I came close to not writing a Christmas story this year. I started typing up a traditional Christmas letter before realizing how redundant it was with the phenomena that is Face Book. Anything I would care to share with folks has already been shared – complete with graphic high definition photos. Yes – you are welcome for the Franken Knee shots – hopefully nobody was eating dinner and perusing my page at the same time.
- I shoot shit – mostly balloons and an occasional raccoon. I’m not very good at killing balloons yet – but I’m lethal on the coon population.
- I continue to cut trees and clear trail for the Backcountry Horseman when I’m not trying out new Dutch oven recipes on the crew. My specialty is dessert. I heard, “Here comes the dessert girl” more than once last year.
- I was somehow talked into (sounds much better than tricked) joining a drill team. Something I did not think I would really enjoy but turns out I love it and it’s been great for me and my horse. The best part has been the new friends I’ve met in the process.
- My youngest son, Blake, was married in August. He married into a wonderful family and will be starting their own sometime next summer.
- My horse had his unfair share of illnesses, injuries and setbacks this year. However, barring shooting him in the ear again, we plan to come back with a vengeance in 2015.
- I changed jobs with the department – my primary focus is e-discovery and data forensics. It’s like an interactive mystery novel and I do love a good mystery. Someday I plan to write one.
- I had a few pieces and parts removed and/or replaced. Again, you are welcome for the gnarly knee pictures that arrived in time for Halloween.
If I had to reflect on the most important aspects of my life over the last year – I would definitely say it has been my continued relationship with God, my family and the wonderful friends He has brought into my life. Without all of which I would be nothing but a shell and a $75,000.00 leg.
Oh – I almost forgot the Christmas story. A couple days ago I woke with the inspiration to write something. A children’s story popped into my head. As I wrote it – I pictured it illustrated in watercolor. A droopy, sad eyed donkey with long ears and a heart filled with hope. A donkey that no matter how small and insignificant he may appear on the outside, was rather quite extraordinary on the inside.
I hope you enjoy reading this story to your children and grandchildren.
Merry Christmas to you all and my God bless each and every one of you.
Earnest the Extraordinary
The journey of an ordinary donkey
Ask anyone and they would tell you: Earnest was an ordinary sort of donkey. Not special in any sort of way; just a donkey, nothing more, nothing less. Earnest, sadly enough, felt much less than ordinary.
Earnest looked around the small barnyard he called home. There was nothing special about it at all. Chickens scratched in the yard. Oxen lazily chewed their cud beneath the shade of the olive trees and sheepdogs stood guard over their flock.
It seemed that everyone had an important job to do; everyone except Earnest. He tried so very hard not to let it get him down, but some days he just couldn’t help it. You see, deep down Earnest felt he was meant to be something more than just an ordinary donkey. He didn’t know what that something was exactly – but he felt it just the same.
Earnest was feeling particularly ordinary the day Mrs. Goose found him looking more distraught than usual. “Why Earnest Donkey, you look positively and utterly hopeless with that sad, long ordinary face!” she squawked. “Whatever is the matter?” Earnest explained to Mrs. G how he felt like an ordinary donkey on the outside, but rather extraordinary on the inside. “Nonsense!” she honked. “You are what you are, nothing more, and nothing less. Facts are facts and the fact is, Earnest E. Donkey, you are not extraordinary.
Earnest wasn’t ready to give up just yet. He bade Mrs. Goose good day and wandered over to the chicken coop. He poked his head inside the small door of the hen house. Blustering hens filled the boxes of nests with fresh eggs of varying shades of brown – some freckled, some speckled and some neither nor. “Good morning ladies,” said Earnest sweetly. At once the house erupted with gaggling hens. “Good heavens! What’s he doing here! It has gotten to be where a lady has no privacy! No privacy at all!” “I’m sorry ladies.” Earnest apologized. “I was hoping you might be able to help me. I would like to be less ordinary and more…I don’t know – productive perhaps, like you.” A large red hen waddled closer to Earnest and cackled before pecking him smartly on the muzzle. “Like us? You want to be like us? Preposterous! You could never be like us because you, Earnest E. Donkey, are not extraordinary.
Earnest backed out of the hen house rubbing his tender muzzle. He strolled into the pasture where oxen pulled heavy plows through the farmers’ field. “Good day to you gentleman, I would like to offer my assistance!” Earnest said proudly. The oxen stopped what they were doing and laughed at Earnest as he fumbled to slip the cumbersome yoke around his small neck. The yoke was much too large and much too heavy for poor Earnest –tipping him topside down and bottom side up. The sight of Earnest tipped upside down in such a manner caused the oxen to laugh harder still: “Away with you silly little donkey! You could never be strong and powerful like us because you, Earnest E. Donkey, are not extraordinary!
