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HIS ROPE’S END

McGinty always found a way to keep his wits about him. An analytical mind was not something with which this cow poke had been blessed, and yet things worked out for him.

He was chosen ranch foreman because he had been at this for a long time. Add to that the fact that he could lasso better than anyone “the Boss” had seen, Mac was a shoe-in for the position.

Driving this beef had been arduous lately. The terrain seemed rougher and rougher, the cattle having grazed the old paths clean. There was space in the high country that was relatively untouched. McGinty thought if he could take them through Cherub’s Pass, he’d kill two birds with one stone.

The incline was rather gradual, so the strain wasn’t overtly terrible. But the ledge of the Pass seemed to narrow as they went further up. Mac thought of scrapping the idea, but he had too much time invested in it, plus he didn’t need some ambitious hand taking him down. On they went.

Near the rear of the pack, McGinty heard a rather raucous noise; his animals were in distress. One of them anyway, but the rest of the herd sounded the alert. A young calf, had strayed behind and had gotten too near the edge of the ravine. It was a minor drop, but it still had separated it from the rest of the herd.

McGinty secured his rope around a stump and then around his waist. The other hands lowered him to the calf. As he worked to calm the animal he felt something hit his back. It was the other end of his lasso. He needn’t worry about an ambitious hand; an unscrupulous one was just as dangerous.

“You babysit, Foreman! I’ll take ’em from here!’ shouted the villainous varmint.

He had been duped. And there McGinty sat, stroking the calf and trying to think his way out of trouble. Surely he had come to the end of his rope

HOME SOON

A sleigh pulled by two strange horses and an old driver came alongside the dead snow tracker.

It was a strange twist of fate. All of his luggage made it home fine. But somehow, Andrew Worton never did. How the hell he ended up in the Yukon was beyond any stretch of imagining. Clad in a short sleeved Polo shirt and light khakis, Andrew looked out of place.

And here it was, a week before Thanksgiving and no means of getting out of there until Tuesday. He had resigned himself to missing the dinner. He would not get to sample his mother’s pie. Her health wasn’t what it used to be and his sister was lousy with Mom’s recipes.

Dad was another story. The picture of health and vitality. Golfed twice a week. Swam at the “Y”. Walked the treadmill with great regularity.
Working his way to better health. But something went off course. He had worked himself into a massive heart attack. Andrew wished there was another way.

Stewart Crossing sat mid-province and had been isolated just after Andrew’s flight had landed in Canada. Snows and wind whipping and the cold was stinging Worton’s bare arms. The constable at the landing strip had found Andrew something more suitable, which was a blessing, he thought.

“Don’t think you’ll make the States by  week’s end”, the officer informed, making Andrew more anxious to head on out. “If we can get you to Whitehorse, you can catch a flight there, but getting south looks treacherous.

Frustration had settled in and Andrew did a foolish thing. Bound and determined to get home com hell or high water, he rented some skis and headed southward.

He was making good time, considering, but his legs were tired and sore, and stray caribou mocked him with their trumpeting and snorting. In a clearing was a small village, a new destination.

Nothing spectacular. Some residences, a general store, a postal facility and a snowmobile dealership. Great luck for Andy!

The proprietor felt for the young man and traded an older machine and some gasoline for the cross country skis and the promise to pay him when he got back home. Andrew couldn’t say no.

The further south he went, it seemed the snows followed him. He ran adrift a couple of times. And ran out of gas near Champagne, slightly off course. He sat in the rigging despondent and sure he’d never see his family before he met his end.

Something in the distance. A ping? A tingle? A jingle! Louder and stronger it came. A sleigh pulled by two strange horses and an old driver came alongside the dead snowtracker.

“Ho-ho” the old man said. “Looks like you should’ve stayed put now, doesn’t it.”

Andrew was in no mood, but did agree. The man offered transportation. Andrew accepted and climbed in beside the gentle soul.

“Get on, Musher! Get on, Mudder!” he yelled.

His beasts sprung into a gallop and leaped over a fence rail. The rig rose skyward gaining altitude and Andrew held tightly to the side rail.

