Go Tell it on the Mountain

Written by
Jennie A.

Debbie B.

Joe sat as still as could be expected for a five year old.  His legs swinging in time to the gospel song that rang out from all sides of the chapel.  As the song came to an end, Ben sat down and pulled Joe onto his lap, hoping to cease the movements that were causing the pew to squeak.  At first the small boy managed to entertain himself by fondling with a button on his suit but soon grew weary of that when the button popped off and landed on the bonnet of the woman in front of them.  Trying another tactic, Joe moved to toy with the fringe that hung from his scarf.   He somehow managed to entwine his fingers securely into the tassels giving a small yelp when he couldn’t free them.  

Ben’s eyes wondered from the podium at the front of the chapel as he tightened his hold around Joe.  His large hands worked their magic and soon had Joe’s fingers freed from their entrapment.  The boy continued to grow restless and squirmed about in his father’s lap hymning one of his favorite tunes, Early One Morning.  The long winded sermon had dragged on far too long for such a small boy.  Ben gently pulled the boy’s head back to rest against his chest in a feeble attempt to quiet the child.  Joe snuggled up and reached over to grasp onto his father’s vest with his tiny right hand.  His left thumb found its proper place in his mouth and soon the soft suckling noises indicated to the surrounding families that the youngest Cartwright had fallen asleep.  

A sudden Hallelujah from across the room jarred the sleeping boy from his nap.  His hand which had been grasping the soft leather of Ben’s vest pulled away suddenly bringing with it the end of the black string tie that had been so neatly knotted around Ben’s neck.  

“Joseph,” whispered Ben.

“I sowwe Papa, but whoeber was making that shoutin’ done woked me up,” Joe protested.

“Joseph,” Ben said through gritted teeth his hand clamped over Joe’s mouth.

Muffle giggles from the other end of the pew brought his attention around to his older two sons.  The giggles were suddenly silenced by the deep frown that Ben gave to Adam and Hoss who quickly straightened in their seats.

“Papa,” mumbled Joe from behind the hand that still covered his mouth.

Ben quickly moved his hand.  “What is it now Joseph?”

“I gotta go.”

“Can’t you wait son,” Ben emphasizing the last word.

“No sir, I gotta pee and I gotta pee now.”

Ben’s eyes rolled back into his head as he glanced at Adam with a pleading look.  Adam smiled at his father and extended his arms out to Joe.

“Come on Little Buddy, I’ll take you.”

Adam scooped the small boy into his arms and stepped across his father’s knee into the isle of the church.

“I’ll be wight back Papa,” Joe yelled just as Adam carried him through the doorway.

Ben whose face was turning a bright shade of Christmas red, felt all eyes turn in his direction.

Widow Watkins who issued the first Hallelujah and was well into her second round of Hallelujahs was stopped suddenly by the sounds of a little boy’s laughter.  Ben recognized the high pitched giggles and turned his head to look down the isle.

“Ya should’ve seen us Papa, we both were a’smokin’,” shouted Joe from half way down the isle as he skipped toward his father whose hand had covered his face.

Joe stopped at the end of the pew where his father sat.

“What’cha cryin’ for Papa?”

Ben’s eye could be seen peaking over the top of his fingers.  “I am not crying Joseph, snarled Ben fighting to control his temper and embarrassment, neither of which he could master.

Ben removed his hand from his face and glanced back down the isle just in time to see his oldest son slip from the building.  Ben could only imagine his son’s embarrassment from his youngest son’s outburst.  From the podium the preacher cleared his throat.

“I think now would be a good time to have a word of prayer.  Let us pray for patience and understanding during awkward moments?”

Throughout the room soft snickers and giggles could be heard as each person bowed their heads.

As the crowd slowly proceeded toward the door after the sermon Joe who was being held in his father’s arms caught sight of the manager scene that had been set up in the opposite corner of the chapel.  When Ben stopped to speak with the preacher Joe finally managed to free himself from his father’s arms and rushed back inside captivated by what he had seen.

Joe stood silently as he gazed at the figures of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus.  Squatting down so he could be eye level to the figures, Joe extended his hand out and touched the face of Mary.  Unexpected tears pooled into his eyes but were quickly dissipated when he felt a hand resting gently on his shoulder.

