For the last two nights I have been working on an entry about my memories of the Christmases of my childhood. Within that soon to be posted essay, was a mention of a book I loved to read at Christmas. It was called Treasury of Christmas Stories published by Scholastic Books. The printing I have is from 1965 and I bought it through my grammar school of St. Denis. I remember periodically our nun would pass out a thin catalog of the book offerings from Scholastic, and we could buy whatever books interested us. Of course most of the books I bought had to do with either a dog or a horse. I am somewhat surprised that I even ordered this book of Christmas stories and poems. Luckily for me the very first entry was a poem about a girl and her horse. I searched unsuccessfully on the internet for a copy of this poem so I could link to it, but I could not find it. So, I had to sit down and type it and I typed it as it was in the book in order to stay true to the cadence. If I had shortened it up, it would not have read as well.
I have a new printer, scanner, copier and if I had some time I could have figured out how to copy and reproduce this since the little sketchings on the pages add humor and charm to the poem.
Other Scholastic offerings in 1965 were:
Born to Race by Blanche Perrin
Brighty of Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry
El Blanco - The Legend of the White Stallion by Rutherford Montgomery
Skip by Aileer Fisher (Skip was a dog of course)
The Children Who Stayed Alone (Sod House Adventure) by Bonnie Bess Worline
Ironically this book is about humans and was my favorite - aside from the Christmas stories.
SECRET IN THE BARN
By Anne Wood
It’s nearly Christmas – it’s Christmas Eve!
And it’s snowing all over the place,
The roof of the barn is sugary white –
Its eaves are lined with lace. Our cornfield looks like a polar bear rug –
The silos wear marshmallow hats,
The kittens are into snow to their chins
And the cows all sport white spats.
Dad cut a pine –
From our own backwoods –
Where it stood all heavy with snow,
And we’ve decked it with lights
And tinsel trim
Till you can’t see the tree for the glow!
My mom’s in the kitchen,
She’s baking mince pies
And gingerbread boys
With raisins for eyes.
And Grandma’s in charge
Like hanging the stockings, and
Mending mittens, and
Scolding my brothers for
Stealing raisins, and
Feeding the kitten, and
Snowflake bright –
Who’ll grant us
My brother Ben wants a collie pup;
Bill hopes for a three-geared bike –
Jim dreams of a lo-ong electric train
and tunnels and bridges
for hills and ditches –
A train that’ll run
without any hitches
at any speed you like.
I’m Louise –
And a girl, or course.
I’m hardest to please
‘Cause I’ve begged
On my knees
-for a horse…
Snowflake bright, snowflake white –
First snowflake I ask tonight –
I beg with all y main and might –
Give me the wish I wish tonight!
Last night I was thinking of…well…of horses
And, oh, it was hard to sleep!
“Louise, my child,” said Grandma at last,
“Have you tried counting sheep?”
So – I tried and tried to imagine sheep
But what did I see instead?
Horses!! – Black, brown, chestnut, bay,
Palomino, pint, roan and gray,
Strawberry sorrels with manes of red,
Galloping, galloping past my bed!
“Still no luck?” said Mom.
“Then I’ll teach you a game.
You know, everyone’s Christmas
Isn’t the same.
If we think of people whose Christmas must be
Different from Christmas in our family –
And you think of a few
and I think of a few
you’ll feel pretty sleepy
before we are through!”
“My turn?” I asked. “Well, the boys and I
Spend every Christmas here,
But an Army Captain’s children
Have to move most every year.
They’ve Christmas first in Oregon –
And next in North Dakota,
Or Iowa or Idaho,
Or Maine and Minnesota…
And Mom, think of the astronauts
Whose children know that soon
Their fathers may be celebrating
Christmas on the moon!”
Said Mom, “When the Cannonball Special goes by
To the city and back again,
I like to think of the engineer
At the throttle of that train.
Does a sprig of mistletoe hang in his cab
As he roars down the rails like a rocket?
Is a note saying ‘Wish you were with us, Dad!’
Tucked in his work-shirt pocket?
“And think, Louise, of your Uncle,” she mused,
“Who works on the telephone truck!
Why, every blessed Christmas day
It seems to be his luck
To be perched like a jay on a telephone pole
Making a line repair,
So folks can phone to faraway friends
And say, ‘How’s your Christmas there?”
…I was getting pretty sleepy now,
But I tried to keep on with the game….
“It’s Christmas at all the hospitals,
But the nurses work, just the same….
They put holly bouquets
on the dinner trays,
turkey to eat,
Snowflake, snowflake, snowflake white –
Making magic in the night –
I hope it’s so – I hope I’m right –
I hope my wish comes true tonight!
All day I’ve been told “You’re imagining things!
Calm down! It’s not what it seems!”
But I can’t help believing, from clues all around,
That the barn hides the steed of my dreams!
I am certain, for instance, a horse passed our yard
In the darkness a few nights ago.
Who’d ever mistake the thumpety thump
Of the hoofs of a horse in the snow?
When I heard it, I ran like a deer to the door –
But Mom suddenly started to scold me!
“Shut the door, silly girl!” (That’s not like her at all!)
And the very next morning Dad told me:
“The barn has been made out of bounds now, Louise,
For you and the boys – and I mean it.”
Since then we can hear there is something alive
In the barn – though no one has seen it.
Of course, Ben believes it’s a dog, and it’s true
Dad said he could have one some day.
But let me ask this: Would a collie munch oats?
Would he whinny? Or stamp? Or need hay?
Bill thinks they are putting together his bike
With its gears and its searchlight and bell.
(Hush! Did you hear it? I did! A horse sneezed.
Well it did – I can certainly tell!)
“Goodness gracious! What airs!
But a horse! I must say – we are not
(But she knows – I can tell by the smile that
And why do my brothers all grin when I peek
At the package that’s under the tree?
It’s a package that’s HUGE and lumpy and odd
And it seems to be marked for me.
(Jim says it isn’t – he says it’s the box,
From the model-train company,
just crammed with –
miles of tracks
and a modern station,
tank cars, gondolas
in perfect detail,
twin signal towers
with remote-control powers
and a thing that blows back
real smoke from the stack….)
Well, I really don’t care to argue, but as sure as you were born
The bump on the package is just the shape of a Western saddle horn.
The night has descended
On all of our world
Will soon be ended….
I’m shutting my eyes up tight!
And I’m wishing with all my might!
Let Bill have his bicycle
Ben have his collie,
And astronauts find
Their moon decked in holly –
Let the engineer’ Christmas
Be jolly as Jim’s –
As he roars down the track
May he hum Christmas hymns!
Let my Grandma feel young
And let nobody dare
Ask my Uncle tomorrow
To make a repair.
To the nurses, I hope
Many patients will say,
“I am feeling so well –
Let me help you today!”
May the Army Post children
Rejoice in each home,
And their Christmas be merry
Wherever they roam.
A big hug-and-squeeze
I would give Mom and Dad
To remind them I’m theirs
And to show that I’m glad.
And last but not least,
If a wish works at all –
O beautiful snowflake
As softly you fall –
Keep my horse warm and safe for me
Out in his stall.