In “Away in the Manager” for our anthology “A Texas Christmas”, my grumpy, blacksmith hero Randall Humphrey who wants to be left alone and celebrate Christmas in the only way he knows how – in solitude, is faced being snowed in with a beautiful woman and two little tykes. And, Christmas is only a couple of days away.
But, how could they have Christmas without a tree? Caught in a raging blizzard a real tree was out of the question; but it didn’t take long for the little twins, Damon and Addie Claire, patterned after my own granddaughter, Addison Claire, to remind him that he’d said, as a blacksmith, he could make anything. So, Rand was pressed into action to create something to please the children.
With the twins, and of course the feisty, mother hen Sarah melting his heart, Rand set about crafting a tree. That became a challenge for me as a writer, but I knew if he could make nails, hinges, cooking utensils, and pot hooks, surely he’d be ingenious enough to create a Christmas tree.
I did some research and low-and-behold I figured out how he could make one in a cone shape. Crude, but he thought it’d make the children happy. He was so wrong. While they liked it, there was no way to add the ornaments which consisted of round cookies tied with red ribbon fixed up by Sarah. The little darlings wanted more … gingerbread men, angels, and bears, because they thought that was what the gruffly clad blacksmith looked like to them. Rand could manage the star, but he had no idea how to make the other ornaments they requested. It didn’t take him long to decide if he fashioned some cookie cutters then Sarah could design the rest of the ornaments out of cookie dough. That worked, but he still hadn’t figured out how to attach them to the tree he had designed.
While playing in the hayloft with a homeless kitten who had taken up residence at the blacksmith’s shop, the twins come down with some barbed wire that had been stored there. That gave me … I mean Rand… an idea. Why not fashion a tree out of the cone shape he’d already done and add barbed wire? But would it work?
That’s when real life came into the picture. Fellow Filly, Linda Broday, also one of my co-authors, found a story in her local newspaper about a Christmas tree constructed from barbed wire taken from the famous XIT Ranch here in the Panhandle. There was my answer, oops, I meant Rand’s answer!
Sallie Sinclair of Shallowater, Texas, had fashioned a Western Christmas Tree out of Brinkerhoff barbed wire from the 1800’s and decorated it with miniature boots and saddle bags, along with regulation-size sheriffs’ badges made from five-peso coins, she’d worked on over a period of time. Because the Brinkerhoff wire could not be cut from the post, a single strand was removed from one post, rolled loosely, and unfastened from the next post down the fence line. It was some of the original wire that the XIT had used in fencing the gigantic ranch property that had been granted to its owners when they offered to build Texas’ Capitol building in Austin as a trade for land.
Of interest, as Ms. Sinclair and her friends built the tree, the wire could only be cut to length by scoring the metal, then flexing it until it broke. I’m sure there was plenty of pricked fingers and blood, during the process.
In my story, Rand would have likely used the King of Barbed Wire, Joseph Glidden’s simple wire locked into place by twisted barbs onto a double-strand wire. His invention made the fencing more effective not only because he perfected a method for locking the barbs in place, but also because he developed the machinery to mass-produce the wire.
Back to my story, while the twins where thrilled with the tree, there was still one thing missing … a star! That ended up being one of the easier challenges for the blacksmith, as he used his failed attempts at making cookie cutters to sculpt a cone shape where he added wings; thus, providing an angel.
At last the tree was perfect, and they shared a very Merry Christmas … and something else special. But, you’ll have to read the book to see what else happened around the best Christmas tree in the world.
After forty-three years of Christmases with my husband, we’ve had our share of absolutely beautifully, perfect trees and some not so perfect. One I particularly remember was special but about as ugly as they come.
We have friends who have a ranch that extends down into the bowels of the Palo Duro Canyon, so years ago we decided to cut our own tree. It was fun, but trust me a tree from the Palo Duro compared to those grown and cut specifically for tree lots are very different. I laugh when I think back to the pictures, and wish I could find one to add to this post, because we actually had to use duck tape to hold on some of the branches. But, you know, kinda like Rand, Sarah, and the children, it didn’t matter because it was the most perfect tree in the world because we shared it as a family.
I’d love to hear your favorite Christmas tree story. So, come on and share.
To one commenter, I am giving away your choice of either an autographed softback or hardback copy of
“A Texas Christmas”.