Page Six



Santa Claus

"Halt! Who goes there?" the sentry's call
Rose on the midnight air
Above the noises of the camp,
The roll of wheels, the horses' tramp.
The challenge echoed over all
"Halt! Who goes there?"
A quaint old figure clothed in white,
He bore a staff of pine,
And ivy-wreath was on his head.
"Advance, O friend," the sentry said,
"Advance, for this is Christmas Night,
And give the countersign."

"No sign or countersign have I.
Through many lands I roam
The whole world over far and wide.
To exiles all at Christmastide
From those who love them tenderly
I bring a thought of home.

"From English brook and Scottish burn,
From cold Canadian snows,
From those far lands ye hold most dear
I bring you all a greeting here,
A frond of a New Zealand fern,
A bloom of English rose.

"From faithful wife and loving lass
I bring a wish divine,
For Christmas blessings on your head."
"I wish you well," the sentry said,
"But here, alas! you may not pass
Without the countersign."

He vanished
—and the sentry's tramp
Re-echoed down the line.
It was not till the morning light
The soldiers knew that in the night
Old Santa Claus had come to camp
Without the countersign.

A. B. "Banjo" Paterson, 1900


Read more classic poetry from A. B. "Banjo" Paterson here.

Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of



A Charlie Creek Christmas

It was Christmas in the badlands
An' the moon was shinin' bright
So I figgered dear ol' Santa
Wouldn't need no exter light
When he come across the prairie
An' down the coulees deep
To drop me off my presents
While I was sound asleep
—That's what I get for figgerin'—
Once again I'se proven wrong
'Cause I shoulda fixed that yard light
in the middle of my lawn.
—I knew the thing was history—
Heck, it burnt out in the spring
When I wacked it up a good one
With my alfalfa balin' thing.

—it come as quite a shock
That night on Christmas Eve
When a clatter did arise
An' what my blood shots did perceive
Eight tiny little reindeers
Stumblin' 'round my yard
With about a million presents
Some still bouncin' mighty hard.
And layin' in the middle,
With his suit so big an' red,
Was none other than his elfness
Slowly shakin' his old head.

Oh my lord!
—I started thinkin'
Ain't this the Cat's Meow
I'd best be gettin' movin'
And I'd best be movin' now!
'Cause they'd smacked into that light pole
An' it wasn't fer no joke
Looked like my chance fer presents
Had all gone up in smoke.
I'm halfway apoplectic
An' sorry as can be
As I run like all the dickens
To help him to his feet.

I gets him kinda dusted
Then we both eyeball the scene
Lookin' pert near like a war zone,
If yer knowin' what I mean.
Then'r peepers lit upon it
What used ta be his sleigh
An' there weren't no use denyin'
It had seen its better days.
I'm feelin' real depressed
—Then I seen him drop his head—
I knew what he was thinkin'
So I quiklike thought
—an' said—

"Yer lookin' kinda worried
But I tell ya what we'll do
A bit a wire an' some nails
She'll be flyin' good as new.
We can take a couple fence posts
An' bend 'em at the end
Then ya got yerself some runners
To get up an' off again.
We'll grab 'r selves some planks
An' nail 'em right around
What's left a that ol' chassis
—She'll float right off the ground!"

—he paused an' thought a bit—
Perked up
—an' said "Yer right!"
"But we'd best be gettin' hoppin'
I got a fairly busy night!"
So faster than a twinklin'
I gets the parts we need
An' before ya even knowed it
We undone the dirty deed.

Then we gathers in the reindeer
Hitch 'em to the sleigh
An' round up all the presents
Til' they're packed and stashed away.
An' as he climbed aboard
He turned
—Just like a shot—
Stopped an' handed me some presents
An' said
—"I near forgot!"
I heard him when he hollered
As he flew on outa sight
"Merry Christmas you old codger
Next year turn on the light!"

© 1997, DW Groethe, from A Charlie Creek Christmas & Other Wint'ry Tales of the West

The little book, A Charlie Creek Christmas & Other Wint'ry Tales of the West, is a work of art in words and illustration, with hand-lettered poems and black and white and hand-colored illustrations  by Scott Nelson and D. W. Groethe

$10 postpaid from:

D. W. Groethe
PO Box 144
Bainville, MT 59212

Read more poetry by DW Groethe here.