Earnest tipped himself right-side up. His head hung low as he left the field of oxen and ambled toward a large sheepdog guarding a flock of black faced mutton dotting the hillside. Earnest marched right up and plopped matter-of-fact onto his haunches next to the dog. He turned his head from side to side surveying the hillside without uttering a word. “Who do you think you’re fooling?” barked the dog. His bark was so fierce and so loud it caused Earnest to jump. His voice trembled when he answered. “I…I only thought I could help watch over the flock, like you.” “Like ME?” barked the dog. “Don’t be absurd. You could never be bold and fearless like me because you, Earnest E. Donkey, are not extraordinary.
Earnest wandered to the far edge of the farm where he was born and raised. He paused at the corner separating the familiar from that which was not. Everything he had ever known was behind him; the oxen in the fields and the sheep grazing on the hillsides. The cackling hens and gaggling geese – all reminders of what he was not…Earnest was not extraordinary.
As Earnest left the farm behind him, the days passed beneath his ordinary hooves – each as uneventful as the next. He passed by Shepherds tending flocks and milkmaids milking the cows. He passed merchants on their way to peddle wares at market and weary travelers on their way to and fro; all much too preoccupied to pay mind to a little donkey that was, after all, not extraordinary at all.
Just when Earnest was beginning to think there wasn’t anything extraordinary left in the entire world – he came upon a caravan of camels laden with treasures the likes of which he had never seen! Jewel encrusted chests stuffed full of silver, gold and fine linens…all adorned with golden chains and strands of precious pearls! Earnest had to trot to keep up with the long legged camels. “Good day my magnificent friends. My name is Earnest. Might I travel with you for a bit?” A particularly regal camel looked down his long muzzle without breaking stride. “Surely you jest. We carry the treasures of mighty kings upon our backs! One might say it beneath one to associate with an ordinary donkey. Especially, Earnest E. Donkey – one so obviously not extraordinary.
Earnest could sink no lower. His long donkey ears practically drug the ground. He trod on in this fashion for days, or maybe weeks. He didn’t know or care. As far as he was concerned, his journey was over. He would spend one last, lonely night along the River Jordan before returning home. Home to his ordinary life on the ordinary farm where he would live out his days as an ordinary donkey – quite possibly less than ordinary. He let out a big sigh.
Earnest stretched his short, grey donkey legs and yawned at the rising sun. The previous day had made up his mind to go home. What changed … he could not say. As Earnest slept that night he was overcome with a powerful feeling compelling him to continue on his journey.
Late morning brought Earnest to a crossroads. The sign pointed in two directions: this way to “Nazareth” – that way to “Bethlehem.” The feeling he experienced the night before returned…pulling him toward Nazareth.
Earnest walked several miles before meeting a group of travelers heading south. A young couple was amongst the travelers; the woman heavy with child. The couple lagged behind the rest. Earnest feared for their safety as the roads were known to be teeming with bandits!
Earnest was pleasantly surprised when the young couple did not brush him aside as others had on his journey. They told him they were on their way to Bethlehem to register for the census as the law required. The woman’s time was nearing. Earnest knew what he must do. “Please, let me help. I know I am just a small, ordinary donkey, but my back is strong and I could easily carry you as far as you need to go!” The woman smiled at Earnest as the man helped her onto the donkeys back.
The young couple was able to travel much faster with Earnest’s help. They passed rolling hillsides with sheepdogs guarding their flocks. They passed oxen toiling in the fields and majestic camels burdened with the weight of untold riches. Not one said an unkind word to Earnest. They merely knelt in wonder as the little donkey and his companions continued on their journey.
The trio reached Bethlehem on the fourth day of travel. The young couple went from inn to inn searching for a place to rest to no avail; each filled to capacity. With nowhere else to turn, they settled in to a manger. The small cave offered privacy for the mother-to-be and a place for Earnest in the outer chamber.
Earnest could not fall asleep. He tossed and turned, worried about his new friends. Suddenly, a beautiful voice came to him out of the night. Earnest had never heard an angel before – but he knew it to be true. The angel spoke: (Luke 2-10)…“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” A wondrous peace came over Earnest such as he had never felt and he drifted soundly into sleep.
Earnest stayed with the young family for several days before deciding it was time to return home. He said his tearful good-byes to the young couple and the child he knew he would carry in his heart forever. As he turned to leave, an angel appeared before him. “My dear Earnest, as a gift to you for your strength of heart and unwavering courage, I place upon your back this shadow of the cross. Let it be a reminder to all who see it of the love of our Father in heaven and the rewards offered to those willing to accept his Grace. And…my dear little one – let it be a reminder to you as well that you, Earnest E. Donkey… are most extraordinary.