Santa Was A Cowboy

I’ve been thinking a lot about people lately.

I’m basically a happy person. I look for the best in people and I can usually find something to laugh about. Even though I like to believe the best in people, life has taught me that will often cause great heartache. I can accept that when it happens to me. When people hurt my children, I go insane.

Twenty years ago, we were trying to recover from the oil bust, much like the one we are about to experience. We lost our vehicles, our hotshot company, the horses, the real estate company, and our house. The house we sold to keep the real estate company going, but it was still gone.

We moved out to a little village thirteen miles from town. I took in ironing, cleaned houses for people, and baked bread for several people while Don drove truck long haul.

My mother had been down here and bought a trailer house from a man who was going to let her make the payments to him and he would make the payments to the loan company since she had no credit. She decided to move back north, so we took up payments on the land and the trailer.

The man we were buying the trailer from called me the first week in December and told me I should contact the loan company and get the trailer put in my name. I asked him if there was a problem since I had already sent the check for the December payment. Yes, he had the check, but it might be best if we try to get the trailer in our name. I told him I would check into it, but I couldn’t do anything until after Christmas.

I had saved up enough money to put deposits on some new bull ropes for the two older boys. The rodeo coach at the junior college plaited custom ropes for professional bull riders and offered to make some for the boys for $75 each. That was a lot of ironing and house cleaning, but it’s what the boys wanted for Christmas more than anything, so I was going to make it happen. I also bought a few toys and clothes, but it was pretty slim pickings that year and I still didn’t have the extra groceries to do my holiday baking and candy making. If I timed everything just right, I would be able to buy the stuff for Christmas dinner with the check that would arrive just before Christmas.

I got a call from a finance company on December 13. They wanted to know if I was going to put the trailer in my name and when would I be able to make the past due payments totaling $2,350 plus some other fees that would bring it to a little over $2,500.

I was speechless. I don’t cry much, but I did then. I dug out my receipt box as if holding the receipts in my hand for every money order I had sent for the payment would show him I wasn’t behind on my payments. I just made a payment two weeks ago.

He was very understanding, but the man hadn’t sent them a payment for six months, so we had to come up with the $2,500 by December 20 or they would have a truck there to pick up the trailer on the 23rd.

“Are you serious? You’re going to kick me and my kids out of a house I have paid for faithfully two days before Christmas?”

He was very apologetic, but he had no choice.

Don called from California and I was a complete basket case. I had three boys, a pony, some ducks, and several dogs and would be without a house in a little over a week.

He called his family to borrow some money and got an advance on his check. I borrowed money from my family. I called a breeder in Oklahoma and offered to sell them some dogs they had been wanting for a long time and made a deal to give them three other bitches in the deal. One of them was a dog who had produced three quadruple working champions and there were only seven champions in the country.

I pawned what little we had left of value and I was still short. A friend’s mother offered to let me work some extra hours in the flower shop for more money. I got extra orders for bread. In the end, I could come up with the rest of the money if I used the grocery money and took back the gifts I bought the boys.

There would be no Christmas, but we had a roof over our heads. When all the dust settled, I had $20 left and the only reason I had that was that I had been walking around the little town to clean houses to save gas.

I told the boys we could either buy a Christmas tree, buy some little gifts, or go to the rodeo. Rodeo tickets had been high on their wish lists for Christmas.

They wanted rodeo tickets.

I bundled them up and we went to town. As fate would have it, I got in line behind a bunch of drunks in their new cowboy costumes. New hats, new boots, new jeans, and whoopy-ti-yi cowboy shirts. The guy at the front of the bunch was taking his friends to the rodeo. Not only was he taking them to the rodeo, but he wanted the best seats in the house.

“I love to see them cowboys get their asses stomped in the ground by those bulls.”

My boys were shocked someone wanted to see a cowboy get hurt.

I was sure I recognized Mouth’s voice, but I couldn’t believe it.

He turned around and stopped dead still when he recognized me.

