One Woman's Story of a long ago Christmas Gift
Excerpts from the story "Santa Claus in Overalls" by Mark Taylor
Some of the details were omitted to protect the privacy of individuals and their locations. But the story itself is a true story.
In the nineteen thirties, almost all of the inhabitants of our area and surrounding areas were extremely poor. Even the most prosperous families were by today's standards, well below the poverty level. Most suffered at times from hunger, lack of medical attention and inadequate shelter and clothing.
Even so, some were poorer than others. Especially deprived were the families where the father had died or abandoned wives and/or children. But although there was great poverty, there also existed great pride.
One of these fatherless families lived in the area; the father had died from a heart attack leaving a wife, two young children along with a grown daughter and her baby.
They lived in a small shack built from rough lumber with no two by four timbers in the walls to provide for an insulation space. No paint was ever applied to the walls of the shack, either inside or outside. The roof was made of tin. There were cracks in the walls between the boards that let in the "blue Whistling Northers" or frigid winds that swept across the area in the winter time. A wood burning heater that stood in the middle of the shack provided heat for the shack. The heater had two cooking plates, or "stove lids," built into its top which provided a place to cook the family meals.
A few days before Christmas, the mother and children went into the woods and cut a three-foot cedar bush to use as a Christmas tree. When they got home they set it up, but they had no "store bought" decorations to put on it. The mother popped a large bowl of popcorn on the heater. She and the children ate some of it and proceeded to thread the rest of it on twine strings. They decorated the tree with the strings of popcorn and nothing else. The popcorn she used was her seed corn that she had planned to plant the following spring. She used it that day to not only decorate the tree, but also to feed her hungry children.
Her youngest daughter later told this Christmas Tale.....
"Christmas eve came. A north wind was blowing and the shack was cold. The heater couldn't put out enough heat to keep it warm. About dark my mother made all the kids get into bed to try to keep warm.
"My bed was a cot. I slept alone on a thin mattress filled with oak leaves which we had gathered from the woods around our place. I had a single blanket for a cover that was totally inadequate for keeping me warm, so I lay there and shivered. I hoped the night would pass quickly so that Santa Claus could come and I could get a present. You see, I believed in Santa Claus.
"My mother saw me shivering in the bed so she tore an old piece of cloth into strips, and while I watched she took a kitchen knife and went around the room trying to stuff the strips of cloth into the cracks in the walls which were letting in the cold wind. I distinctly remember that some of the cloth strips would fly out of the cracks back into the room after she moved on.
"From time to time I would awaken during the night shivering in my bed. I would look over at the Christmas tree. Santa had not yet come.
"I must have finally slept soundly for a while .... for when I awoke it was daylight. I eased back the blanket and looked over at the Christmas tree. To my great sorrow I saw that there was not a single present, not even an apple under it; I covered up my head with the blanket and started crying. How could Santa forget? My heart was broken. I lay there for perhaps a half hour with the blanket over my head. I could not bear to remove it because I would see the barren Christmas tree.
"Hearing a knock on the flimsy door of the shack, I looked out from under the covers and watched my mother move across the room to the door and open it........
"A man I had never seen before stood in the doorway. He was a heavy set man and not much taller than five feet. He was dressed in a cap, a plaid shirt, denim overalls that came to a point on his chest just below his chin, and brogan shoes.
"In his arms he held a cardboard box......"
"I remember thinking that he was Santa Claus and that he had been delayed by the cold wind; that the wind had blown his red Santa Claus suit off his body. I noticed that he looked around the interior of our shack before passing the box to my mother ... (he saw the only thing the family had to eat was a small pile of acorns and a large pile of hickory nuts picked up from under the trees in the woods) ..... and then he quickly walked away."
"After he had left we all gathered around the box with excitement. It contained, among other things, ..... food... a ham. More important to me at the time, however, were the few trinkets, candy, nuts, and fruit that were also in the box.
"My mother immediately began to cut slices off the ham and fry them in a frying pan. We were undernourished and half starving at the time (although I did not know it then).
I found out later that the ham and some other things in the box had been provided by a lady who lived about two miles from us....
That man and lady were God's gift to me and my family that long ago Christmas Day."
He became a young girls Santa Claus - in Overalls!