“Do you know the story of baby Jesus?” asked the preacher in a tender voice seeing the tears that Joe fought to conceal.  

“I ‘member what my Mama told me last Quistmas about baby Jesus and the Norf Star.”

“What do you remember?” encouraged the preacher suddenly taken in by the cherub like face of the youngest Cartwright.

“I ‘member my Mama told me that the three smart men followed the Norf Star cause that star would lead them to the place where baby Jesus got borned,” Little Joe explained.

The reverend squelched the giggles that threatened to spill forth.  “Don’t you mean the three wise men?” he smiled.

Joe nodded his head up and down.  “Yep, that’s what I said, the three wise guys.”

This time the reverend’s giggle could not be controlled as he tousled the top of Joe’s unruly curls.

“Did you know that my Mama is a star and that she shines brighter than the Norf Star?” asked Joe as he gently brushed his hand down Mary’s cheek for the second time.

The reverend was quick to pick up on the sudden interest in the Virgin Mary and realized that the young boy must be thinking of his mother.  Thinking back the reverend realized that this would be the first Christmas without Little Joe’s mother since her untimely death in the spring.

“How do you know your mother is a star?” questioned the clergyman as he knelt down beside the small boy.

“Cause my brooders and my Papa told me so.  They said to look for the brightest star in the sky and that would be my Mama.”

Little Joe placed his hand on the top of the reverend’s knee and stared directly into the preacher’s blue eyes.  One tiny finger of the opposite hand pointed to the Virgin Mary.

“My mama looked just like that,” proclaimed Joe proudly.

The preacher gathered Joe into a hug.  “Yes Joe your mother was a beautiful woman.”

“Oh there you are Little Buddy,” called out Adam from the doorway.  “Come on Pa is waiting for us.”

The preacher stood to his feet releasing Joe and giving one last tousle to the mass of dark ringlets on the head of the little boy whom had just touched his heart.  Joe ran toward his brother calling out over his shoulder, “Merry Quistmas Pweacher.”

Ben rose at the sound of loud knocking at the front door. He glanced up toward the stairs, silently hoping that the racket would not awaken Little Joe whom had been sent earlier to his room for his afternoon nap.  Ben sighed as he hurried to the door; Little Joe had not wanted to go to sleep right away and had spent over an hour playing around upstairs.  Ben had finally been forced to go to his son’s room and rock the little scamp until Little Joe had at last given up and fallen asleep.  Now, that sleep was threatened by the loud pounding on the door.

When Ben opened the door, he was surprised to see the preacher standing before him, hat in hand, and a worried expression on his face.  Stepping aside to allow the minister to enter, Ben glanced at Adam and Hoss who had just entered the great room from the kitchen.

“Howdy, Preacher,” beamed Hoss as he stuffed his mouth with one of Hop Sing’s fresh baked Christmas cookies.

The preacher smiled down at the chubby little middle son of Ben’s and tossled his hair.

“Howdy, Hoss,” laughed the minister.

“Hoss, how many times have I told you about talking with your mouth full?” questioned Ben.  “Please, go back to the kitchen to finish your snack,” ordered Ben as he placed his hand on top of Hoss’ head and turned the boy back toward the kitchen.

“Have a seat, Reverend,” offered Ben, pointing to the settee.

“Thank you, Ben,” he said and sat on the edge of his seat, nervously twisting his fingers around the brim of his hat.

Ben noticed the way in which the reverend toyed with the hat and glanced at his oldest son who had made himself comfortable in the blue chair.  Adam’s dark brows raised in an unspoken question.

“Reverend, what brings you out this way?” asked Ben as he stood in front of the preacher, the end of his long fingers tucked into the waistband of his trousers.

The preacher stood to his feet and glanced from one to the other, “I really don’t know how to say this,” stammered the minister.

Ben smiled, “Well, I’ve found that the easiest way is to just spit it out, is something wrong?  Did something happen?” asked Ben hoping to open the conversation for the minister.

“No, no, nothing is wrong…it’s just that someone has taken baby Jesus and I thought…”

Adam started to laugh, drawing both his father’s and the reverend’s attention to himself.  “I’m sorry, but did you say, someone took baby Jesus?”