The idiot I was buying the trailer from. I hadn’t talked to him often and I’d only seen him once, but it was him. The scum who had stolen my boys’ Christmas and nearly gotten us evicted. It was all I could do to keep from attacking him. Had I been alone, instead of with the three boys, including a toddler, I probably would have. Instead, I kept my mouth shut and ignored him. Throwing a fit would accomplish nothing.

A woman opened up another window and called me up.

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll take three of the cheapest seats you have.”

Mouth had noticeably quieted down.

The boys were remarkably understanding, as they always were. They had their rodeo tickets and that was the important thing. They asked if we could get a Coke. I had enough money left to get one and let them split it.

I’ve always tried not to cry in front of the boys, but it was danged hard that day. I had to keep reminding myself to keep the hate from my heart. That was harder.

I had already called and canceled the bull ropes. I told Jim I would finish paying for them for their birthdays in March.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do about Christmas dinner. I had a pound of hamburger meat, macaroni, one can of tomato sauce, and some cranberry sauce. Meatloaf and macaroni.

Lord, I know you’re going to take care of us. Just keep the hatred from my heart and take care of my babies.

It was just about dark when we got home and I thought a man was standing on the porch when I first pulled in. Of course, the first thing that went through my mind was, “What next?” I raced through everything trying to think if there were any other bills outstanding.

We got out and realized it was a Christmas tree. It was an odd little tree, but it was a tree. Not only was there a tree, but it had ornaments on it. There were some little gifts under the tree and on the porch were several bags of groceries. I think the kids were as excited about all the food as anything.

The lady at the flower shop had a tree left over from the ones she used to cut up for greenery. She also hung some ornaments on it and sent two boxes of lights. We lost most of our Christmas decorations when a storm took the top off our storage building, but I still had the little terra cotta cherubs that I had painted. I didn’t usually do tinsel, but there were boxes of tinsel and the boys had a ball hanging it just right. Of course, Cody’s just right and Brandon’s just right were just opposite. Cody threw the tinsel at the tree, the more the better. Brandon carefully hung each strand to make sure it was even.

We baked cookies that night and watched our beautiful little tree twinkling merrily at us.

I was still upset about not being able to buy gifts, but we would have a nice meal and the boys had their rodeo tickets.

I got a few more odd jobs before Christmas, so I went to Salvation Army and bought the newest pants I could find. They would have a few more gifts under the tree.

Christmas morning was here at last. I got breakfast ready and went out to feed animals before we opened packages.

Something was propped against the door when I opened it. Two round packages addressed to Brandon and Cody and both of them from Santa.

Santa was a cowboy and he knew the boys wanted bull ropes for Christmas.

I’ve always found that sometimes bad things happen, but people are inherently good. Miracles do happen and life is good.

Merry Christmas, y’all.


  1. Gabe, welcome.

    It really was a best and worst scenario. I still have to work on forgiveness for the man and it’s been a long time. It’s just hard when people hurt your kids.

    Merry Christmas and the very best to you and yours.


  2. Justus, it was a very hard time.

    Fortunately, we always survive and the kids were usually very accepting. I doubt they even realize how desperate times were.

    Merry Christmas, my friend. I do wish the very best for you.


  3. What a story. Except that you wouldn’t (er, would you?), you could easily turn this to a script for a one-act play or TV special…

    But the main thing as always isn’t the writing, but the beating heart behind it. Thanks for continuing to show us how to do it, Julie.

    And have a GREAT Christmas this year — emotional rollercoasters and complications and all!

  4. What a story. Except that you wouldn’t (er, would you?), you could easily turn this to a script for a one-act play or TV special…

    I don’t think my Cowboy Santa story would be of interest to anyone.

    Thank you for your warm wishes.

    I confess, I am a bit depressed about not going to Cody’s for Christmas, but life goes on.

    I think I’ll spend Christmas writing and listening to Celtic music.

  5. Julie,

    What a beautiful story – both the writing and the content. You know I admire you SO much, and now you’ve added another layer to my respect.

    Wishing you and all of your family a wonderful and blessed Christmas this year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *