Question: What did Santa bring to a pioneer family on Christmas Eve besides candy?
To be entered into today’s daily giveaway & FREE tour drawing- Read the story; “Comment” & “Share” your answer on Facebook or our blog.
“My Most Exciting Christmas”
During the Christmas season of 1909, my sister, Clea and I were doing our usual Christmas wishing from a Sears catalog. Living 8 miles north of Roosevelt, Utah, we were unable to browse in a store and coax for this and that, prior to Christmas, so everything Santa brought was a happy surprise. The fascinating colored pictures of candy held us spellbound. Santa always brought the most surprising candy, gumdrops of all colors, licorice sticks, or horehound. It wouldn’t seem like Christmas without a six-inch red, green, or yellow candy caramel, clear as crystal, tucked into the tow of our stocking.
“I wonder what kind of candy Santa will bring this year, Mama?”
“If Papa doesn’t come home before Christmas, we won’t get any Christmas candy at all,” was the shocking answer. Why should that make any difference? “Santa will come even if Papa doesn’t,” I reminded Mama patiently.
Mother’s face was very worried as she carefully explained to us. “Of course he will come. I wrote him a letter telling him where we are, and that you had been good girls, but I didn’t tell him to bring candy.”
Now that was more shocking than ever. How could a mother be so forgetful as to not mention candy? “Why?”
“Papa was going to do that. Now, I’m afraid he didn’t find Santa in Soldier Summit. Maybe Papa thinks I saw Santa, but you know we haven’t been to a store to leave a “Santa” letter, but never mind, I’ll make us some.”
I remember hoping that Santa would be smart enough to know what we wanted even if he had not been told, and although it didn’t make sense, I got the idea at last. No Papa, no fancy candy. Mama’s honey taffy and fudge couldn’t take the place of the fancy kind that came only at Christmas. Oh, if Papa would only hurry home – he must get home before Christmas.
But candy wasn’t Mother’s worry. Her husband was in danger – might not return at all. He freighted from Soldier Summit along Avintiquin Creek to the laterite mine on the Strawberry River near Theodore (now Duchesne). A road of sorts had been hacked out with ax and scraper. The narrow dugways were extremely dangerous if an unexpected rain or snowstorm came. Mama’s imagination pictured him with frozen hands and feet, or pinned beneath an overturned wagon after it had slid down the mountain side. Such things had happened to other freighters. Basin pioneers took these chances in order to earn a bit of cash after the crops were harvested. Besides, freighting was the only way to get the necessities from the outside world into the Basin. Someone had to do it, regardless of the bad roads and danger.
Mama’s intense anxiety was catching and we contracted a matching case of it. She would glance out of the kitchen window every time she passed it. Sometimes, we would sit by the window for hours watching the few horseback riders or buggy travelers pass, looking in vain for a freight wagon. At last, after many days, we saw two wagons drawn by four horses, entering our farm about a quarter of a mile away! Mama hurriedly put coats on us two excited kids, and let us go meet him. “Wait for us, Papa,” we called as we cut across the field of lucern stubble as fast as we could go, calling with every breath, “Wait for us, Papa. Let us ride, wait for us!”
As we neared the ditch crossing he stopped his horses, and Clea heard him say, “I’m not your Papa, little girls.” She stopped short, and in my impatience to hurry on, repeated it to me in an utterly crushed way. Looking closely at the driver then, I saw a total stranger sitting on his high wagon seat looking tenderly at the two most disappointed, crestfallen little tots to be found anywhere in the world. So we trudged back to Mama in tears.
A white Christmas Eve arrived, but Papa hadn’t come. To divert our attention Mama kept us busy making paper chains while she walked the floor. She saw Papa coming but didn’t say anything until he turned into the lane leading to our house, then she said, “Look out the window again girls.” We took a little automatic peek and jumped to screaming action.
“Don’t go into the snow,” called Mama as we bounded out the door, so all we could do was jump up and down on the step and yell, “Papa, Papa, Papa!”
Had he been sick? Had there been an accident? I never did find out and at that early age, I didn’t know enough to care. He was home. Overjoyed at the sight of him returning at last, our excitement could only be contained by seeing which of us could jump the highest and call the loudest, “Papa, Papa, Papa!”
No father ever got a more loving welcome and no father ever played it up more. Calling “Whoa to Cap and Dock, he threw the lines to the ground and jumped from his high wagon seat, and threw his fur-lined cap into the air as he did so. Forgetting the snow, we ran to meet him. Clapping his fur mittened hands, he bent over to catch Clea as she jumped into his arms. He threw her into the air before snuggling her on his hip where she applied a bear hug around his neck. I clung tightly to his leg with both arms and both legs as he came still legged into the kitchen to greet a very happy wife. The baby, Bernice, was cooing a welcome from her high chair.
There will never be a more joyous Christmas Eve for me. Did Santa bring candy? I’ll say he did and lots of other things, but my most precious memory is that Papa came home for Christmas.
Kate Carter, Our Pioneer Heritage, p. 266-268 from Lela Fackrell