The preacher smiled and glanced at Ben. “Well, yes, I guess I did say that…what I meant was that the doll we used in the church nativity scene is missing and since your youngest son was the last one seen near the nativity…well…I thought maybe he might have picked it up.”

“Little Joe?” asked Ben, surprised at the implication.

“Oh, it’s all right, Ben, no harm done, it’s just that the little girl who loaned us the doll was afraid that it was lost and that she would not get her dolly back.  I assured her that she would, but I thought it best to talk to you first.  Little Joe seemed quite taken with the nativity earlier after church.  He told me his mother had explained to him about the birth of Jesus and he told me that his mother and the Virgin Mary looked very much alike.  I’m sure he meant no harm, Ben…but we do need to get the doll back before the little girl gets too upset,” explained the preacher.

Ben rubbed his chin, “Well, if what you say is right…I can’t see how Joseph managed to get the doll home without one of us seeing him.”

Hoss returned to the room just as Ben made the comment.  “Pa, I saw Joe earlier, he had something hidden under his coat, I didn’t think nuthin’ ‘bout it cause he was playing with Scruffy earlier and I just thought he put the dog under his coat.”

Ben sighed deeply, “Let me go see if he has the doll in his room.  He’s napping but it’s about time for him to wake up.  I’ll be right back,” said Ben as he made his way to the stairs.

Ben opened the heavy oak door and stepped inside the dimly lit room.  Giving himself just a minute for his eyes to accustom themselves to the light, Ben moved to the bed.

“Joseph,” Ben spoke softly as he placed his hand on the sleeping form that seemed buried beneath the pile of blankets. Suddenly Ben was taken back, the form appeared much to soft to be that of his son’s body, and Ben jerked the blankets back and gasped.  Little Joe was not in the bed; instead, pillows had been placed under the covers to make it appear that he was sleeping.

Ben glanced nervously about the room, “Joseph, are you hiding from Papa?” Ben called out with a ring of apprehension in his voice.

Ben squatted down and looked under the bed, no Joseph.  Opening the shiftrobe, Ben moved the clothing about to be sure his little boy was not hiding behind the clothes that hung haphazardly in a row.  Still there was no sign of Little Joe and Ben, giving in to his fear, rushed back down the stairs where Hoss and Adam were engaged in conversation with the minister.

“Hmm…have either of you boys seen your brother?  The little scamp isn’t in his room,” Ben stated.

“No sir, Pa, I ain’t seen hide nor hair of’em,” answered Hoss.

“Me either.  I thought he was napping,” Adam commented as he stood to his feet.  “Want me to check the outhouse?  Maybe he went down the back stairs and that’s why we didn’t see him.”

“Could be, but Scruffy is missing too, and usually your brother doesn’t take the toy with him when he has to go.  Hoss, go check in the barn, maybe he went out there, I’ll check with Hop Sing, perhaps the rascal is helping him in the kitchen.”

Ben started toward the kitchen but stopped suddenly, remembering the preacher who stood silently in the center of the room.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” smiled Ben, “In my haste, I forgot about you being here.  If you will excuse me, I need to find my son.”

The reverend nodded his head, “Go right ahead Ben.  May I be of some help to you?”

Sometime later, the small search party met back in the house. Not one could give the worried father any hope that they had found a clue as to the missing boy’s whereabouts.  

Ben was beside him self with worry, “I think we should saddle our horses and start looking.”

“Pa, maybe Little Joe sneaked back into town so that he could put the doll back in the manger scene.  Want me to ride back to the church and see if it’s there, at least that way we would know whether or not he had been there?” asked Adam heading for the door.

“I’m going back into town myself, Ben.  Why don’t I look and if the doll is there, I’ll have someone send you word.  If you don’t hear back, then that means that the baby Jesus is still missing,” suggested the reverend.

“That sounds like a good idea, meanwhile, the boys and I will start here and work our way toward town, just in case you might miss something.  It isn’t easy to track someone while riding in a buggy.”

Once the tired little boy reached the base of the mountain, he stopped and sat down to catch his breath.  He shivered slightly as the cool breeze whipped around his weary body.  Little Joe glanced up at the sky and noted the clouds that were beginning to form and he sighed.

