Shootin' the Breeze

by "Bummer"

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December 2006

    Well here it is December already. The end of 2006. For some time now the capitalistic merchandising complex [retail stores and the media] have been trying to cram Christmas down our throats and in the process have been making life so miserable for those of us who might not be able to spend a fortune on it.

    When I was young, my brothers and sisters were grown and gone [I was the last]. One year my dad started to have me pick out some of my toys [they had to be good ones that weren’t broken] and we began taking ‘em to the Salvation Army every year before Christmas. At first it really pissed me off, I didn’t have THAT many! Then, being the scheming little brat that I was, I thought that if I’d give away some, I’d get even BETTER ones. Well, I found out THAT wasn’t true! But I did get into the spirit of it and understand what he was doin’ eventually.

    It’s sad that such a happy time of year can be so devastating to unfortunate folk that might be either lacking in bucks or lacking in friends and/or family. Either situation seems to take all the fun out of the holidays. In fact I guess the only good thing about NOT having friends or family might be that ya DON’T gotta spring for an expensive Christmas. But I’m sure that doesn’t quite make up for the solitude [although to be honest every time I get divorced I kinda get a special pleasure outta NOT going shopping for that special someone]. I was talking to my buddy Pappy the other day and he told me about a Christmas that he spent long ago in Wyoming among the cowboys.

    “I remember it was the worst winter Wyoming had in years. Snow closed most of the mountain passes and some people had to spend weeks snowed in their houses and cabins. That year me and a few of the boys were workin’ the North country and were staying in a line cabin makin’ sure that section of the herd was kept from freezing on their feet. The Circle M’s herd was so big it was actually THREE separate herds. The Northern bunch were the most distant from the main ranch. Usually I just took care of the ranch’s machinery, but in the winter when it was slow they used me however they needed me.

    “Slim Jenkins was our crew boss and one day I remember me and him were out huntin’ for some fresh meat. We were all tired of hardtack and canned stuff, so Slim asked me to go out with him to see what we could find. Didn’t find any game, but we did find a frozen steer we managed to bust up and bring back to the cabin. That critter was actually frozen standing up and all we had to do was knock it over and break off a few chunks.

    “While we were gone the boys made up a Christmas tree and that night when me and Slim came in all cold and snowy that little cabin with it’s blazing fire and tree all covered with candles actually seemed like Heaven on earth!

    “A coupla nights before Christmas we were just sitting around playing cards. A few of the boys were bitching about not being with their families, but most of ‘em had been alone for so long anyway that this was nothing new. Some cowboys actually like being on their own with nobody else to think of and nobody thinkin’ about them. All of a sudden there was a shout from outside. At first we all thought it was just the wind, but then it was repeated.”

    “Slim grabbed a rifle and peeked out the door through the blowin’ snow and yelled back, “COME ON IN STRANGER!”
    “A few minutes later he opened the door wide and two people came in all covered in snow, their heads and bodies wrapped in blankets. We urged ‘em closer to the fire and discovered it was a man and a woman! This was the first woman we’ve seen in over a month and by golly she was a pretty one. When we took off her blanket and overcoat it was easy to see she was in a family way.

    “It turned out that their car got stuck in the snow a few miles away and they saw the smoke from our chimney when it wasn’t blowin’ so bad and there was still some daylight. They were headed further North, but got lost on the highway and turned onto one of the ranch's access roads by accident. His name was Joe Paxton and her’s was Mary. I know it sounds dumb as Hell, but it’s all true so help me!     “We made ‘em as comfortable as we could and Joe told us he was an insurance salesman from Medicine Bow and they were traveling upstate to stay at Mary’s mother’s house in Cody so she could help Mary have her baby. They had to stay with us for a few days and as the snow piled up and she started getting’ close to her time it became obvious THAT wasn’t gonna happen. All the time they were with us the boys were on their best behavior and not once did I hear one of ‘em cuss or say anything racy.

    “Now, none of us knew anything about birthing babies, but a few of us helped some foals and calves get born. There was a little back room in the cabin and we set Mary up in there while Tex and Slim set about doin’ what they could. The rest of us just boiled water and made sure they had as many clean sheets as we could. Don’t exactly know why, but it seemed the thing to do.

    “Late Christmas eve it happened! When we heard the sound of that little guy hollerin’ we all smiled and started actin’ like WE were the fathers! Joe said they were gonna name him Jesse in honor of the baby Jesus and his birthday. As Mary slept with her baby, we sat the rest of the night talkin’ about how we’d all be Godfathers and how we’d make sure the kid grew up right. Tex broke out a bottle of bourbon he’d been savin’ and as we passed it around Joe went on about his hopes and dreams for the boy’s future. At times like this a man realizes his own shortcomings and wishes better for his offspring. Any man worth a hill of beans anyway.
    “Some twenty five years later Jesse Paxton became an attorney and then later on became the youngest state senator in the history of Wyoming. Don’t know where the Hell we went wrong!”
    “Is that really a true story Pappy?”
    “Every word of it.”

    I just don’t know. I looked up Jesse Paxton on the web and I didn’t see any senators, but maybe I misspelled it. It’s SO hard to tell when he’s bullshitting. Anyway, it makes for a good Christmas story and I thought I’d share it with ya.

    Merry Christmas and Y’all be very careful on New Years Eve. I wanna gab at ya NEXT year.


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