The Christmas Deer
Almanzo was putting the finishing touches on his daughter’s Christmas present. Rose had seen Beth’s intricately carved Morgan horses that Almanzo had given Laura as an early Christmas present and wanted something like them. Only she didn’t want horses, she wanted some wild creatures, something like a rabbit or a fox or a bear or even a beautiful white tailed deer.
“That’s what I’d like most of all, Papa,” Almanzo remembered her saying.
There was a lot more to that conversation
“Papa, how long did it take you to make Mama Beth’s horses?” the seven year old asked her father only this morning after breakfast.
Almanzo turned, unable to keep a straight face. “Now Rosey Posey, I’m not goin’ to give you Mama Beth’s Morgan’s for Christmas?”
“PAPA,” Rose laughed, “I don’t want Mama’s horses, I just want some animals like those, something like a rabbit or a fox or a…”
Almanzo nodded his head. “Yes I know, Rosey,” he said, picking her up and putting her on his lap. “You’re not going to get me to give them to you any earlier than Christmas Eve, no matter how hard you try.”
Rose smiled. “Does that mean you’ve made them already, Papa?” she said, looking into his eyes.
Almanzo frowned, looking into her eyes. “Rose?” he said, shaking his head.
Rose smiled. “Alright, Papa, I’ll wait. I guess I’ll have to.”
“Manly,” he heard his wife’s voice calling him, “dinner is almost ready.”
“Be right there, Beth,” he called from the barn.
“You don’t have to shout, Almanzo,” Laura said, smiling. “I’m standing right next to you.”
Almanzo smiled, as he covered up the carved figures with an old blanket, and then placed his arms around his wife’s shoulders.
“What are you doing out here? Not that I really mind it.” He swayed her back and forth
“I came to see how far you’ve gotten with Rose’s Christmas gift,”
Almanzo laughed as he uncovered the four figures he had been working on. “Jealous?” he asked her.
“Of course not, Almanzo Wilder,” Laura said, releasing him. “How could you even suggest such a thing, especially about my own daughter?”
“Well,” he answered, uncovering the animals, “here we have a fox, a rabbit, a bear and a…”
“A deer,” Laura smiled, picking it up, admiring the intricacy of her husband’s work. “They are certainly beautiful, Manly.” She put down the deer and put her arms around Almanzo’s shoulders and snuggled up closer. “I mean you could make me more of those, couldn’t you?”
He shook his head and pulled her close. “You know that I can.” He smiled. “And how do you know I’m not doing just that.”
“You know I’m not sure if she wants to play with them or if she wants to pull the deer around with her. I should’ve asked her.”
Laura smiled. “Until you ask her, I’d say let her use her imagination. She’s got plenty of that.” She kissed her husband lightly on the lips and they released each other. “Anyway, supper’s getting cold. And,” she said, “We’ve received a letter from Jenny in from Currie this afternoon.”
Almanzo recovered Rose’s Christmas gift. “She’s staying with Tom and Minnie, isn’t she? How is she doing on her first teaching assignment?”
“Seems she ran into Jeb Carter in Sleepy Eye. He’s living on his own there and was surprised to see her. They’ve gotten very close, Manly.”
“Well, he always liked her, Beth. Even when we moved down here from Walnut Grove, they were inseparable before the Carters moved on to California.”
Laura nodded. “It’s true, they were. Jeb only wanted to move back to Minnesota when Jenny got her first teaching position there. We were lucky that Tom and Minnie offered to look after her.”
“Mama, Papa,” Rose’s voice interrupted as she ran into the barn. “Supper’s ready and it’s getting cold.”
Almanzo and Laura smiled at each other and separated. Manly grabbed her left hand and Laura her right. The three were all smiles as they headed indoors to enjoy their supper.
The Wilders had been living at Rocky Ridge Farm for almost three years now, ever since Walnut Grove had been destroyed in 1890. They were now situated in a small four room white clapboard house, which Almanzo had built with materials found on the land. The one room cabin that they all shared for a year before moving into the main house was cozy enough, almost like their tiny house in Walnut Grove. Jenny had lived there briefly before passing her examination for a teaching certificate. She had one place in mind and that was Walnut Grove, but there was nothing left there and if it were, she would have to see what shape it was in. So she accepted the job in Currie when it was offered. Almanzo and Laura had let her go reluctantly, but knew that she would be fine living with the Martin’s on their ranch.
“What does Jenny say, Papa,” Rose begged her father to read the letter aloud. The three of them were sitting around the fireplace.
“She’s doin’ well, Rosey,” Almanzo said. “The kids really love her.” He looked up at Laura. “Chad and Becky Brewster have a little girl of their own, Beth. She’s only two years old and Jenny says she’s beautiful and so well behaved.”
Laura smiled. “The children were really good to me and Minnie, Manly,” she said. “I’m surprised they are having a hard time finding a good teacher.”
“Maybe Jenny will change all that,” Rose said, looking at her parents. “Mama, didn’t Aunt Eliza write you, too?”
“Yes, Rose,” Laura said. “Your aunt and Mort Carstairs are still seeing one another, although they are still just friends. And, believe it or not, Mort hasn’t been let go. I think he’s finally broken his record.”
“Well, young lady,” Almanzo said, turning to his daughter. “Tomorrow is a big day. I have to get the tree set up in here tomorrow and you and Mama Beth can decorate it, how does that sound?”
“Oh, Papa,” Rose said, hugging him. “I can’t wait. Thank you.” She released him. “I’m going to bed.”
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