Saturday, December 23, 2017




Wednesday, December 20, 2017


I posted this several years ago, but it bears repeating in this hustle-and-bustle, disposable-goods world we've grown accustomed to. Let me share it with you again...

Several years ago, I had just sold my first short story to Adams Media's Rocking Chair Reader series. I was on Cloud 9! This story, SILVER MAGIC, was the 2nd story I sold to them and would appear in their first Christmas collection, Classic Christmas: True Stories of Holiday Cheer and Goodwill. I want to share it with you here. This story is true, and is one of the most poignant tales I could ever tell about my grandfather--he died when I was eleven. I never saw this side of him, and I don't think very many people did--that's what makes this Christmas story so special. I look forward to your comments!

SILVER MAGIC by Cheryl Pierson

Did you know that there is a proper way to hang tinsel on the Christmas tree?

Growing up in the small town of Seminole, Oklahoma, I was made aware of this from my earliest memories of Christmas. Being the youngest in our family, there was never a shortage of people always wanting to show me the right way to do—well, practically everything! When it came to hanging the metallic strands on the Christmas tree, my mother made it a holiday art form.

“The cardboard holder should be barely bent,” she said, “forming a kind of hook for the tinsel.” No more than three strands of the silver magic should be pulled from this hook at one time. And, we were cautioned, the strands should be draped over the boughs of the tree gently, so as to avoid damage to the fragile greenery.

Once the icicles had been carefully added to the already-lit-and-decorated tree, we would complete our “pine princess” with a can of spray snow. Never would we have considered hanging the icicles in blobs, as my mother called them, or tossing them haphazardly to land where they would on the upper, unreachable branches. Hanging them on the higher branches was my father’s job, since he was the tallest person I knew—as tall as Superman, for sure. He, too, could do anything—even put the serenely blinking golden star with the blonde angel on the very highest limb—without a ladder!

Once Christmas was over, I learned that there was also a right way to save the icicles before setting the tree out to the roadside for the garbage man. The cardboard holders were never thrown out. We kept them each year, tucked away with the rest of the re-useable Christmas decorations. Their shiny treasure lay untangled and protected within the corrugated Bekins Moving and Storage boxes that my mother had renamed “CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS” in bold letters with a black magic marker.
At the end of the Christmas season, I would help my sisters undress the tree and get it ready for its lonely curbside vigil. We would remove the glass balls, the plastic bells, and the homemade keepsake decorations we’d made in school. These were all gently placed in small boxes. The icicles came next, a chore we all detested.

We removed the silver tinsel and meticulously hung it back around the little cardboard hook. Those icicles were much heavier then, being made of real metal and not synthetic plastic. They were easier to handle and, if you were careful, didn’t snarl or tangle. It was a long, slow process—one that my young, impatient hands and mind dreaded.

For many years, I couldn’t understand why everyone—even my friends’ parents’—insisted on saving the tinsel from year to year. Then one night, in late December, while Mom and I gazed at the Christmas tree, I learned why.

As she began to tell the story of her first Christmas tree, her eyes looked back through time. She was a child in southeastern Oklahoma, during the dustbowl days of the Depression. She and her siblings had gotten the idea that they needed a Christmas tree. The trekked into the nearby woods, cut down an evergreen, and dragged it home. While my grandfather made a wooden stand for it, the rest of the family popped and strung corn for garland. The smaller children made decorations from paper and glue.

“What about a star?” one of the younger boys had asked.

My grandfather thought for a moment, then said, “I’ve got an old battery out there in the shed. I’ll cut one from that.”

The kids were tickled just to have the tree, but a star, too! It was almost too good to be true.

Grandfather went outside. He disappeared around the side of the old tool shed and didn’t return for a long time. Grandma glanced out the window a few times, wondering what was taking so long, but the children were occupied with stringing the popcorn and making paper chains. They were so excited that they hardly noticed when he came back inside.

Grandmother turned to him as he shut the door against the wintry blast of air. “What took you so long?” she asked. “I was beginning to get worried.”

