Once upon a time there were two little brothers who lived in a log house by the edge of a big dark forest, with their sister, mother and father. The house was also near a big hill that was just perfect for sledding down when there was snow on the ground.
One winter, on Christmas Eve, the two little brothers begged and begged to go sledding. After supper Father said, “Boys, it’s time to go on our Christmas Eve hayride. Get all bundled up in your warmest clothes and put on extra socks before getting into your boots and mittens.”
While the boys were getting into their warmest clothes Father went to the barn and harnessed the matched team of Morgans and hooked them up to the hay wagon. Mother and sister were also hurrying around getting dressed in their warmest clothes and collecting blankets to throw over the hay.
Mother packed a basket of Christmas cookies and apples. Then, when the children were all busy, she sliced several apples in half and cut some carrots into big chunks. These she wrapped separately in a cloth, which she hid in the bottom of the basket.
Father drove the team and wagon close to the front door. Everyone climbed up on top of the warm blankets that covered the hay. Father called to the team and the hayride began.
They sang Christmas carols and then listened intently as Father told them the Christmas story, as it had been told to him as a child, from the Old Book.
Everyone enjoyed the cookies and apples as they rode along on top of the hay watching the snowy fields and snow-laden trees go by on that bright moonlit night.
Soon Father stopped the wagon, and Mother reached into the basket and lifted out the hidden treasure of apples and carrots. Father asked that everyone be very still, and very quiet.
A mother deer and her twin fawns walked out of the forest and onto the road behind the wagon. She hesitated for a moment but then approached the wagon. Mother held out the cloth filled with apples and carrots. The Mother deer took the cloth in her mouth and walked back into the forest with her fawns following close behind. “Merry Christmas, little mother,” said Father, from the wagon seat. Then the wagon was rolling again.
The two little boys were too surprised to speak. Finally the older boy asked, “Father, how did you know that the deer were here and needed something to eat on Christmas Eve?”
“I saw their fresh tracks several weeks ago,” said Father. “Then I started coming here on horseback every few days and leaving food for them. A couple of days ago they came out to meet me when I rode up. I didn’t even get to open the cloth before the mother deer reached her mouth up and let me hand the food to her.”
The contented family headed back toward home to spend the rest of their Christmas Eve celebrating being together, safe and warm, and happy knowing that they were helping some forest creatures to make it through another hard winter.
But Father was not finished with Christmas Eve surprises. Before they reached their home Father stopped the wagon once again, and from beneath the hay he brought out the boys wooden sleds and they spent a happy hour on the snowy slopes beside their snug little log cabin.
(Created December 24, 2007 for my two young grandsons.)