Joe sat Scruffy on a nearby rock and pulled the baby Jesus from beneath his coat.  The shawl had been wrapped about his shoulders and with care; he removed the treasured piece and wrapped it about his favorite toy.

“Ya gotta stay here Scruffy, cause I can’t kawee both of you and Baby Jesus’ gotta go wif me.  I won’t be long, and when I dit back, I’ll hab my mama wif me,” smiled Little Joe.

Joe bid the stuffed animal goodbye and taking a deep breath to calm his pounding heart and steady his nerves, Joe began the painstaking job of climbing the steep mountain.  Joe had not thought about how dark it would be when he had made his plans to steal away from his home, nor of how hard it would be to reach the top of Eagle’s Nest.  But he knew he had to do this, if he hoped to have his mama back home by Christmas morning to surprise not only his pa, but his brothers as well, he would have to make it to the highest point before morning.

Joe glanced up once more at the dark clouds that threatened to shield the stars, thus taking any light by which to see.

Little Joe dabbed at his eyes with the sleeve of his coat.  He couldn’t see the bright star now; the clouds had gathered and were now blocking his view.  

“Mama…pwease,” cried the little boy, “shine ‘gain for me…I’m gettin’ afraid now that is has gotten blacker out …please mama…”

Ben, Adam and even young Hoss had been looking everywhere for the missing child.  Ben was nearly in a panic, Little Joe had been gone for hours and no one seemed to have a clue as to where he might have wandered off too.  The worried father tried to think back to something that might have been bothering his small son, but Joe had seemed fine earlier.  Ben remembered that he had been laughing with Hoss while they had sat before the fire placing a game of checkers, then later had curled into Adam’s lap while his older brother had read to him the Christmas story.  

The little boy had always loved the story, Ben knew that Joe had always seemed to get so excited when Marie had read it to him.  For just a brief moment, Ben wondered if perhaps Joe had been feeling sad that this Christmas it would be one of them reading the story to him instead of his mother.  Shaking his head to dismiss the troubling thoughts, Ben thought back to when Joe had carried the book downstairs and placed it in his oldest brother’s lap and had asked Adam to read it to him.  No, reflected Ben, Little Joe had not seemed troubled then.  Even when he had announced that it was naptime, Joe seemed fine and had not even put up his usual arguments about having to be sent off to bed for his nap.

Ben had been rudely surprised when an hour later he had gone upstairs to check on his youngest son and had been forced into rocking the child after Adam had put his brother to bed.  Little Joe was not in his bed, and after searching the entire upstairs for the boy, Ben’s heart had begun to pound rapidly within his chest.  When he had called down to Hoss to ask if Joe had somehow slipped back down to the living room without his seeing him, Hoss had informed him that no, Joe had not come back down.  Hoss had searched the barn and Ben had aroused Hop Sing, for sometimes Joe had been known to slip into Hop Sing’s room for a quick visit before retiring for his nap.  But even that searched had proved futile; Joe was not to be found.

It was only after much shouting and calling out for the child that the anxious father had wandered into his own bedroom and noticed that the lid to his sea trunk had been left opened.  The trunk had always remained closed, for that was where he placed his treasures.  It held his memories of little things that his sons and wives had given to him over the years; and no one, not even his boys had ever dared to look inside the treasure chest, unless invited to do so by their father, and then only in his presence.

Ben stooped down so that he might more closely examine the contents to see what might be missing from his stack of treasured items.  It took several minutes, for it was evident that the articles had been moved about and placed in different spots than where Ben usually kept them.  The only thing that Ben could tell was missing was a soft pastel shawl that had been Marie’s.  The shawl, a gift for his wife, had been her favorite summer wrap, and his wife often had used the soft brocade wrap as a blanket for her young son.  On days or evenings when the family had been out, and the air became too chilled for the infant son, Marie had wrapped it about Joe to keep him warm.  Over the next few years, the shawl had begun to show some wear, for Joe had often slipped into his parent’s room and took the shawl to cling to when he napped.  Ben smiled; he had lost count of the number of times that either he or Marie had found the shawl curled into the tightly closed fist of their infant son.  After awhile, Marie had been forced to put the wrap away, for the fringe had begun to fray, the soft material had begun to fill with tiny holes and Joe, who put up such a fuss at the time, had finally been satisfied with the soft blue blanket that his mama had made for him as a replacement.  

