Christmas in the Deep Woods

by Justin Crowfox Haner


        The sound of wind through the evergreens is the only break in the silence of Winter, that surrounds the small cabin. Inside, an old trapper named Jim Roberts sits in his handmade rocker, meditatively watching the snow fall outside the little corner window. Next to him lies his old Blue Tick Beau, contently laying in the radiating warmth from the old wood stove, in the center of the cabin. As the ol’ timer rocks, he thinks of days gone by, and of the loved ones he hasn’t seen in so many years. The sparkling hints of tears come to his eyes, as he remembers Christmas feasts, along with family and friends brought together around great tables.

          With that thought he stops rocking, and looks at his pup. “Beau?”, he says almost in a whisper, “You’re my only family now, and by God ya deserve a Christmas as much as anyone!” He stands and walks to his coat, hanging on the branch he nailed to the wall. “First thing, we needs a tree!”, he says as he heads for the door, with Beau close behind. He steps out into the cold December air, and emits a quick shiver. Then, he walks to the woodshed, grabs his axe and says to his companion, “Let’s find us a good’n, and we’ll put‘er up right in that winder there!”

          So they took off toward their familiar trails, into the deep woods surrounding their cabin. It doesn’t take long before the ol’ trapper breaks the silence. “There she be pup”, pointing at a six foot spruce, “there’s our tree!!” As he said this, he took his axe to the trunk, and in a few quick swings he was draggin’ that little spruce back to the cabin. “This tree may be what most would expect for perfect. It isn’t as full as most, and it isn’t as straight, but it is perfect for an old man an’ his dog I expect.”, he said as they stood outside the ol’ cabin.

          After shaking the snow from it’s branches, Jim found an old sap bucket, and stood his tree proudly in front of the window. As he stood back and looked over the tree he said, “A little bare aint she pup? I think we needs some color!” So the old man went to searching around, and came across an old torn red flannel shirt. “I’ll cut this up t’make some bows!” As he set to his chair with his work, he began to whistle old Christmas carols, that were playing on the old battery powered transistor radio on his shelf. This time of year the local station played them throughout the day and night. As he finished his bows, he tied them to the tree, and in standing back for a look-see, he says “needs a bit more!”. While rummaging through his cupboard, he finds some tinfoil. He twists the foil into icicles to hang from the branches, making sure to twist one larger one to top the tree with. When he stands back a second time, he gets a look of satisfaction on his face, and then says “no self-respectin, cabin isn’t complete without a wreath fur the door! T’wouldn’t be right ‘tall.” So he steps back into the cold, and collects some boughs of spruce, balsam and cedar, and in no time the wreath is hung for the door, with some of Jim’s red flannel bows tied to it.

          As the ol’ trapper warmed his hands near the fire, he says with a start, “Pup, we ain’t got just a thing special to eat fur supper. I guess I ought to go out and fetch us somethin’.” As he speaks, he heads across the floor to his mackinaw, boots, old fur hat and mittens. Grabbing his old shotgun he heads out the door, telling the pup to stay and keep warm by the stove.
He walks quietly in the falling snow looking for his dinner prize, that will suffice for Christmas feasting. As he strides through the brush, he is again brought back to the memories of his youth, and the people who he left with it. Then suddenly he snaps out of the daze, as straight ahead of him there it was; a large Turkey cresting the snowy hill. Silently, he took to a knee and waited, waiting for just the right moment. Then pulling the trigger the shotgun barked and the turkey fell where it stood, in a timeless succession that has lasted since the dawn of man. As the old man picked up his prize, he spoke to it quietly; thanking it for giving it’s life, so that he could have a meal that evening.
As he began to walk back to his cabin, he heard a familiar voice through the trees. “Helloooo Jim Roberts!” “Why Crazy Joe is that you?” the trapper hollered. “Now you know I hate it when you call me Crazy Joe old man! I ain’t crazy!” Joe exclaimed! “Haha old boy, you are when yer drunk!!” said Jim. As Joe caught up with Jim, he said, “Boy, that there be a nice turkey you got Jim! Whatcha fixin’ ta do with it?” “Gonna have me a real Christmas feast tonight Joe!” Why don’t ya come and join us Joe? There be plenty for all!”, said the old trapper invitingly. “Woo hoo Jim,” said Joe excitedly! “I’d be delighted old boy! I ain’t eatin’ notin’ decent in days, an’ I dare say I may starve fore too long!” “Well then it’s settled Joe. You come along with me, an’ you, me an’ the pup will make a holiday of it fur sure!”

