“Christmas and Sassafras John”

As I watch the children playin’
All around the Christmas tree,
I keep thinkin’ of a story
That my grandpa told to me.

It’s a story of my hometown,
That you maybe won’t believe,
An’ a miracle that happened
On a snowy Christmas Eve.

It was ‘way back in the old days
That this story does begin,
When our town was jist a village,
An’ the forest walled it in.

It was gittin’ close to Christmas,
‘Bout the time fer old St. Nick,
There were poor folks almost starvin’
An’ so many of ’em sick.

The Winter wind kept howlin’
An’ the snow kept tumblin’ down,
An’ at times the old Grim Reaper
Came a-prowling’ ’round the town.

Then there came a Monday mornin’
That was cold, an’ bleak, an’ gray,
An’ the town folks were a-knowin’
Christmas was … one day away.

Then a feller from the country
Braved the Winter wind so raw;
An’ he came to town by bobsled,
That was heaped up high with straw.

‘Neath the straw was meat an’ taters,
An’ some apples for the poor,
Folks could hear the bells a-jinglin’
As he drove from door to door.

Then he split up wood fer sick folks
Until late that afternoon,
When he trudged along the boardwalk
Down to Billy Hutt’s saloon.

But it seems he hardly tarried there
Fer half an hour or more
Till he was seen with Billy Hutt
A-headin’ fer Thompson’s store.

Now that store of old Will Thompson’s
Was jist one big sorry mess,
He had household goods, an’ harness,
An’ most everything I guess.

There was wagon grease, an’ yard goods,
An’ all kinds of patent cures,
An’ that store didn’t smell like roses
When the trappers brought in furs.

He had crackers by the barrel
High silk hats, an’ buttoned shoes.
An folks would always gather there
To hear the latest news.

But it seemed that every Christmas
He would fancy up a bit;
Fer he had the Christmas spirit,
An’ some customers to git.

He was pokin’ up the wood stove
Jist as Billy Hutt stamped in,
With the feller from the country
Who looked tired, but wore a grin.

Old Will jist stood there speechless like,
An’ sure was far from sad;
Seein’ Billy’s bag of money,
An’ the furs that feller had.

Old Billy walked to the stove,
An’ rubbed his hands about;
Then he said to old Will Thompson,
“We are gonna buy you out!”

“We jist mean some things fer Christmas,
Like some candy, books, an’ toys
That might fit into the stocking
Of some poor sick girls an’ boys.”

Old Will jist stood an’ pondered,
As he gazed around the place,
Then a smile smoothed out the wrinkles
That had lined his scrawny face.

He said, “Billy, you’ve been savin’
Jist to do this kindly deed,
An’ this feller from the country
Brings in food fer folks in need.”

“You can buy the toys, an’ candy,
Jist what ever that may be;
But there’s things that folks are needin’
That is gonna come from me.”

So the three men worked together,
An’ they went from door to door,
Takin’ food an’ toys, an’ candy,
To the sick folks an’ the poor.

As the feller from the country
Waded through the driftin’ snow
He could hear an organ playin’
Oh! so softly, an’ so low.

He opened wide the church door,
An’ could see by candlelight
Where a lady at the organ
Was a-playin’ … “Silent Night.”

Then he walked back to his bobsled,
An’ his voice rose loud an’ Clear,
A tenor voice that echoed ’round,
So everyone could hear.

Then the snowflakes stopped a-fallin’,
An’ the moon shone above;
An’ that little Hoosier village,
Knew of peace, an’ joy, an’ love.

Many times on Winter evenin’s,
I have heard the old folks tell
How the weather changed that Christmas Eve,
An’ how the folks got well.

Yes, they told of how three wise men
Faced the snow an’ bitter cold,
Actin’ out a Christmas story
On a Winter night of old.

Seems like faith, an’ hope, at Christmas
Is like candlelight that gleams
Through the snowy Winter darkness,
An’ through all our Christmas dreams.

Santa has a host of helpers
That he can depend upon,
Like ol’ Will Thompson, Billy Hutt,
An’ good ol’ Sassafras John.

4 thoughts on ““Christmas and Sassafras John””

  1. Michael Mapes said:

    I’m guessing that Dad wrote this in the mid to late 1960’s. We were living at 341 North State Street in Kendallville at the time. I remember sitting in the living room watching TV. From the kitchen I could here the clacking of his old Royal typewriter. He called to me to come and read what he had written. It was “Christmas and Sassafras John.” I thought then, and now some 50 years later, that it was a masterpiece. Well done ,Dad.

  2. Michael Mapes said:

    I’m guessing that Dad wrote this in the mid to late 1960’s. We were living at 341 North State Street in Kendallville at the time. I remember sitting in the living room watching TV. From the kitchen I could hear the clacking of his old Royal typewriter. When it stopped he called to me to come and read what he had written. It was “Christmas and Sassafras John.” I thought then, and now some 50 years later, that it was a masterpiece. Well done ,Dad.

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