckily it wasn’t a full load that they would haul with long haul shipping. I let the bullwhackers take off the wheels because they had experience with their own equipment. Then we lowered them onto the skids. Skies might have been better but you got to work with what you have. Anyhow with no wheels to bog down the wagons. Now it was like a toboggan or sled. As much as we could we tried to clear snow ahead of the oxen so they could move a bit easier.

“”What’s that noise?” I asked. It sounded like bells.

“One of our drivers thought of that. He found some bells in the wagon and thought the jingle sound would help us keep track of each other if one wagon gets out of sight of the other. If the bell stops then we know that they got stuck.

We got back to the station without any major incidents. After we got into the gate the bullwhacker we knew as Big Swede lit up his pipe-a meerschaum, if you believe it. As he brushed the snow off his mackinaw the coat had a very reddish brown to it. He told me it was deerskin that he had processed himself and added dyes to. Except where his beard was stained by tobacco it was getting pretty white. “By golly,” I said. “Now that I look at you, you’re a lot like those Christmas images in Harpers. If I didn’t know better I’d think you were that Santa Clause fella.”

The Swede just looked at me and said. “What makes you think I’m not?”

Whether the Swede was Santa Clause or not, he was the next best thing. He hefted a big bag over his shoulder and the other bullwhackers followed with more bags. It turned out that the lead wagon was full of stuff to give to people as presents. The other wagon had food and essential supplies for residents of the station. It was even welcomer for those stranded for possibly days in a storm.

Mary was thrilled with all the supplies that the teamsters brought. It was even better that there were supplies for a party. One of the teamsters was also a part time preacher, so there was a religious service for the occasion. By the time we got back the dance had been going for a couple of hours, but Mary had waited for me. We danced and later helped hand out gifts to everyone.

All in all, it was a most unusual holiday.


Copyright 2011 Don Hoglund

© 2011 Don A. Hoglund

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Comments 27 comments

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas

That was a good little tale that turned right into a Christmas story, DA...didn't see it coming. People lived hard in those days but didn't know it luckily. Sometimes I think there was value in that...something we seem to be missing today. WB


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for the comment Wayne. It does seem that people have so much now that nothing has any value.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Good story, the Christmas meaning was not lost in this story.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks Becky. I'm glad it came through.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Very nice story of the old west, blizzards, helpful hands and the true meaning of sharing and caring with a Christmas celebration thrown in to the mix. You have this mode of story telling down pat! Up and beautiful votes. Merry Christmas!


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

You have beautiful story of Christmas and it has deep meaning. I am glad to know this from you. Keep it up and I hope your heart always "pure" like white Christmas...amen. Vote up (useful, awesome, beautiful, interesting).

Prasetio


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi Peggy,Thanks you for the comment. Best wishes for your Christmas.

Hi prasetio. Thank you for reading and commenting on the story. I hope things a well with you.


The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 4 years ago from Arlington, TX

Great story dahoglund and Merry Christmas to you my friend.

The Frog


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

Great Christmas story that sneaks up on you -- good writing Dahoglund and neat HUB. Voted Up. Best, Sis


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi Frog.Glad you liked the story and Merry Christmas to you.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi Angela. Glad you liked the story.I also appreciate the complement. Have a Merry Christmas.


htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

Great..I liked the story


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I always like it when someone likes my stories. It makes it seem worthwhile posting them.Thanks for reading and commenting.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

Great story. You have a real gift for saying so much with little space. I would be you don't mince words in real life either. Enjoyed it and your Mark Twainish style.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for the nice comments.I used to avoid the idea of short fiction, but I found that longer things don't work that well on line.


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

I enjoyed this story and liked learning details about what life was like then.


bethperry profile image

bethperry 4 years ago from Tennesee

dahoglund, this is an entertaining story! You are a very good writer.

Voted up.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

B.Leekley, glad to hear you found the story enjoyable. Although you have to take it with a grain of salt, I believe we can get a feel for past culture and society from historical fiction.Thanks for your comment.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi bethperyy. Glad you like the story and thanks for the complement.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Having a hard time finding one of your hubs in which I have not already commented...so just came back to wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to come.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Peggy, you have been a follower almost since I started writing here, so you have probably commented on all of them.I appreciate your support.I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year too.


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

I love a good old fashined Christmas story. I so enjoy your historical fiction, it takes me back into a time where people seem to be more gentle and caring.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

KoffeeKlach Gals, thanks for commenting. I enjoyed writing this storyI couldn't resist working in a Santa Clause figure.


klidstone1970 profile image

klidstone1970 2 years ago from Niagara Region, Canada

I just love historical fiction and am truly a fan of your writing. It was definitely a different time in those days. Everyone worked hard and appreciated things much more back then. A special time indeed. I enjoyed this very much. Thanks.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I appreciate your comment and the complement about my writing. This was a fun story to write.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

I love going back in time to this era of history. What a great story and love the way you brought in the Santa Clause figure. Thank you for sharing your writing talent! Audrey


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting, Audrey. I enjoyed working a Santa figure into this story. Like a joke or tall tale, it is hard not to give away the punch line too soon. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

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