Grandfather smiled apologetically, and held up the star he’d fashioned. “It took me awhile. I wanted it to be just right.” He slowly held up his other hand, and Grandmother clapped her hands over her mouth in wonder. Thin strands of silver magic cascaded in a shimmering waterfall from his loosely clenched fist. “It’s a kind of a gift, you know. For the kids.”

“I found some foil in the battery,” he explained. “It just didn’t seem right, not to have icicles.”

In our modern world of disposable commodities, can any of us imagine being so poor that we would recycle an old battery for the metal and foil, in order to hand-cut a shiny star and tinsel for our children’s Christmas tree?

A metal star and cut-foil tinsel—bits of Christmas joy, silver magic wrapped in a father’s love for his family.

This is a fantastic little anthology you might enjoy any time of year. If you'd like to read the wonderful stories in this collection, here's the link at Amazon. This is a true "bargain", but is only available from 3rd party sellers at this time as it is out of print.


Have a wonderful Christmas and here's hoping 2018 will be a fantastic year for each and every one of us!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Let's Go To The Rodeo

Modern rodeo had its start with the Spanish ranchos in California. It's very difficult to trace the first rodeo in America. Many towns make this claim, including Santa Fe, New Mexico (1847), Deer Trail, Colorado (1869) and Pecos, Texas (1883). Much of what we know today as the sport of rodeo came from the Prescott, Arizona rodeo on July 4, 1888. Their committee established the following that still hold true today: prizes awarded, rules for competition, admission charged, cowboys invited to compete, and a committee to organize.

The events included bronco riding, steer roping and cow pony races. In 1889, the first steer riding competition was held, and by 1917, calf roping was added to the list of events.

Here are some of the events you will see at the rodeo:

Saddle bronc riding: Each rider must begin the ride with his feet over the horse's shoulders to give the animal an advantage. Scoring depends on the cowboy's control throughout the ride, the length of his spur sweeps, the synchronization of those sweeps with the bucking of the horse, and how hard the horse actually bucks. Riders are disqualified if they touch the animal, the equipment or themselves with their free hand; if either foot slips out of the stirrup; if they drop the bronc rein, or if they are bucked off.

Bareback bronc riding: Scoring is similar to saddle bronc riding, but the rider has only a leather and rawhide "rigging" to hold onto with one hand. The horse's performance counts fifty percent of the score in this event.

Bull riding: Bull riders usually don't spur the animals -- it's enough to remain atop an animal weighing several tons who is as quick as he is hefty! The rider usually tries to lean forward "over his head" at all times to avoid being whipped backwards when the animal bucks. Scoring is similar to bronc riding, with the bull's performance counting for fifty percent of the score.

Tie-down roping: Success in this event depends on teamwork between the cowboy and his horse. Once the calf is given a head start, horse and rider give chase and attempt to rope and tie the calf. A ten-second penalty is given if the cowboy "breaks the barrier" and fails to give the calf its full head start. The run is considered invalid if the calf kicks free of the rope within six seconds. Tie-down roping is a timed event, with scoring based on how long it takes to rope and tie the calf.

Steer wrestling (Bull-dogging): The steer wrestler starts on horseback, assisted by a mounted hazer who keeps the steer running in a straight line. The wrestler must leap down beside the steer and wrestle it to the ground by twisting its horns. The clock stops when the steer is on its side with all four legs pointing in the same direction. This is another timed event, with scoring depending on how quickly the cowboy can down his steer.

Team roping: The first cowboy (the header) ropes the steer's horns or neck (or "half head," which is one horn and the neck). He then dallies his rope around the saddle horn and turns the steer in an arc to the left. The second cowboy (the heeler) then attempts to lasso both hind legs. A ten-second penalty is given if only one leg is roped. Time is stopped when both horses are facing one another.

Barrel racing: Horse and race into the arena, with time starting as soon as they enter. They ride a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels in the arena and race back out, with time stopping at their exit. The riders can touch or move the barrels, but a five-second penalty is given for any barrel knocked over.

Now you and your characters can enjoy a good rip-snorting rodeo in the Old West.

J.E.S. Hays