Now the shawl was missing and Ben knew who the culprit was. If he found the shawl, he would find his son and vice versa.  Ben hurried from the room, calling out for Adam and Hoss whose conversation with the minister, he had just interrupted.  Ben explained what he had found, and both boys rushed to follow their father in the search for their youngest sibling.

Joe had worked his self, half way up the steep incline and he shivered slightly.  The higher he climbed, the cooler it seemed to be and he now wished that he had taken the time to put on his heavier coat.  Joe looked up toward the top of Eagle’s Nest and then upward into the dark sky.  They clouds were moving on, and the tiny boy sighed in relief, at least now he could see the stars twinkling overhead and that gave him more determination.  Joe just knew that once he reached the top, he would be able to touch the brightest star; touch the star that his papa had always said would be his mother.  And, Joe hoped that along with his mother, he would find Baby Jesus’ mother as well, cause he really wanted to speak with the Virgin Mary in hopes that she would trade his mama for her son, Jesus, whom he still carried beneath his coat.  He had a special request that he hoped the Virgin Mary would grant him.  He wanted his mama back, that’s all he would say,  “All I want for Christmas is my mama.”

Ben and his sons had backtracked from town.  Having found no tracks that showed them that Little Joe might have headed that way, they changed directions and headed toward the mountainous area where Joe had liked to hunt and play with his older brothers, in hopes of finding tracks there.

It was just before the last rays of daylight had faded that Hoss spied the funny little footprints in the dirt.  “Hey Pa, lookit here, this here is Little Joe’s prints,” he snickered.

“See, he has his boots on the wrong feet,” laughed Hoss.

Ben slid from his horse and stood next to his son, a tiny smile tugging at his lips.  “Sure is, son.  You did good, tracking that is,” smiled Ben in the fading light.

“Adam, looks like the little scamp is headed for Eagle’s Nest,” Ben said with a deep sigh.

“Eagle’s Nest?  What in the world would the little imp want to go there for?” Adam wondered out loud.

“I don’t know, we best ride, it’ll be pitch dark soon.  Mount up Hoss, let’s get going.”

“Psst…Hey, Birgin Mama, I’m talkin’ to ya.  Can ya hear me?  I got sumthin’ to show ya,” whispered Little Joe as he struggled to pull the baby doll who had doubled as the Christ Child from under his coat.

“See, here’s ya widdle boy, Jesus.”  Little Joe held the baby doll in his arms so that the Blessed Mother could see her child.

“My mama’s there wif ya.  I see her star shinin’ right next to yours.  Could I talk to her, please Birgin Marwe?” Joe asked as he carefully laid the doll on the rock next to him.

“Hey…HEY!  I’s atalkin’ to ya!” shouted Joe when he received no answer to his question.

Ben quickly slid from his horse; he had spotted the unidentifiable object sitting on the boulder.  As soon as he placed his hand around the object, Ben knew what he had found.  It was Marie’s old worn shawl that his youngest son had treasured.  Fighting the rising panic that filled his heart, Ben glanced upward toward the top of Eagle’s Nest and said a silent prayer that his baby would be all right.  As he fingered the worn material, Scruffy slipped from his warm blanket down to land at Ben’s feet.  Ben stooped to retrieve the stuffed toy and smiled as he carefully re-wrapped his son’s favorite toy securely within the folds of Marie’s shawl.

“You boys wait here, I’m going up,” stated Ben in a firm voice.

“You reckon the boy has made it to the top, Pa?  It’s a long ways up there,” worried Adam, as new fear for his little brother’s welfare filled him with dread.

“I don’t know son, but I’ll find out.  You watch out for Hoss, and both of you stay put until I get back, understand?” called out Ben as he began his climb.

“Yes sir,” responded Adam.  

“Be careful Pa,” called Hoss as his father faded into the darkness.

Ben carefully picked his steps as he crawled over rocks and stones that cut into his hands and knees.  Ben wondered how his young son had managed to make it this far.  He felt the fingers of fear as they tightened around his heart.