“Breaking in the new “guys”” the old man smiled. “A little over a month and I may need backup”.

Andrew stared at the driver and finally realized he had seen him before. The old man glanced a wink at Andrew.

“You know, they’re not going to believe you!” smiling so lively and quick.

“Just get me home, Nick. I’ll worry about that when I get a drumstick in my hand!”

HEADING TO GREENVILLE

“every shade of crimson and orange and umber filled her with wonder”

The trip had been planned for months, there was no turning back now. Even though the Weather Service has been predicting tornadoes throughout the Midwest, Hank and Emily were finally getting the opportunity to get away from things for a while. The farm had been left in capable hands, and this would be the honeymoon that they had never taken. Forty-three years in the making, there was no turning back now.

Emily loved to travel, always wanting to go where the four winds would take her. She wanted to be “a bluebird”; just sprout wings and fly. Across the plain, above the river; under bridges and over rainbows, she was finally getting the chance. Emily rationalized that this certainly wasn’t flying – Henry didn’t drive as fast as he used to.

The colors always intrigued Emily. The vibrancy of each tint and hue made life at home feel very monochromatic. It paled in comparison. But every shade of crimson and orange and umber filled her with wonder for One who could so create such beauty. She declared He was a wizard when it came to foliage! Henry smiled and drove on.

A few miles down the road, the skies started to take on an ominous cloak of darkness, muting the magnificent colorings. Henry followed the road, having a hard time keeping the car on the pavement on occasion. The pall of the storm gave a strange amber accent to the asphalt. Henry hadn’t noticed over Emily’s screaming.

The tail of a twister just seemed to lift out of the ground, sweeping across the road and levitating their automobile into the eye of the swirling behemoth. Emily’s screech was a continuous din now. Henry gripped the steering wheel tightly; his knuckles were ashy white. And then, just as suddenly, the storm released the vehicle and it spun to earth with a muted thud.

The road looked different, certainly not the route that Henry’s GPS had calculated. The car sat crosswise in the hub of an intersection of country roads bordered by cornfields. Henry rolled down his window and asked directions of a farmhand who stood in one of the fields waving away the crows from the lofty stalks.

The couple thanked the man and continued on their adventure. They were unaware of the little girl dressed in bloody gingham and her crushed dog who lay in the road where their car had landed!

CARIBOU CORNERS

“I have been handed the mantle of this day from sons of Christmas…”
Photo: SantaRob

Caribou Corners.
A lifeless tundra as some might see it.
Barren and cold. Hundreds of years old
and aging fast. Every last woman and man
born as raised in this place will defend her beauty
as their undying duty to God and this gentle land.
Coming into the light of a bright Aurora Borealis night.

We get busy around here once Labor Day comes around. And I know, it doesn’t help getting everything done in one night and sitting with my feet elevated until the Autumnal Equinox. It isn’t all that great for my waistline, but hey, it’s a part of my charm, although my back hurts. But I can’t worry about that now. There’s much to do between now and the Solstice. That’s when it’s “Showtime”!

The scene is astounding as the snow is mounding,
providing a hiding place for every small face playing;
the little ones, gloved hands and half frozen cheeks,
peek around the corner, pulling back just in time.
All work and no play makes for a dull day, or so they say.
But their work IS child’s play! Fun and games, by any name,
will bring as much joy as any hand-made toy.

Out of my big picture window, I see the glow reflecting off of the new fallen snow. It adds to the mood and that’s good. It’s hard to gear up for the best day of the year when the skies are clear and sunny. It’s funny, for a warm and fuzzy guy, I’m not a big fan of the warm and sunny. Heh, go figure! The diminutive ones are catching a good game of snowball. There is no fight up here. It’s just a game of back and forth. So what if once in a while you take one in the “moosh”! They’re having fun for now, but later today we will get serious (but, not too) and put our work on the front burner.

