- People Helping Peopleby country ranch writer
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Helping Hand Given
People Helping People by country ranch writer
Christmas Story contest entry
Artwork by avmurray at

It was in the latest 1900's As we see the young boy Johnny walking barefoot and in clothes fit for the rag bag, he was not bothered by the cold as he was so excited as he carried his orange on his way to meet his cousin. A man in a tractor trailer truck stopped and picked him up. The man was astounded this child was barefoot and in clothes fit for the rag bag. The man asked if he'd like a ride so Johnny jumped at the chance. The man asked him where he was headed and he told him he was a going to visit his cousin a few miles down the road. the man asked him if he was from around there. Johnny went on to tell the man he was from the town Christmas usually forgot, Shanty Town. Shanty Town as it was called, was way back on the out skirts of town. It used to be a very large plantation at one time covering fifty thousand acres. Now it was used by the share croppers and their families. The property was all now owned by the bank President.He was the man who now held the deed to all property that fell on hard times and foreclosed on.
Taken a flyer out of his overal pocket he showed it to the truck driver showing him the invitation for folks to attend the giving out of Christmas doings,free food and stuff to make their dinners. After showing him the crumpled up paper he shoved it into his pocket and went on with his story. The truck driver asked how old he was.Johnny said he just turned ten this year. He asked Johnny if he wasn't cold walking without a jacket or shoes? for he was bare footed. Johnny said, mister you don't miss what you don't have. I was so excited to go share this orange with my cousin I really didn't pay attention to the cold.

So Johnny said, when the lady from social services came by their place to offer them help, mama told poppa," to swallow his pride for once in his life and accept". The flyer had shown warm clothes on the front so something was going to be gotten in the way of protecting them from the cold. He explained the rest of his story beginning with the county social services coming to their house.

The county lady after talking to mama and poppa she told poppa to come to town and get some Christmas for the family. The lady was very nice showing them the folder saying they were entitled to participate in the holiday program.

Johnny said, his poppa was seen hitching up the horses to the wagon. Poppa said, as he kissed mama goodbye."Ya'll don't get all worked up and excited because there might not be anything to what she said."
Johnny said, " you can imagine us getting all worked about about having our first real Christmas in years, he said they couldn't get their minds on anything else."

"We all couldn't help watching the gate for their poppas return," Johnny said.

Christmas in their town has been slim to none these past years, there was no work to be had for anyone. As a share cropper Johnny's dad and other folks were living from hand to mouth.

What used to be lush farms were now nothing but dust bowls brought on by droughts, and there was no money to reseed the fields this year. Water was desperately needed for the stock and horses. Winter was coming fast. where were they all going to get the feed for the winter? What little food they could grow was just enough to see them get by.

Mama said,"Now ya'll quit a looking up the lane because they may not be nothing."

Long into the middle of the afternoon Johnny heard the mule come up the road at a steady trot. Poppa yelled, " Merry Christmas!"

Johnny said they swarmed all over the wagon like a bunch of vultures. Crawling all over looking at the wonderful things their poppa brought home!

We kinda held our breathe and couldn't belive our good luck in getting so much. You could see the apples, oranges, tangerines, nuts of all kinds, flour and holiday trimmings and two big beautiful chickens for Christmas dinner! There was also candy of all sorts for the children.
We were chattering away like a buch of magpies asking mama one question after another about what they had received. She was smiling, Johnny said,"He hasn't seen his momma smile like that in a very long time."

It was then we heard Poppa call out to our neighbor from across the way,"Merry Christmas Mr Butler,"
"Hey! Did you get to go to town to get the Christmas food yet?" Poppa asked.

No sir,Mr.Butler said,"I thought it was for white folks only, since no one invited us to go to town."

Well poppa looked at mama and she nodded to him to tell Mr. Butler what he had already decided to do.
"Well, why I was in town Santa asked me if I knew you folks. I told him I did and he asked me to do him a big favor and bring you your share of Christmas doings to you and your family. I told him since I was coming this way I'd be pleased as punch to do so."