“Joseph…Joseph,” the worried father called into the darkness that had completely surrounded him.  He knew his son must be frightened, for Joe not only feared the darkness, but he was also afraid of heights, and Eagle’s Nest reached upward, far above the solid ground below.

“Joseph…Little Joe, can you hear me?  It’s Papa,” Ben called again and stopped to listen for an answer.

Ben could make out the faint sounds of shouting as he sat silently in the darkness.  He couldn’t understand the words, but he was sure that the voice was that of his baby son, and the knowledge heightened his anxiety and caused him to push onward.


“Oh why won’t ya answer me, Birgin Mama…I got’s to talk wif ya.  See, I gots your widdle baby Jesus here, and I wanna make a twade wif ya.  You can habe’em back if’n ya gib me my mama.  I wanna take her home for Quistmas for a prize for Papa and my brudders,” wept Little Joe.

Little Joe glanced up into the sky at the stars that twinkled above him and brushed away the tears that dripped off his chin.  “Pwease,” he begged and covered his face with his hands.  “I gotta hab her back.”

Ben spied the tiny boy sitting on the edge of the rocks.  His heart skipped a beat as he inched forward to the dark silhouette that could barely be seen.

“Joseph,” Ben called softly, not wanting to startled the child.

Joe’s head popped up and he turned his head upward.  “Is that you, Mama?” he whispered.

Ben’s heart skipped a beat, so that was why his young son had run away, Little Joe had wanted to find his mama.

“Mama?” the wee voice squeaked.

“No, Joseph, it’s me, Papa,” Ben said in a gentle voice.

Ben could see Joe’s hand move to his head where the little fingers scratched at the mass of dark curls.  Ben nearly stopped breathing when he saw Joe stand to his feet, his eyes still watching the heavens for signs of his mother.

“Is ya up there too, Papa?” questioned Joe.

Ben, though scared for his small son, could not stop the smile that toyed at his lips.  This was innocence in the purest form and Ben felt the tears sting his eyes.

“No son, turn around, Papa’s right here with you.”

Joe spun around, surprised to find his father standing directly behind him.  Even in the darkness, Ben could see the tiny tears that rolled down the cherub like face and he lowered himself to one knee and gathered the weeping tot into his arms.

“Don’t cry sweetheart, it’s all right,” Ben soothed.

“But Papa, ya don’t undertaned, I was twying to twade Baby Jesus for my mama. See, I gots him wight here.”  Joe pulled away from the comfort of his father’s arms and reached for the doll.

“See Papa, he wants his mama just like I want my mama.  I was gonna gib him back to the Birgin Mama so’s she would gib me back my mama…it was posed to be a ‘prize for you and Adam and Hoss for Quistmas,” cried Little Joe.  “And now ya gone and wuined it!”

Ben swallowed the lump that threatened to choke off his air supply and reached out to gather the sobbing child into his arms.
“I’m sorry Little Joe.  I didn’t know.  We were worried about you and when we couldn’t find you, we started looking for you.  The reverend told us about the baby Jesus missing from his manger,” explained Ben.

“But I want my mama back, Pa…pwease, Papa?” cried Joe.

Ben made himself comfortable on a near by rock and sat Joe in his lap.  “Joseph, I thought you understood, when you mother died, that she wouldn’t be coming back again.  Did you forget?”

“No sir.  But when I finded the Baby Jesus sleepin’ in the hay, well, I tought he would wanna meet up with his ma again, cause he’s widdler’n me.  So I was gonna twade him off.  But the Birgin Mama didn’t answer me…I pose she didn’t heard me talkin’ to her,” Joe told his father as he brushed the sleeve of his shirt across the front of his face to wipe away the clear liquid that dripped from his nose.

Ben sighed, picked up his son in his arms and started his descent, the baby Jesus held tightly in the little boy’s arms.  As Ben slowly made his way down, Joe rested his head on his father’s shoulders and listened as Ben explained why he was unable to make a swap with the Blessed Mother.

“Joseph, I know you meant well, son.  The gesture was nice, you wanting to give Mary back her son in hopes that she would give your mama back to you, but this baby Jesus is just a doll.  It belongs to a little girl who loaned it to the reverend to use as a representation of our Savior.  It isn’t the real Christ Child; He lives in heaven with His mother and your mother.  He lives in our hearts as well, just as the memory of your mama lives in all our hearts.  Do you understand that, son?” Ben explained.

“I weckon Papa, but I sure do miss Mama,” Joe said with a sob.

“So do I sweetheart, we all do.  But she lives in our hearts, every time you need her, or want to talk to her; she’s there, in your heart.  She lives on in you, son.  You are a part of her just like you are a part of me.  And the Christ Child is a part of his heavenly father, God and because of His love for us, we have hope, through the birth and resurrection of Christ, one day, we will be reunited with our loved ones. Until then, we must rely on our memories to get us through the times when we miss and want them the most.”  Ben patted his son on his back and stopped briefly to catch his breath.

“I sworry Papa, for makin’ ya worry ‘bout me,” said Little Joe.

Ben smiled, “That’s all right son, I understand why you felt you had to come up here.  But please, just promise me you won’t do it again.  Eagle’s Nest is much too high for a little tike like you to be climbing all alone.  Besides, son, I thought you would be too scared to climb this high,” Ben said, suddenly realizing that Little Joe had not appeared to be frightened by the height of the mountain.

“I wasn’t ascared Papa, it was too dark to see how high up I was,” smiled Little Joe and the look on his son’s face caused Ben’s face to break out into a wide grin.


“Yes son,” answered Ben as he picked up Joe and started walking down the mountain.

“Is Santa Cause comin’ tonight?” inquired Joe.

“Yes, but we need to hurry home and get you in the bed before he gets to our house, why?”

“Well, I knowed I was wong for runnin’ away, does that mean that Santa is goin’ to leab me a cold?” asked Little Joe, his tiny face aglow with worry.

“A cold?” Ben said, not understanding his son’s meaning.

“Sure, you know…a piece of cold,” Joe repeated.

“Joseph,” paused Ben, “I’m not sure what you mean, cold?”

“Oh Papa, you know, Adam told me I had’ta be good or Santa would leave me a wump of cold for Quistmas,” Joe tried to explain.  “I didn’t mean to be bad, honest.”

Ben could not stop the laugh that spilled forth, “Oh precious, you mean a lump of coal.  And don’t worry son, you haven’t been naughty, you have been a very good boy.  So have no fear, Santa will stop by the Ponderosa and I bet he will leave you something special too, for being such a good little boy.  But we best hurry,” laughed Ben as he squeezed the tiny little body.

“Papa, not so tight, I can’t brethf,” giggled Little Joe.

Ben laughed again and nuzzled his day old whiskers against the side of his son’s neck, causing the boy to giggle again.

“I thinks Santy Cause needs to bring ya a new wazor Papa, cause your whiskers is getting’ scwatchy!” laughed Joe and he struggled to free himself from his father’s arms.

They had reached the bottom of the mountain where Hoss and Adam was waiting for them. Joe broke free of his father and ran to grab Scruffy who sat in the same spot where Joe had left him.  He turned and spied his brothers who gathered around the excited child.

“Hi Hoss, Hi ya Adam.  Papa and me been all the way to the top of Eagle’s Nest, it’s willy high up there and we sawed Mama’s star and Baby Jesus ain’t willy the Christ Child cause he’s a doll and the Birgin Mama libs in heaven with my mama, but mama also libs in my heart and I’m a part of Papa and Mama’s a part of me and Santa Cause comes tonight, and Adam, Papa said I was a good boy and that Santa Cause ain’t gonna gib me a wumb of cold but we gotta hurry home afore ole Santy gits there cause I gotta go to bed and so do you, so stop ya jawing and wets wide.”

Ben rolled his eyes as he placed the small boy into the saddle in front of his older brother.

“Lookit,” called out Hoss as he pointed upward.

All four pairs of eyes turned their heads upward and watched as a shooting star shot its fiery trail across the heavens, lighting the sky with brightness.

“Merry Christmas to all and to all, a good night,” the faint words resounded in the stillness of the night as the star disappeared from sight.

Four mouths dropped opened, no one said a word, the night was silent, peace engulfed the world and the heavens rejoiced, a Christ child had been born.


Debbie B and Jennie A