          So the two men walked joyfully back to the cabin, talking of times gone, and times to come. In no time they were at the door of the little cabin. As they walked through the door to the warmth within, they took off their coats as Joe said, “I declare Jim, you’ve made this cabin down right homey! That there o’er nigh is the prettiest tree ever I saw!” “Well thank ya Joe! I did see it that way myself!”, said Jim. “It may not be fine by the city slickers standards, but by God it’s fine by my standards!”

          Soon thereafter, the ol’ trapper’s skill in cooking on a wood stove was being used to it’s full level, and in short duration the turkey was done to the nines! To add to the feast, the old man made stuffing with bread, and some herbs he had dried in the Summer, and in place of baked potatoes, there were powdered potatoes with butter. There were green beans and squash from Jim’s canning shelf, and fresh Dutch Oven biscuits cooked by Joe! On the table Jim laid a white sheet, in place of a table cloth, and in the center was a candle as a beacon for the souls of the forest traveling on the Christmas skies. His plates were pewter, and his cups were tin. Dented as they were, they made a fine setting for two woodsmen and pup.

          As they sat in Jim’s handmade chairs, Joe said quietly, “As it is Christmas, maybe we should make a sayin’ er somethin’?” “By God Joe yer right! I think I will say somethin’.”, exclaimed the ol’ trapper. So as the warmth of the cabin enveloped the men, and the old carols played quietly in the background, Jim began to speak. “Today is the day of memories and of family. My only family I have left is right here at this table. You Joe are like a brother to me, and the pup there be the best companion an ol’ trapper like me could ask fer. However, fer memories I have many, good’uns and bad’uns, but they keep me goin’ when I don’t think I can. Now I have never been one fer many wants, but I do have one now. I would ask, perhaps in the years I have left, that I not lose those memories, or those friends I’ve gathered over the years.” “Amen my friend! There may have been many more elaborate speeches on this day of peace, but I don’t think they had as much meanin’ as that ‘un you just stated! By God Jim, you nearly got me ta cryin’.”, said Joe, with a quite form of admiration. So the two men went to quietly eating there fill, not a word being said and none needed. The looks of contentment on their faces said it all. Even Beau, chewing on the food his master gave him, had a peace about him that came from the men, as well as from a full belly.

          After dinner the men talked awhile, and listened to the old radio. Then noticing the shadows of twilight outside the little kitchen window, Joe said he best be heading home, before the woods are too dark to see. As Joe collected his things, the men stepped out into the cold night air, and said their goodbyes. Then as the ol’ trapper watched Joe disappear into the forest, he took a deep breath of the cold air satisfyingly, and then stepped back into the cabin.

          After stoking the old stove to a roaring fire, Jim sat down in his rocking chair and lit his pipe. The sounds of a crackin’ fire, the wind through the evergreens and grainy Christmas carols coming from an old battery-powered transistor radio, were the only sounds to be heard. He looked out at the snowflakes collecting on the windowsill, while his hound lay contentedly at his feet, in his usual place. A scene of pure peace in it’s most naked form, as quietly Jim whispers to his companion, “Well old friend, we made a holiday of it didn’t we?”, and with a smile on his weathered face, he drifts off to dream with Home for Christmas playing in the air.

 

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