Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Saving Christmas

"The way I see it, every time a man gets up in the morning he starts his life over. Sure, the bills are there to pay, and the job is there to do, but you don't have to stay in a pattern. You can always start over, saddle a fresh horse and take another trail." -- Louis L'Amour

For me, that's the part of life that I believe we should all be so thankful for. Each day is a brand new opportunity for us to change a bad situation for the better, a chance for us to rethink what we want, to reinvent ourselves, to break out of a rut, to knock off bad habits, to treat others as we ourselves want to be treated, to be who and what we want to be, to return to a time when faith and belief in God came natural. Yes indeed, as the famous writer Louis L'Amour said, "You can always start over, saddle a fresh horse, and take another trail."

So can we forge a new trail, or maybe take one that we hadn't been on in years? Years ago, I knew an old man who did just that.

He was a smart man, and actually a good hearted man despite his rough exterior and cynicisms. Though he had a good life with many tangible accomplishments like that of being married for 40 years, raising a family, working hard and making ends meet, he was always a little ashamed that his formal education was lacking simply because he choose to squander the one afforded to him by screwing around and not applying himself when he should have.

Because of that, he always saw himself as not being very educated even though he became a voracious reader of just about anything. But more than anything else, he sank himself into reading newspapers, any number of newspapers everyday. Because of this, he was up on current events, what's taking place around the world, politics, and who's running things these days. He didn't care for the reoccurring Hollywood scandals or their endless bed-hopping that seem to always make headlines. He hated reading about sports and its prima donna millionaires. But on the other hand, he loved reading about how the local high school football team did in the game on Friday night or how their new crop of young wrestlers were doing this year.

He liked knowing that kids were learning discipline as well as experiencing what it is to want. He felt that a lack of real want in our country stifled folks. He saw high school sports as a way to teach kids to want to achieve something even if they failed while doing so. His time in the Marine Corps taught him that champions are those who strife with a desire to win even when knowing that there may be the chance of failing.

While he couldn't find very many writers that held his attention, he liked Louis L'Amour Westerns and O. Henry short stories. He liked Westerns because he was brought up watching television Westerns as a kid. He liked those old series because they were uplifting instead of the sour grapes that Hollywood puts out today. He also liked those old Westerns because he identified with them. He was raised on a ranch and saw himself a Cowboy even though he had never worked as a day wage hand.

As for his love of short stories? He loved reading O. Henry's work, but he also enjoyed reading about Ghost Towns and their history, about the Old West, about the Great Depression, historical events, and the biographies of famous historic figures. He found himself reading about people who he'd never heard of, and because of that found the people really responsible for taming the West. He wasn't interested in reading every nuance of someone's life, but he did like finding out what he saw as the things that pointed to one's character. He found himself during more than one occasion looking for the things that serve as signs as to whether a historical figure was really a hero or in reality just a bum. 

When he first started reading about his childhood heroes, he was amazed at how many of them were not what he was led to belief. But then again, he thought he understood life. He believed that not all of what we learn as children stands the test of time into our adulthood. Of course, some say that he grew cynical over time after losing his wife to cancer and his children drifted away. Others says he simply lost faith over the years though a series of hardships. 

As far as he was concerned, he knew real well that as adults we need to see the world for what it really is. He believed that as adults we should be ready for hardship and pain and disappointment. And though that was the case, and indeed some of his childhood heroes bit the dust so to speak, there was that one day when Jim Nickles learned that there are some things from our childhood that are best kept alive and well. That was the day he decided to take another trail and get off the path he was on. That was the day he regained his faith in God.

It was Christmas Eve. And for him, it was a day no different than other days. After a long day of working around his place, he fed his horses and went in to shower and dress. He was retired and alone. He had a set schedule of things he did everyday and he had nowhere special to be that night. Too many great memories were bringing him down and he found himself growing bitter at the world for taking his wife. He was making his way to his truck to go to town when a pickup drove onto his property. A stranger got out and walked up and asked if he could speak to him?

Jim responded, "How can I help you?" 

"Well, I live right up the road from here about a mile or so," the stranger said. "My little girl's horse is in trouble and I just don't know what to do. My daughter has been sick fighting pneumonia and is recovering fine. But if something happens to her horse, it'll just crush her. I'm worried what losing her horse will do to her. I know your neighbor Bob and he said that I should talk to you." 

