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On this Christmas Eve, I wanted to share a post that related to this magical time of the year. One of the things that popped into my mind was a poem that I wrote while living in Colorado. At the time––and due to the influence of a western entertainer, Montana cowboy, and a great friend of mine––many of my rhymes reflected a western theme. In December 2009, I overheard Lionel Barrymore’s reading of Clement Clarke Moore’s, A Visit from St. Nicholas /The Night Before Christmas. Inspiration immediately struck for a western slant on that classic verse. The product of that inspiration is The Eve Before Christmas. In December 2010, this piece was selected as Cowboys & Indians magazine’s online Poem of the Week. Enjoy, and thanks for dropping by. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

P.S. Yep, that’s my Stetson in the photo — GRM

The Eve Before Christmas

T’was the eve before Christmas, way out on the range

The clouds thick and gnarly, the weather kinda strange

The livestock was restless, cows bawlin’ and mooin’

Them critters sensed it too, a storm was a brewin’

The campfire was blazin’, the coals glowed red-hot

Black coffee was bubblin’ in a big metal pot

Cowboys spread woolen blankets on tarps on the snow

While some gathered firewood, every stick high and low

Our horses were hobbled, tied close to the camp

When a gust from the north blew down cold and damp

My pards and I round the campfire were ringin’

When Barney McPhee got us all to start singin’

Silent Night was the song we sang there that night

Way out on the prairie—let our voices unite

’Til surly Ol’ Cookie saw a light in the sky

Breakin’ through angry clouds, just a gleamin’ on high

The brilliance from above thawed the wind’s bitin’ chill

The sounds on the prairie became suddenly still

Ol’ Gus jerked his hat from his head to his chest

Another pard did likewise, then all of the rest

Held our hats o’er our hearts in a reverent bow

As the heavenly flare even silenced the cows

That moment in time made my spine kinda tingle

When out of the silence, I heard a faint jingle

I scanned the horizon for sight of the noise

When I heard a loud holler from one of the boys

“Will ya look at that there, a sleigh yonder comin’

An eight-up team pullin’ that’s really a hummin’”

Great clods of snow, from the horses’ hooves flew

With a white powder wreath loopin’ ’round the sleigh too

The bearded plump driver wore a red Stetson hat

With an ermine-trimmed brim, if you can picture that

His whip cracked the air, with a loud WHOOSH-SNAP-POP!

Then horses, sleigh, and jingle bells slid to a stop

On the far side of camp, some cowpokes now huddled

The man’s hat, suit, and rig had us all quite befuddled

From countin’ the sunsets, they knew t’was Christmas Eve

But the white-bearded fat man was hard to conceive

’Til he stepped from his sled, and laughed “HO-HO-HO!

You cowboys got coffee, ’cause it’s cold out, you know.”

Gus reached for the pot and then filled him a cup

I grabbed a plate and fork, and together we supped

His horses drew water from the crust on the land

While Ol’ Slim fed ’em hay from right out of his hand

Then we gathered ’round the fire, swapped stories and grins

’Til most of us cowpokes thought it time to turn in

When offered a bedroll, so he could stay the night

The old man refused, said he bore a special plight

But we gave him the blanket, as he ventured forth

To ward off bitter cold, sweepin’ down from the north

Back aboard the sleigh, he snapped the whip—CRACK!

The horses lurched forward, as we cowhands stepped back

Crowned with frosty powder, the rig sped ’cross the snow

Thunderin’ hooves pulled, with the old guy in tow

But I heard the ol’ man holler, now fadin’ from view

“Merry Christmas to all, and to you cowboys too!”

Moon and stars shown bright, as the sky slowly cleared

Cowpokes crawled into bedrolls, with nary a fear

But early next mornin’, I awoke with surprise

My brain a bit foggy, still a blur in my eyes

Had the night before Christmas been all that it seemed

Or had I drawn from my youth? Was it only a dream?

I yawned and blinked twice, and then scanned through the camp

Saw a huge stack of firewood, no stick of it damp

There were oats for the horses, hay spread for the cows

Gus donned a new Stetson, fittin’ snug on his brow

Wool blankets for each cowpoke, new chaps for Ol’ Slim

New pots for Ol’ Cookie, and a lariat for Tim

A bright yellow slicker for Ol’ Barney McPhee

At the foot of my bedroll, lay new spurs for me

I was ’bout to stand up, when I spotted the note

A piece of white paper, pinned there on my coat

The message was simple, from an old man who cared

You cowboys live sparse, yet you willingly shared

You ask little from life, and then take even less

Unlike too many folks, who seek only excess

So accept these few gifts, for good deeds and good cheer

Then keep true to yourselves, and I’ll see you next year

Thinkin’ back through my life, to when I was a sprite

To decorated trees and to Christmas Eve nights

I remembered no matter how lean times could be

There was always a gift ’neath those pine boughs for me

Spurs shinin’ in hand, I recalled this past Eve

Which coaxed a broad smile, Guess I’ll always believe

Then I brushed from my cheek, a warm grateful tear

 And promised the old man, “Yep, we’ll be ‘round next year.”

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