He went on to tell Mr. Butler that Santa hadn't seen him around and said to tell him you have not been forgotten. Mr.Butler smiled as he wiped the tears from his eyes. It's the children I worry about he said, "People think because we are black we are all bad people."
Well until the world can come to the belief that all people are created equal we will have to take issues one day at a time poppa told Mr. Butler. Even I'd it takes a life time, time heals all wounds big and small even narrow minded people.
After discussing the world and its problems they went onto talk about other things. Pops said," I'll tell you what you do. Gather up your family and come to our place for the holiday. It is going to be Christmas all day long."
Mama called out to Mr. Butler to say, "You tell your wife to bring her cooking pots and pans. Down here there is a heap of cooking to be done." This will be a feast no one will soon forget.

"If you have someone you want to bring the more the merrier!" After unloading the wagon Mr. Butler said he'd go home and tell the women folk and children and they would be there early Christmas morning to get things to cooking.

Later that evening when the kids had all gone to bed mama and poppa went out to the porch swing to talk and relax. Poppa was the first to speak taking mama into his arms kissing her for being such a wonderful person! It was a nice thing you did for Mr. Butler poppa said. Momma said, I believe neighbors should help neighbors, times are tough. It doesn't matter whether they are black or white they are in people in need and we should reach out to help them.

Johnny told his dad," This is going to be the wounderfulest Christmas I ever had in my life!"
Mr.Butler shot a turkey and added it to the holiday feast. He said it was just pure luck the turkey decided to cross his property. Delicious smells came from Johnny's mamas kitchen as cooking got under way.

The cookies and cakes and pies smelt so yummy! We promised to be good so we were allowed some of the extra cookies (made especially for curious kids). Mamma and Mrs Butler exchanged recipes as the cooking progressed. These were favorites handed down through centuries of holiday cooking.
There were brown and white breads, Brussels sprouts with chest nuts, turnip greens and collards, baked sweet potatoes, Apples, beans, peas. Pies of all discriptions were on the cooling rack.
Turkey, chickens and duck were all stuffed and in the oven soon to be done to a turn.
Poppa and Mr. Butler were out side working on something secret in the barn. They said they would show us after dinner if we stayed away and didn't get in the way.

Soon tables were set up, getting ready for dinner with holiday table cloth so (0ld sheets painted like turkeys and pine cones, painted by us kids Johnny proudly said) it was beautiful his mama said.
It was a beautiful afternoon and dinner was served out side under the coolness of the trees, sweet tea and koolaid were the drinks of the day.

The whole day was perfect especially for all us kids Johnny said. They had so much fun playing with Mr Butlers children. They became fast friends, each learning new things about each other. It was like having a big family Johnny said all getting along. It didn't matter they were black and white it never entered their minds!
After the dinner came the surprise Johnny's poppa and Mr. Butler took us all out to the barn there was the manger set up and in perfect condition. They each grabbed a piec and put it out front to be seen by passerby's. Johnny pointed to the night sky and the was the star of Bethlem tonight over their manger. A good sign for things to come. They were lucky the snow held off long enough for the rains to come to help soak the ground and fill the rivers will the well needed water. With having a mild winter the little Shanty Town was well on its way to a great recovery.
This was the first year planting season was on the up grade and the bank lent the share croppers the money for the new seed, it was a win, win situation for all the people of Shanty Town. Everyone banned together and worked shoulder to shoulder and in the end it was the biggest payoff they had in years. Things were looking up and the town was renamed by the Mayor. They renamed the town New Beginnings.
Through all this everyone learned people are people and it takes a town to gather as one to create a new beginning. As Johnny grew up he never ever forgot this Christmas as it was special to everyone. Johnny went onto college and studied agriculture! Learning everything he could on growing great crops and getting a great yield from his plantings.
Each year there was something new to be learned and he made it his priority to learn everything he could. His folks were real proud of him and Mr. Butler was real proud of his oldest som Mitchell who went into the Agriculture business with Johnny.
When their folks retired they never had to ever again wonder where their next meal was coming from.The boys made sure of that. Holidays were all spent together and they all remained friends through out their lives. Their children's children carried out the family's legacy. It just goes to show people Johnny said "If you set your mind to something you can do it. Who knew two families could make a difference in the world."
"The first Christmas we all came to be together was the wonderfuleat Christmas ever,"Johnny said.
It was hard raising kids back in those times Johnny said.and how our parents wrangled eight kids between the who knew they would all grow up to be honest caring adults. Johnnys sister and brothers went into the medical field, Mitchell's brothers became lawyers and one became a Senator. Not too shabby coming from Shanty Town!


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