"Have you called a Vet?" he asked.  

"The Vet can't be reached. Her receptionist said she's on another call since yesterday where there's no phone reception. I don't know very much about horses, but I'm sure you do. I don't know you Mister Nickles, but I need to know if you can help me? I will pay you what you think is fair."

Jim Nickels had been a roper for years, a Heeler, and was in a few rodeos in his day. In his lifetime, he'd rode for friends working gatherings and brandings. He made himself available whenever he wasn't working his regular jobs as a truck driver. He hauled cattle, horses, freight, heavy equipment, dirt, machinery,  manure, and potatoes among other things. He didn't care what the job was. All that mattered was that it was honest money. A good day's work for a good day's pay. Right after retiring, tragedy struck when he lost his wife. To take his mind off his sorrow, he worked cattle for a few years all for no pay just to help close friends hold on to their ranch.

He knew horses because he grew up around them and had always owned them. But frankly, he didn't see himself as some sort of an expert. He saw people who claimed to be experts as being full of themselves. So all in all, while he was confident that he knew enough to doctor a horse in an emergency, he saw saving  horses from death as the thing that Vets did for a living.

Not knowing what he could do to help, he found himself saying, "I'll take a look at her horse for you. But friend, I can't promise anything," 

The stranger introduced himself as Don Fox. They left and a few minutes or so later they arrived at the old Bar D Ranch. Jim knew the people who owned the place before Don and his family moved in. He pulled up behind Don's truck and followed him into the barn. There in a birthing stall was a very distressed mare in foal.

Jim spoke low at almost a whisper and said, "You didn't say she was in foal. You didn't say this was the trouble."      

He knew that if the mare didn't deliver after 30 minutes of losing her water, or if  a second labor did not begin within three hours of the first stage, then it would be absolutely vital to examine both the mare and unborn foal to see what's wrong. That is, if he could. This is when a Veterinarian is needed. But since there wasn't a Vet, Don saw Jim there was being a Godsend. Jim wished the Vet was there.

A pregnant mare, a mare in foal, can have complications. Having someone there to know what to do when you need immediate help is important for the survival of both the mare and the foal. Don's mare was in trouble because of the unborn foal's presentation. That is, its position or posture within the pelvic canal. 

It's called "dystocia," which means "difficult birth." In horses, it's one of those conditions that no one can predict. Frankly, it just happens during the first stages of the birthing process. In this situation, Don's mare started giving birth but stopped and has been in all sorts of distress since. Unable to get a Vet, he found the Cowboy who he believed he needed to help him. 

If stage one of the birth process had gone on for too long say between 2 to 4 hours and one foot or no feet are showing, but nothing else is happening then there is a problem. If that happens rolling by a mare is normal as she tries to position the foal. 

There's three stages of birth. Stage one is when the foal properly aligns itself in the birth canal. That can take hours. Stage two is when the foal presents itself and is delivered. That can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. If stage three goes well, then a mare should pass the membranes. That takes about an hour. Dystocia can happen in either stage one or stage two.

Jim looked at the mare and realized that she couldn't birth her foal because of how it was positioned. He didn't know whether it was upside down, in a sitting position, head first, or what. He was hoping to find one foot or both feet presented which would have been very common if he were lucky. He knew a neck presentation would not be good. He knew that would be very bad as it often means the foal is already dead. 

"What do you think?" Don asked Jim. But Jim didn't answer. He was busy on the floor trying to examine the mare to see a foot. 

After a few minutes, Jim said, "If the foal is backwards, she could be dead. But, we should be able to save your mare."

Don looked down for a second and looked at Jim and asked, "Is there anything that we can do about the foal?"

Jim was silent again. He knew that the position of the unborn foal can be moved if the mare’s movements by her getting up and down and rolling helped to reposition the foal. If its a large foal that the mare cannot expel then all sorts of problems can take place. There are infection problems and of course the foal is probably dead or even deformed.

Jim could see that the mare was way beyond stage one and two, and the time for both. She was in obvious distress, and now Jim was not only concerned about delivering a new foal. He was concerned about saving the mare. 

