Things sure are strange today compared to my childhood. Everyone runs around and worries about the strangest things; like you can’t bake goods and take them to school for Christmas party consumption. Secondly, teachers are telling kids there is no Santa Claus. My mom always baked things like fruitcake for my teachers and sent some along for all the class to eat. We’d have birthdays and some moms would bring by a cake. But in the days of “I’ll sue you,” I guess that it has become a possible liability.
Some schools are banning any referral to Christmas, gift exchanging or decorating the classroom. When I was a boy those were all things we looked forward to.
What happened to the Christmas spirit? I’ve cut down some pretty sorry cedars when our money was short in December. All we could afford to buy each other was a roll of linoleum to go on the living room floor. It ended up with an old couch on one end and hog feed on the other to keep the feed dry and hold down the north wind under the house that made it breathe from underneath.
When I was a boy I recall the union went on strike at the plant where my dad worked as an engineer. He found a job at a welding shop which paid half what he was making. Mother, who always had a big Christmas for us kids, told us in early December that things would be tight. I was in high school but my brother and sister were younger. I told them to get the kids something and that I didn’t need anything. But mom and dad shook their heads; we’d all have something. I got a big canteen with an Indian design blanket because I was always taking horse rides out into the desert. I can recall it looked like a new car to me.
People use to go caroling in the neighborhood. Kids and everyone would bundle up and walk the blocks and stop to sing at people’s front doors. Your breath usually came like a great fog, and some forgot the words, but enough sang to make it work.
I can recall when Gene Autrey’s wife told him that his song about Rudolph the red nosed reindeer would be a big hit. He scoffed at her, but that was the first record ever made that sold a million copies. I had a big 78 record of it and played it until it would not play any more. The parody came years later when cowboy poet Baxter Black recited about “The Goat From Lampasse” that saved the day for Santa. He did that for me in a TV interview at a farm show.
But I have one more thing about Christmas. I have helped, on several occasions, the Salvation Army on holidays. I am not a big donor or supporter, but I put money in the kettle because I know how much they do for the downtrodden and folks caught without, not only at Christmas but the rest of the year, too. They are a true dedicated charity. A few years ago some shopping stores banned them. So all 365 days of a year I do not frequent their doors, nor do I buy anything from them. Banning the Army bell ringers from their doors – banned me.
All of you have a happy prosperous New Year.
Western novelist Dusty Richards and his wife Pat live on Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas. For more information about his books you can email Dusty by visiting and clicking on ‘Contact Us’ or call 1-866-532-1960.


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