The breezes freeze the lake, preserving its serenity,
offering certain sanity in its perfection. From any direction
you can hear the sounds of icicles forming, their chime
performing a symphony in harmony with all of nature.
And those of small stature add their voices, soft lyrics
of an unknown, but haunting melody lifting in song,
as a throng of caribou comes closer to add their flair proudly.

Oh, it appears that the games have ceased. It sounds so peaceful out there. I can see handshakes and embraces, happy faces and traces of a wistful  nature. I think they know the time for play is over until the “Big Day”. I love this part, where they gather near the frozen pylon holding hands and singing their songs. Beautiful renditions of all the Missus’ favorites. I love all of these carols as well. Ha ha, look over that ridge! The reindeer are coming home to begin their preparations as well. It’s a swell time to be alive and I am glad for the reminder that this season is more than just shopping battles and commercialism. Peace and goodwill should be a daily ritual. But, I’ll keep working toward that end.

“WoooHoooooooooo!” the lumbering trumpets blare loudly.
“WoooHoooooooooo!” the response from behind the stables.
The call drips with familiarity, which is a rarity for these parts.
Hearts torn apart; old friends, lost loves, familial ties that bind
not unlike the leather strapping that harnesses their power.
From my chair nestled near the hearth of comfort and longing,
I smile inwardly. Warming me. A knowing nod and smile.

The beasts have join in the song. Loud and powerful, their wail tells the tale. It’s time to begin. Much like the factory whistles, it calls all present to be accounted and the small groups are mounted on the reindeer backs to carry the elves back to the Grand Hall for our meeting and “Get Re-Acquainted Soiree”. The first of many for the season. As I’ve said, “all work and no play…” It keeps the spirit fresh and the morale never sullies. It is so warm near the fireplace, I had better get moving before I start to nod off. I hear Mama in the kitchen clattering her pots and pans; her not so subtle reminder that the time has come.

The while I spend in unending service
for the nervous and the innocent,
is quite reminiscent of the hours spent at my father’s knee.
The fountain of knowledge and truth was he: mentor and teacher,
a preacher of the spirit that has run through my ancestry
like a common thread woven into the fabric of my life
and all the lives it has come to influence!

I get quite reflective and slightly melancholy at these moments. I recall many people who have gone on to the “Big Workshop in the Sky”. So many people who had carried the spirit of Christmas with them three-hundred sixty-five days of the year. And whether they were from Calcutta, India or Buffalo, New York or Liverpool, England, they all perpetuated the spirit and made my job so much easier to perform. I have been handed the mantle of this day from the sons of Christmas wiser than I. I’ve done the best I could and hope I’ve made them all proud.

For in the confluence of this charming hamlet, the gamut is run.
Charity is the everlasting gift. Given in a spirit based in pure love;
given from Him above. It beats within each of us; a joyous thrill.
When everything is still, you can smell the peace and goodwill.
The evening saunters homeward, the little ones retire,
burning with desire of this their hallowed homeland, Caribou Corners –
a pleasant little knoll. You know it best as the North Pole!

This place puts the biggest smile on my face. It is home and I am surrounded by my “family”. Every last person in this charming villa has become a part of me and my appointed task – that of making Christmas the best of times in this sometimes insane world. Unadulterated by the trappings of avarice and greed, each having what they need to live a happy life. Just like me and my wife, we are happy to call Caribou Corners…er, The North Pole our home. And do me this favor. Keep the spirit alive in your heart for all your lives. It is the fuel of this joy. And also remember. I’m watching!

I am Santa Claus!

THE WIZARD DEPARTS

At the QuickChek Festival of Ballooning/Photo credit RJ Clarken

These were my people; this was my place.

To leave in disgrace was not in my plans. Coming from a distant land to this colorful bit of wonder was a blessing AND a curse. And what’s worse, I really, REALLY liked it there.

The girl. I feel sorry for the girl. She wanted to go home in the worst way. Trusting that mission to me would have surely gotten her there in such a manner. It was good her dog had gotten away from her.

But, she’s in capable hands. The Scarecrow, he has a good head on his shoulders and the Tinman’s heart is in the right place. That Lion is still a pussycat at times but I wouldn’t want to get his fur in an uproar!