For the longest time, Jim Nickels has felt that as adults we need to see the world for what it really is. That it is a cruel place. Certainly unlike the world of his childhood. Certainly not the time when he believed that prayers are answered. Yes, that the last time when his prayers weren't answered. That time when his wife was ill. From that, he felt prayers were for children and did stand the test of time into our adulthood.

"If we lose the foal, she'll be crushed." Don said. "But she'll be fine. She'll just have to learn that that's how life is." 

Jim looked at Don and now realized that the mare was not his daughter's horse. It was the foal. Don's daughter had already named the foal "Christmas" and she was waiting to treat it as her own. 

It was then that Jim Nickels saw that he needed to take a different trail. One that he had long dismissed as being unneeded. That was when he did something that he had not done since he himself was just a kid. He closed his eyes, and prayed with all of his heart. He asked God for this not to be what it is. He prayed and said that he was sorry for losing faith. He begged God to help someone else, to help Don's daughter, to do this for her foal. To save her Christmas.  

Sometimes doing the wrong thing like using to much force to pull a foal out may cause all sorts of irreparable damage to your mare. His hands were clean as he now reached inside the mare. He needed to reposition the foal inside the birth canal to allow normal birthing. That is, if he could.

Don watched as Jim Nickels, the Cowboy who he went to for help, gently assisted a leg to come forward. With that, and a steady tug, nature was about to take its course.

Jim was focused on the amount of force he was using. His eyes were closed as if trying to feel for a snag or a heartbeat or saying a prayer. He hoped and prayed the foal was not already dead. Don watched and then heard Jim Nickels mutter, "I believe. I believe."

Before they knew it, they watched as the foal slid out. But both saw that the foal was not breathing, and they too held their breath. Then just as Jim was about to grab the foal's mouth and blow his own air into its lungs, both men happily saw the newborn take its first full breath of life.

Don smiled. Jim nodded. Soon the foal slid over to join its mother. Don looked over at the stall door. His wife and daughter were standing there. He looked at their smiling faces and said, "This is Jim Nickels. He's a Cowboy. He's the reason for our Christmas miracle. He saved your horse."

Jim shook his head and said, "No. We can thank God for Christmas."


Tom Correa 


  1. Thank you for that Tom!

  2. Thank you,was having a rough day,most up lifting thank you. Tom I'm 70 years young,love your website.

  3. I have a funny story about Christmas that I would like to share with you. Now in the South, especially when it's Christmas, we always go out of our way to make a dessert. Usually it will be a cake or a pie or a cobbler. Well this story is a fine example of what happens when Christmas dessert goes wrong. This story is called "Hoyt And The Viagra Cake". Now Hoyt Abernathy had been hosting Christmas parties for 64 years in Kennesaw, Georgia since 1958. This man is 94 years old. His wife, Ruthie is older than him by eight years. She's 102. One day, Hoyt tells Ruthie, "Darlin', I want you to go to Kroger's and pick up what I wrote down on this list." Ruthie says, "Alright, honey, I'll get right to it." By this time, the guests had arrived. Rufus Bozeman and his wife, the Reverend Baker, Widow Brown, Jeb Smith, Otto Pierce the auto mechanic, Shep, and finally Luke Dozier and his wife. Ruthie is at Kroger's and she's buying all the things that are featured on Hoyt's Christmas list. She sees one thing on the list that isn't on there but she decides, "Hell, he ain't gonna know". She finds this box of Viagra and places the box inside the shopping cart. In the meantime, Hoyt is serving fruit punch, Jack Daniels, beer, whiskey, and some of Uncle Wilbur's homemade shine. Just then, Ruthie returns with the groceries and sure enough everything that Hoyt put on his list is there. One bag of flour. Two dozen eggs, One gallon of milk. Two liters of 7-Up. Two liters of Sprite. One gallon of tea. And a jar full of cherries. But then Hoyt sees the box of Viagra and thinks, "That must be a new kind of jellybean." So he tells Ruthie to bake the soda cake and Ruthie puts the ingredients together. Hours later, once it's done, Hoyt decides that he must try a piece of that homemade soda cake. All of a sudden, he starts to sweat and his you-know-what starts getting hard. (For sensitive ears, I'm talking about his manhood). Within ten minutes, Hoyt tells Ruthie, "These new jellybeans have got me sweating like a pig". Then Ruthie says, "Oh, damn, I forgot. That's Viagra!" Haha.


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