Up Sims Creek

When the mercury's just a puddle
Hiding way down in the glass
And a white and frozen blanket
Has covered up the grass.

The cattle stand out shivering
The trees look stark and dead,
Though winter's barely started
You view the rest with dread.

The furnace won't stop running
The fuel bills shrink your purse
The angry sun dogs warn you
That tomorrow will be worse.

Your water pipes are frozen
You pickup just won't start
And the stinging breath of winter
Presses heavy on your heart.

It can sometimes-though you fight it
Get you way down in the mouth
And you wish you had an address
That was somewhere further South.

Just when you think you've had it
And you can't stand one more day
Christmas sneaks right up on you
And the gloom will drift away.

Your neighbor strings some cheery lights
That seems to warm those chills,
You start to like the mailman
When he brings more cards than bills.

Old friends often call or write
The neighbors bring a gift
And every time a stranger smiles
The darkness seems to lift.

We start to count our blessings
Forget about our pains
And realize how fortunate
We are here on the plains.

To have neighbors, friends, and family
Who truly seem to care
And we can't imagine Christmas
Could get better anywhere!

© 2005, Rodney Nelson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem was written in 2005 for the readers of Rodney Nelson's Up Sims Creek column. He added, "Thanks to all of you who brighten my day by reading my column.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you from those of us at Sims." Rodney Nelson's Up Sims Creek column appears in Farm & Ranch Guide.



Christmas On The Prairie

If you'd never heard the radio
Or had never been to town
You'd still know it on the prairie
When Christmas rolls around.
It's not easy to explain it
But the prairie lets you know
Its more than just the winter wind
The ice and drifting snow.
There's a feeling like a shiver
It's like music to your ear
The prairie radiates it
At this certain time of year.
If you go out on the prairie
On a clear and starlit night
It can almost leave you breathless
Just to view the awesome sight.
Out here you need no mountains
To get you feeling high
Cause way out on the prairie
You can almost touch the sky.
If you listen, really listen
And believe with all your might
You can sometimes hear the sleigh bells 
as they tinkle in the night.
And out on the horizon
You see reindeer and a sleigh
You can see old Santa coming
For a hundred miles away.
Or if you stand in silence
And absorb that awesome view
Waves of former Christmases
Come rolling into you.
The frost may freeze your fingers
Or send shivers up your hide
But the warmth of Christmas memories
Makes you glow and glow inside.
It kinda makes you humble
And it seems hard to believe
The same stars shining brightly
Shone on that first Christmas eve.
There's a place for all that tinsel
And those artificial lights,
But they just can't match the splendor
Of those prairie winter nights.
The natural decorations kindle
Warmth down in your soul
It's ablaze in all its splendor
From Sims to the North Pole.
And the prairie lets you see it
So clearly and so true
There's no buildings, trees, or mountains
To muddle up the view.
They can have their city sidewalks
Or the mountains to the west
Way out on the prairie—
That's where Christmas is the best!

© 1997, Rodney Nelson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Rodney has a Christmas book that is a BAR-D favorite, Wilbur's Christmas Gift, illustrated by Scott Nelson. The hardcover book, a heartwarming Christmas story of a cowboy and his gift to the children of a rural country school. The book is available for $12.50 postpaid from Rodney Nelson, 4905 44th St., Almont, ND 58520  701/843-8081

Read more of Rodney Nelson's poetry here.