The question remains, where to go now? I’m airborne and I STILL have no idea how to navigate this contraption. The words of my father ring strongly in my ear:

“Son, cast your fate to the wind”, he once inspired.

That mantra had brought me here. It wasn’t a bad thing at all. Maybe I can resurrect my wonderful career or maybe, I’ll just retire and enjoy the world… er, worlds as I find them.

It didn’t take a wizard to figure that out!

DECEMBER 22, 2012

Amazing Images

The Dark Rift they called it. We all waited for it, but we didn’t anticipate it. It was a freight train looking to leap the track and level what we had come to know. Yesterday seemed to be the longest day of any in our lives.

Blame it on a dead civilization, the Maya (or were they a band of ancient extra-terrestrials?), whatever they were, what was supposed to happen, happened. The Rift.

More correctly, The Galactic Alignment. It was the positioning of the December solstice sun with the Galactic equator. Occurring only once every 26,000 years, it was what the ancient Maya were pointing to with the 2012 end-date of their Long Count calendar.

The Grand Eclipse; the mother of all.

There was a small band of people left from the “Pact”. I mean, let’s be real. I wasn’t about strapping on the Nikes and guzzling grape Kool-aid. If God wanted me that quickly, He was going to have to reach down and pluck me from this treadmill of life upon which He had placed me.

Eight of us here. Me, three women, a teenage boy, two young girls, and Jenkins. Well, OK, it was Seven of us and the robot.

The events of the past 24 hours were a whirlwind. Everything happened in a flash of eternity. The tides swelled. Electricity ceased to be. None of the habitation sectors were livable any more. Radio waves provided static, nothing more. We wandered in the darkness until the world ended.

There was just one problem. We woke up this morning and things seemed very familiar. The earth continued to rotate. Sure it had a slight wobble, but it turned. The moon resumed its orbit and the sunlight flooded the open spaces. The world had ceased to exist. Or at least the world we knew.

It was a revival; a renewal. The New Era had begun with high tides and no bells and whistles. Now we could do nothing but finally get it right this time. Jenkins agreed. We were getting too old for this shit!

THE LAST VOLLEY

“Her tail light diminished in size; distant laser points in the misty rain trained on his heart.”

There’s something about a bad penny always turning up. It makes a lot of cents. But it wreaks havoc on your emotions.

Terrianne came by one more time. To share dinner; to talk. Or as Phillip always called it “The Last Supper with monologue”. Needless to say he did very little talking.

It’s a funny thing too, Phillip had been content in his solitude. He read a lot and wrote some. He had his music and that was all the emotions he needed to handle at this point in his life. His last relationship ended without warning. He was an observant guy; he should have seen it coming. He got caught flat-footed.

So when Terrianne (who had fancied Phillip’s brother for a bit) came by to see him, it stirred up quite the hornet’s nest between the brothers. It also fanned the smoldering ember that was his heart.

But, there was something about someone as creative as Phillip was. They possessed an intensity that few other people understood. And Phillips passion ran hot. He put everything he had into whatever it was he would undertake. He wrote with a fiery flair, and he loved with even more heat.

Frankly, it scared her. She was not used to being held up to that standard. Pedestals gave her nosebleeds. So did most of the other guys with which she usually got involved. Phillip was different. He was clean cut, and respectful. He was considerate and helpful. And Terrianne couldn’t handle it. All Phillip could figure was that she liked bad boys.

She admitted as much during dinner. Terrianne said he was too good for her. That she couldn’t love him like he wish she would. She questioned if she ever really loved him at all.

She had come in and out of his life, she just couldn’t live with him. Or without him. But she needed to.

Nothing was left to say. Terrianne was heading to Vegas where her father had landed (and her last boyfriend too, he later had found). And Phillip could only watch as her tail light diminished in size; distant laser points in the misty rain trained on his heart. The left turn she made out of his life stung like a ten-inch blade through him. And as suddenly as Terrianne had entered his realm, she had left him for dead.