Archive for December, 2010

Finding Santa Clause on the Farm

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

            My folks kept telling me about Santa Claus. I was just a small kid, and I had never heard of him but he sounded like the kind of man I would like. They said he brought good kids candy, fruit, nuts, and toys. That got my attention real quick. They said he would visit Grandpa’s in just a few days, and we might go out there to see him.  I was ready to go.

            Grandpa’s farm was way out in the country, through seven other farm’s gates on dirt roads. A trip to Grandpa and Grandma’s farm was always exciting, but a chance to meet this Santa sounded great. I knew Grandma’s table would be loaded with all kinds of things little kids liked. Sure enough when we arrived I could smell fried chicken, biscuits, and gravy. I could imagine the sweet potato pie in the oven, and I knew she had her famous sugar cookies in the top shelf of her cupboard.

            “Merry Christmas,” Grandpa shouted when we arrived. “I haven’t seen Santa Clause yet. Come in and have some dinner.” I ran to Grandpa, dressed in his usual striped overalls, with a can of Prince Albert pipe tobacco peeking from a bib pocket, and he scooped me up.

            The house was all decorated nice and homey. Grandpa had cut a cedar tree and Grandma decorated it with colored paper strips and looped ropes. Right on the top she had fashioned a cardboard star and covered it with shiny tin foil. Grandpa bought a box of multi colored candles that fit into clamp-on-holders for the tree. I could hardly wait for him to light the tree. At dinner I wasn’t interested much in eating. I kept my nose to the windows watching for this man called Santa Clause.

            It got dark and he hadn’t arrived yet. The phone rang, and Grandpa answered it. “Mr. Rogers has a cow down and needs my help,” Grandpa announced. “I will be back as soon as I can.” I kept my eye on the windows, watching for our expected guest.

            Soon I heard heavy footsteps on the porch, with a loud Ho, Ho, Ho.  “That must be Santa Clause now,” my Dad said. The door swung open and in came a man with a red cap trimmed in white, wearing striped overalls.  He had a funny looking beard and smelled like pipe tobacco. He carried a burlap sack that bulged with something. “Is there a fine young man here named Hollis,” he asked.  I peeked from behind Mom’s skirt. “Well now, let’s see what I have for you,”  “Ah. He exclaimed.  Here is a sack of oranges. And another with nuts in it. And look here! Here is a sack of candy. Do you think you could use these?” Santa asked.

            Could I use them? You bet I could find a use for all that stuff.  Then he dug deeper into that sack and came out with a cap pistol with a package of caps to shoot bad guys with.  Wow. That was all I could think of to say. He wheeled around and left quickly with a hearty Ho! Ho! Ho!

            Grandpa came back soon from helping Mr. Rogers. “I am sorry to have missed seeing Santa Clause,” he said. I had a feeling who Santa Clause was…all dressed up in striped overalls and smelling of pipe tobacco.

            And until this day, I still think of Santa in striped overalls, a red can of Prince Albert tobacco in his bib pocket, and a funny looking fake beard.





Fishing Trip on the North San Gabriel

Sunday, December 5th, 2010


            John Steel stopped by a few days ago.  The sun was shinning brightly with a gentle southeast breeze, and a forecast of more to come.  He drove across the little bridge in his battered pick up truck with that old spotted dog helping him steer.  As the dust settled the dog cleared the yard of cats and John eased his bony body down from the truck.

            “What brings you out on such a pretty day John?  I asked.  You need another cup of Alice’s coffee?”

            “No I don’t have time for any coffee.  You and me are going fishing.” 

            I didn’t remember promising him I would go fishing with him any time soon, but he easily convinced me I had.

            “I have everything loaded in the truck and time is wasting.”

            I grabbed my tackle, kissed Alice a quick good bye, and jumped into the already running truck.  I thought I would get to ride in the passenger’s seat, but that spotted dog had other ideas.  When I found John had not brought any breakfast fixings I was able to get him to stop by H.E.B.s for bacon and eggs.  John scooped up five pounds of bacon, three dozen eggs, and a big can of Folgers coffee.  On the way to the checkout counter he managed to grab a ten-pound sack of potatoes.  It wasn’t hard to get my billfold out and pay the tab before John could find his money.

            I was able to trick the old spotted dog to ride in the bed of the truck so I could sit in his place in the cab.  We turned south off county road 1174 onto a dirt road.  Well it looked like a dirt road once upon a time.  The county had not graded it in years and rocks and ruts littered the road.  Sure enough John managed to hit a rock and blew out a tire.  We were able to remove the flat tire, mount the spare only to find it was flat also.

            “Don’t worry about that.  I have a hand pump here some where.”

            I didn’t say anything, but I noticed there was a different look to the sky.  A low dark streak of clouds lay way in the northwest.

            John picked out a campsite and we put up the tent.  Well, it was once a tent.  He built a fire and put the coffee pot on.  I watched the streak of clouds turn dark blue and began its approach at a fast pace.  The storm hit in all its fury with rain, wind, mixed with a touch of sleet.  As the tent tumbled down the riverbank we raced to the truck.

            The three of us, cold and wet, filled the cab.  The spotted dog decided he wanted the middle of the cab after all and commandeered it.  Some how we managed to catch a few minutes of sleep, through the night.  About daylight the storm blew its self out and the sun broke clear, but cold.

            We managed a fire, but found the coffee can had spilled and scattered the contents over the ground.  Looking for the bacon and eggs we found that old spotted dog had already found them and ate them all.  We still had ten pounds of potatoes.  I guess dogs don’t like raw spuds.

            Alice had the coffee perking and bacon frying in the pan when we dragged our cold, wet bodies into the house. 

            “I’m leaving my spotted dog out there on the porch.  I only wish we could leave the weather bureau out there too,” said John Steel.