The Makin' of a Santa Claus

It was goin' long on Christmas Eve
And there were doin's at the church
Old Nick's wife had volunteered him
And she'd left him in a lurch
See she'd said he'd play Santa Claus
For the little kids around the tree
When she'd got the nerve to tell him
He bah-humbugged a husbandly, "Why Me!"
He'd never had much Christmas Spirit
Much to his wife's sorrow and chagrin
They'd no children of their own
And Nick had held that sadness in
So when it came to Merry Christmas
And happiness for every girl and boy
Nick held his load of lonely
And smothered out the Joy
Now he'd run late with feedin'
So, his wife had gone ahead
And when he donned the Santa Suit
He cursed each and every thread
The roads they were slick and icy
And he was drivin' kinda' fast
When his old truck swerved and slid
And in borrow pit he was cast
Now it's Christmas Eve in the country
And on a road not traveled much
Stands a man in a Santa suit
Stuck and completely out of touch
At first he cussed his truck
Blamed the road, then his wife
The night's silence was his victim
His words cut it like a knife
Then through the light and falling snow
He spots a neighbor's welcome light
It's the widow Johnson's place
And he walks there in the night
Mr. Johnson had passed a year ago
Leavin' his Missus and a little kid
On a place riddled with hard luck
Where words like "chance" are forbid 
When he knocked upon their door
He's not thinkin' of his clothes
Then a little boy answers his knock
And sees an image that he knows
"Mama come quick, its Santa Claus
And you said he wasn't comin',
But Santa, I knew you'd come
Did you bring us a little somethin?
Old Nick's at a loss for words
He was about to turn and lope
When he saw those little eyes
So filled with joy and hope
It caused him to pause and remember
Of another child's time and place
When the youthful magic of Christmas
Where written on.his face
"I'll be right back," he said
And walked back to his rig
To find presents in that truck
He was gonna' hafta dig!
Behind the seat he found a rope
His spurs hung in the rifle rack
On the dash, a pack of gum
Some candy bars in a sack
His old Stetson was on the seat
His pocket knife was almost new
He knew it wasn't much, but
It was the best that he could do
A little cowboy had Christmas that night
A mother's happy tears were shed
And with the loan of a tractor
A cowboy Santa pulled out his sled
At the church nobody even asked
Why he'd come a little late
Because the Santa that came that night
Had been changed by joyous fate
He ho-ho-ho'ed so darned much
Even his wife wondered who it was
He passed out candy and presents
Then he left without a pause
At the ranch later that night
She thought she did hear
A changed man drifting off to sleep
Say..."Can I do it again next year?
2006, Chuck Larsen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Read more of Chuck Larsen's poetry here



The One Runnered Sleigh

'Twas the day after Christmas
—the twenty-sixth day,
     The month was December
—the year I can't say.

We were lookin' for cattle in the moonlight of morn'
     To see where they'd drifted by the end of the storm.

With the snow to their bellies the team was a draggin'
     a big load of hay we had pitched on the wagon.

We topped the divide and looked out across
     at the snow covered prairie and we thought "the herd's lost."

So the riders split up and rode down the ridges
     To find us a crossing cause there were no bridges.

We were not really sure which way we should head
     But we knew they had drifted away from the shed.

As the team broke a track and the load came across
     We'd care for the live ones
—then go tell the boss.

The news won't be good cause there're drifts everywhere
     We're afraid they're all buried
—so we whispered a prayer.

Then just as we're thinkin' "no sign of cow-hide"
     a rider comes lopin' hell-bent from one side

He yells "Cows are fine but I 'bout broke my neck
     when my saddle horse spooked at some kind of a wreck.

It's lookin' to me like a big fallin' star
     musta' struck mother earth and left a big scar.

It moved all the snow and broke up the ice
     the cows are all grazin' and the creek's runnin' nice.

There's a broken sled runner and some pieces of tack
     and it looks like what's left of some "homesteaders" shack.

There are pieces of toys and candy
—all flavors—
     whatever took place was a mighty big favor

—'cause except for that bare spot there was no place to go
     but the cows drifted in there
—away from the snow".

Now we all are believers from then until now
     that SOMEONE up yonder must care about cows.

We decided the "BIG BOSS" musta' used old "Saint Nick"
     to clear off some grazin' and open the creek.

Our prayer had been answered and we'd "call it a day"
     then a SHADOW s-t-r-e-a-k-e-d NORTH -'twas a one runnered sleigh.

© 2006, Don Hilmer
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


This poem was inspired by the 2005 Christmas Art Spur subject,  "A Christmas Tale" by Mick Harrison. 

Read more of Don Hilmer's poetry here.




See a complete list of all the holiday poems posted since 2000 here.

See the links here for holiday news and more.




Page Six




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