Thought I'd share a story with you this month as we head into The Season. It involves a couple friends of mine. Intimate friends, I guess you could say, because they wandered into my mind some years ago as conjured-up good old boys.
I've known these two fellas quite awhile. They were born with bits and pieces of the same assemblage of virtual DNA as a dozen or so flesh and blood men I've known over the years with, I suppose, a few bits my own psyche thrown in. They show up in my stories every now and then, because I like them. Honest, hard-working, loyal and unpretentious, they're as common as the good earth, and they make me laugh. I'm hoping maybe this little story will give you some of that, too.
"What is it you're doing, Punch?" White Oxley asked. He'd shut the truck down and stepped out, not expecting a simple answer. Punch's big blonde retriever and whatsit mix, Doolittle, ambled over to give the rancher a "howdy" sniff and get an ear scratch.
White stood looking up at his friend perched atop a ladder leaning none too securely against the roof line of the trailer. He lifted his Resistol straw off his head to better block the low afternoon sun. In his left hand Punch held a wad of green wires with little protruding light bulbs while he tried with the other to extract one end of the string. He glanced down at White.
"Well, what's it look like I'm doing?" He spoke with irritation, returning his attention to the snaggle of wire and lights.
"My first thought was some kind of alien life-form had landed on your roof, and you'd got up there and nabbed it," White answered. "But then I seen it was some kind of electrical thing, so I figured you'd come up with a peculiar sort of suicide attempt. I'm just here to talk you down, son."
"No, it ain't none of that," Punch said, not seeing the humor. "I's hanging these dang Christmas lights for Jo Lynn."
"Well, I ain't no expert on hanging Christmas lights, like you," White said. "But wouldn't it be more simpler and smarter to untangle that string of lights on the ground instead of up on that ladder?"
Punch lay the wad of lights on the flat roof, and looked up at the sky. He sighed loudly. "Yes, it would," he answered. "I just didn't think it'd be this complicated when I started. I's in a hurry to get back to my ballgame."
White pictured the scene: Punch had done something stupid, had got Jo Lynn mad at him again, and
"Well, why don't you come on down from there before you break your fool neck, and I'll help you get all that straightened out."
Once Punch descended, they moved to the vinyl picnic table sitting in the yard. Doolittle tagged along. White straddled a bench and sat, took the ball of lights and started working on it. Punch and the dog watched, the man mildly impressed with his friend's patience and tenacity with the task.
"I don't understand why Jo Lynn wants them lights up, anyway," Punch said.
"It's festive," White said, pulling on a loop of wire. "Your women like festive. Makes 'em feel like things look better'n they actually are. That's why they watch all them TV shows about weddin's and such."
Punch took about a half minute to consider all that. "I got to get her a Christmas present. I ain't done that yet. You got your wife anything yet?" he asked.
"Yep," White answered.
"What'd you get her?"
"Something nice; something she won't expect."
"I ask Jo Lynn what she wanted and she said," Punch switched to a mocking falsetto voice. "Oh nothing really. I got everthing I need." Doolittle perked his ears.
"Uh huh. You know that's a test."
"Yessir, when they tell you they don't really want nothin' for Christmas, it's their way of seein' what you'll come up with. And then they'll look at what you do end up gettin' 'em on your own to determine your devotion to them, one way or t'other."
"Do what? Why, holy cow, it's just a dang Christmas present."
"I know, I know. But your women look at things different than you and me. We see Christmas presents as merely something that'll come in handy, like a new compound bow or a set of socket wrenches or a flat screen TV for the garage. They, on the other hand, take them as a measure for the depth of your relationship."
"No way," Punch said, shaking his head and grinning back at White thinking this was another one of his friend's jokes. White loved to pull his leg. Doolittle decided to take a little nap.
"I'm dead serious, boy. You got to think long and hard before you decide what to give 'em, they take that into account, too. Like I said, needs to be something nice, not necessarily practical, and something she won't expect."
The old cowboy looked at his friend, then down at Doolittle, who raised his head and looked back, apparently laughing. White unloosed the last tangle in the string of lights and stood. "Let's get these here lights hung up, son. I 'spect I'll have to come back in May to help you take 'em back down."
Phil Truman is the author of the award-winning historical western novel, Red Lands Outlaw, the Ballad of Henry Starr; a sports inspirational about small town schoolboy football entitled GAME, an American Novel; and Treasure Kills, a mystery adventure in a small town.
Phil's new fiction series, West of the Dead Line, the Complete Series, is available in electronic format at Amazon.com. Set in Indian Territory, the collection of short srories is based on the life and times of Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves.