A Christmas Time Memory


Bonnie M. {Martin} Wells

From the "Down On The Farm" Collection: PC # 23:

School was out for the Christmas holidays, and it was just as well because there was already six inches of snow on the ground and it was still falling. Dad said he didn't think the school busses could have made it out the old gravel road we lived on, even with chains on the tires.

I was about eleven or twelve years old, and it was one of the few time periods in which we actually had neighbors {within sight} that had kids about the same age as my brother's and me.

We had only been living in our house a couple of years, and it had a long way to go before it was finished. Still, we called it home, and enjoyed what we could on the old farm that was owned by dad's brother Lloyd.

Our own property had been cut out of the 160 acres that consisted mostly of rolling hills and valleys, on which most of the vegetables and grain crops were grown for the entire Martin family.

A handmade saw mill had provided the lumber for the new house, and was used to some extent for firewood, although the big chain saws that dad and uncle Lloyd owned cut most of the wood for cooking and heating.

Dad had built the house a distance from the gravel road so that during the summer months, which is when he began building it, the dust from the road didn't roll right in the front door .... which was always one of my mother's main concerns.

The only problem with dad's choice for the location of the house was the fact that there was a pretty steep hill leading from the road down to the house. It wasn't such a problem in the summer, but in bad weather, especially snowy weather, the hill became a treacherous endeavor and we children usually chose to walk down through the area where our summer garden was located and out onto the road since that area was more level.

Our closest neighbors were Tom and Kathy Sealey. They lived with their parents within sight of our house, and a little further up the road was the house that went with uncle Lloyd's farm. Although uncle Lloyd didn't live there, the woman he dated and her children, Butch and Ruth Ann did. Ruth Ann was quite a bit older than me, but Butch was only a couple of years older than me, so he was usually part of the activities any time my brothers and I we were sleigh riding or hiking around through the woods.

Tom and Kathy's cousins ... Charles, Gene, Wayne and Gary had come to visit, and we all decided it was a great day for sleigh riding. Only problem was .... we didn't have enough sleds to go around! Being the inventive kids that we were, it didn't take us long to round up a few items that skimmed across the snow like greased lightening! A freshly cut pine tree moved right along, and the hood from an old truck was something to marvel at ... not to mention something to get out of and away from before it collided with a tree!!

Kathy talked her father into letting her have an inner tube, and she and I doubled up on it for a couple of zip trips down the hills.

For a while we played on the hill between our house and the barn, but we soon converted it to a sheet of ice, and decided the one by our house looked pretty good. Oh yeah .... it looked real good!

Meanwhile, mom was trying to get dinner started and was in need of water for cooking. We hadn't gotten our well drilled before the weather got bad, so we still carried our drinking and cooking water from "the farm house" {as we called it} where Butch and Ruth Ann lived.

Uncle Lloyd was at the farm that day so dad decided he'd walk up and get a couple buckets of water and visit with Lloyd for a few minutes. "Now, don't go up there and get to talking and forget to bring my water home," mom warned as he went out the door with two "water buckets."

As soon as dad cleared the hillside we began sliding on the hill. It was more fun than the hill by the barn had been!

We soon abandoned everything except the truck hood and the pine tree! They actually went better and faster than the sleds and inner tube, although we couldn't steer them very well! Never the less, we'd pile into the hood, 3 or 4 at a time and the remainder would climb aboard the pine tree, hook their feet into the branches, and off we'd go, lickety-slpit down the hill, around the side of the house, and through the opening in the barbed wire fence, and come to a stop as the "sleds" tried to climb the hill leading to the one by the barn. It was perfect .... well, almost.

Tom decided to revert back to one of the actual sleds, and to take it down the hill by himself. I remember that Gene tried to tell him not to lay down on the sled, but to sit up like we'd been doing, so he could roll off quickly should anything go wrong .... but no, Tom had to do it his way ... so he laid down and off he went. The sled was lighter weight than the heavy, loaded down things we'd been using and the steering had frozen up on it so Tom and the sled was like a speeding bullet as they left the well traveled snow path and sailed into uncharted territory!!! All we could do was stand there and watch as he sailed through the barbed wire fence and promptly left the sled! He was hanging by the seat of his pants ... which had been ripped wide open! Thankfully he was wearing "long johns" or he might have frozen to death before we got him untangled!

