A Christmas Corral

Eight inches of snow fell on Roswell, New Mexico two days before Christmas. Christmas Eve morning the clouds had moved off to the east as Bobby Cratchit sat down at the kitchen table with his first cup of coffee of the day and a copy of the newspaper. It was going to be a lonely Christmas Eve and a lonely Christmas Day. Eileen, his wife of 49-years, had died two years earlier. They didn’t have children, and what few relatives they’d had between them were gone.

Across town, Euben Scrood did not know that he was the great, great, (however many) great grandson of Ebenezer Scrooge. For one thing, he was too cheap to have his DNA tested on ancestry.com. But people in Roswell could have guessed it. Euben was a stingy, greedy man! By Christmas Eve that year he had cornered the Chavez County Christmas tree market, doubling prices from the previous year and putting local vendors out of business. The only trees available were on a vacant lot west of town that he didn’t even have to pay rent on. He’d built a fence and called it the Christmas Tree Corral.

Hope Ternall, a widow who had gone to school with Bobby Cratchit years ago, took her six-year old grandson Timmy with her to Scrood’s lot Christmas Eve morning. Having searched unsuccessfully for a Christmas tree lot, she was delighted to hear on the radio that there were Christmas trees for sale on a lot west of town. Her joy was even greater when she found out that Euben also had a one-horse open sleigh, one like her grandparents had owned back in Minnesota. For $20, one of Euben’s underpaid employees would give her and her grandson a ride around the Christmas Tree Corral.

Hope didn’t need anyone to drive her. She was perfectly capable of handling the horse herself. In fact, she and Timmy had successfully circled the inside of the open corral twice when a pack of dogs appeared and spooked the horse. Euben and his employees immediately began doing all they could to chase off the dogs – screaming at them, throwing snowballs, phoning Animal Control  – but the horse knew that it was in danger of being attacked. It ran out of the lot headed north on a snow-packed dirt road.

Bobby Cratchit had never snowmobiled in Roswell. He and his wife had always gone to Angel Fire or Colorado. But given the 8” of snow, he thought he’d give it a try. He was coming from the south on the snow-packed dirt road when he saw the one-horse open sleigh careen out of the Christmas tree lot a hundred yards ahead of him, the female driver flailing her arms and screaming, although he couldn’t hear her over his motor. Behind the sled was a pack of dogs giving chase, and behind them were three men giving very little chase as they slogged through the snow.

Bobby formulated a plan as he sped along. An adventurous sort, back when he was a kid he had wanted to be the guy in the cowboy movies who rescued the young lady in the runaway buckboard. He would ride his horse alongside her rig, speed up and then leap onto the back of the runaway horse, bringing the buckboard to a halt.

Using the same principle as in the movies, he maneuvered his snowmobile alongside the horse and prepared to leap on its back. But there were two problems. One, it had been at least forty years since he’d done any leaping. And two, the situation was unlike leaping from the back of one horse to another. Bobby was closer to the ground on his snowmobile. The back of the runaway horse was as high as his head.

Unable to leap on the back of the runaway horse, Bobby did the next best thing. He tumbled into the sleigh in the hopes that he could grab the reins and bring the horse to a halt. What he had not fully considered was that the sleigh was not only open on top, but open on both sides, nothing to stop his momentum as he somersaulted past Hope’s and Timmy’s legs and out the other side of the sleigh, entangled in a red, white, and green Christmas blanket.

He regained consciousness as paramedics were loading him into an ambulance. “What Happened?” he asked. “Is the lady alright? What about the horse?”

A policeman answered, “The woman and the kid and the horse are okay.” He could say that because even though the horse might have eventually run off the road and the sleigh overturned on the uneven terrain, the throttle of the snowmobile got stuck when Bobby tumbled into the sleigh. The snowmobile sped ahead for a brief while and then assumed a path directly in front of the horse, where the exhaust soon caused the horse to become nauseous and stop. Also, the dogs had stopped chasing it.

At the hospital, Euben Scrood found out that Bobby had a slight concussion, broken ribs, cuts, contusions, and a broken ankle. Also, that Hope had wrenched an arm and Timmy sustained a bump to his head. Immediately, he was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Future. The two of them held up a large neon sign that said, “LAWSUIT!” Their pronouncement was based upon Euben’s experience with the Ghost of Christmas Past.

And so it was that a lavish Christmas dinner was held in Bobby Cratchit’s hospital room. Hope was there, as was Timmy and his parents. The food, the tree, and the generous gift certificates beneath the tree were all provided by Euben, who let it be known that he was also going to pay all the doctor bills.

It was a wonderful Christmas celebration! Bobby wasn’t lonely. He and Hope reminisced about the good old days growing up in Roswell. Timmy’s team won the televised football game, and his parents chilled out for once, given that they didn’t have the stress of hosting Christmas dinner at their house. It was such a great time that Timmy asked his dad in the car on the way home, “Why doesn’t Grandma Hope marry Mister Cratchit. He’s a nice man and she wouldn’t be so lonesome.”

Of course, not everyone formed such a great Christmas memory. Euben Scrood worried all day that, in spite of his unaccustomed generosity, Bobby or Hope or Timmy’s parents were going to file a law suit. Also, most Roswellians figured out why there were no other Christmas trees for sale and didn’t drive out to his lot. Others didn’t even know he was there. On December 26, he beheld of the saddest sights he’d ever seen, a corral full of Christmas trees.