In our effort to get to Tom's assistance, we managed to lose my youngest brother Charlie in a huge snow drift, and had to dig him out before he suffocated! We decided it was time for a break, and headed into the house!

Mom gave Tom a pair of my brother Mike's old jeans to wear and the rest of us shed our coats, hats and gloves which were thoroughly wet by that time. We lined them up around the wood stove to dry and got us cups of hot chocolate that mom had made for us while we rested and waited for our things to dry.

I was sitting in dad's recliner beside the window where I could look out and see the road and anyone approaching the house.

Mom made a couple of trips into the living room, looked out the window, and commented on how she had told dad not to go up there and stay because she needed water.

It was about her third trip into the living room that I informed her that dad was on his way. He'd just passed Tom and Kathy's place and we could see him nearing the top of the hill that led down to our house. Mom looked out the window, said "it's about time," and promptly returned to the kitchen.

As she left the room my thoughts turned to dad and that hillside ..... it hadn't been bad when he left .... but the last few times we'd came down it, we'd had to go out through the garden area and up the road in order to reach the top. We couldn't walk up it .... I wondered if he could "walk down it!"

The idea must have occurred to everyone about the time it hit me because the next thing I knew we were all gathered up around the windows watching dad .... well, we tried to watch him .... but it was difficult to keep track of something moving that fast!!!

We howled with laughter. The commotion attracted mom's attention and she came back into the living room and asked what everyone was laughing so hard about .... laughing? We weren't "laughing" ... we were dying! We were rolling around on the floor, draped over chairs and keeled over in corners ... and there wasn't a one of us that could speak one word!

Mom walked over and looked out the window ..... "Well, where did Dick go? He was coming down the road a couple of minutes ago .... where did he go?"

Her question only served to deprive us of even more oxygen! We couldn't get the sight out of our minds!

Dad had calmly walked over to the edge of the hill, placed one foot on the "path" and in the next instant he was airborne!

Both feet went out from under him, the buckets of water went into the air - with him still having a death grip on the handles - and down the hill, around the corner and out of sight he sped ....*@#&%+** cussing all the way!

I figured he was doing about 80 mph when he went past the window, and I sure hoped he stuck to the sled path we'd been nice enough to carve out for him, because the alternative was the out house, a couple of pine trees, one big oak and then a hundred foot drop into the canyon behind the house!

Well, he wasn't fortunate enough to stick to the trail, but he was lucky enough to get hung up on one of the pine trees, which prevented him from going over the cliff ..... but you should have seen the dents in those water buckets!!!

The End

This story comes from one of the happier time periods in my life.

Within a year or so of this winter, uncle Lloyd suffered a heart attack and died while working on the B&O Railroad with my dad. Dad was the one who found him that night, and our lives would never be quite the same.

After uncle Lloyd's death Butch and Ruth Ann moved away; Tom and Kathy moved back to Mansfield, Ohio; The farm was eventually sold: We children grew up and the house we lived in burned to the ground {she was built of solid oak, and the fire department said it was the hottest damned fire they ever saw!} in 1979. Mom and dad moved to Parkersburg, and after trying to give the land to every one of us kids, but it being refused by each of us, they sold it to a neighbor who built another house in the same location as ours had been.

My brother Mike passed away with a heart attack in 1986. He was 34 years old.

Dad passed away in 1994, and Mom died in 1997:

I haven't seen Tom since those days on the farm, but Kathy came and spent a couple of days with me a few years back when her uncle Hank passed away.

Wayne helped lay the blocks for the foundation of my home when Mike and I decided to build here in Little Hocking.

Gene, although I haven't seen him for several years, continues to live in this area and has a son who recently returned from Iraq.

I haven't seen Gary in several years, but I remain friends with and in contact with Charles, Gene, Wayne and Gary's sister Darlene.

Bonnie M. Wells

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Starlight Inner-Prizes

12-17-04 / 12-12- 06 / Dec. 2007 // BMW: