Merry Christmas for the Old Timers!

By Norris Chambers

    Christmas has a different meaning for many families. To Clifton and me Christmas meant a time to give and receive gifts, have better than average meals, attend local parties and activities and enjoy a full week with no school. The festivities started with the Friday afternoon school celebration. For this occasion a large tree had been set up and decorated in the middle of the auditorium stage. The large auditorium was also decorated with colored paper streamers and chains. For a few days the lower grades had worked at assembling the decorations and the upper grades and high school students had placed them in the proper places. The auditorium was a beautiful place and everyone looked forward to the Friday afternoon program and gift exchange.
    A local pastor opened the school celebration with an explanation of the true meaning of Christmas and an opening prayer. The program featured the usual songs and musical renditions by students, the recitation of appropriate poems and short presentations by school classes.
Eventually it was time for the gift distribution. All of the teachers provided gifts for the students in their rooms. The gift was usually accompanied by fruit or candy. Most of the students gave gifts to the teacher. A few students exchanged gifts with each other.
    Since Christmas came in the middle of the hunting season the free week enabled the hide hunters to search for ‘possums, skunks and other small fur bearing animals. Savings that had been spent for Christmas could be replaced while having fun hunting! Clifton and I always had fun while hunting and making a little money.
    There were always a few Christmas parties that we just had to attend. The largest party was probably the one given by Jim Newsome and his wife Anne. There was no shortage of eggnog. They had mixed the ingredients in a foot tub and it was carefully watched to insure that plenty of the popular drink was available for all guests. The mixture did not contain alcohol but several different alcoholic liquids were available for those who wanted to give the mixture a “kick”! Clifton and I poured a little of the “kick stuff” in our nog. After a tiny sip or two I decided the nog was better without it and I casually placed my glass on the table and acquired a new one without the kick juice. Clifton did the same. Some of the older boys made several trips to the table and with each refill they left room for a portion of the kicks drink!
    The “nog with a kick” began to affect the dispositions of the guests. Some of them became happier and drank more of the liquid refreshment. A few of the celebrants began to feel their nog in an antagonistic manner and felt like they should show everyone how well they could fight. Amuel Jones was the first to start trouble. Amuel was known as a trouble maker.  He walked up to Corby, who was a cousin of Clifton’s, and slapped him on the cheek.  This caused him to spill part of his drink on the floor.  He turned and returned the slap with a little more vim and told Amuel to be careful and not slap him again without his permission.
     This little exchange apparently made Amuel angry. He raised both hands and clamped them tightly around Corby’s throat. Corby tried to free himself but the antagonist held his grip until Corby began to weaken. Clifton hurried to the area of the scuffle, his hand reaching for his back pocket. I knew what was coming because I knew what Clifton had in his pocket. He quickly brought his right hand out holding a pair of pliers. Clifton was seldom without his pliers. He said they were handy for many little tasks that needed taking care of. The choke hold on Corby’s neck was a task that needed to be quickly taken care of. I expected Clifton to hit Amuel on the head with the pliers.
    Instead of a blow to the head Clifton opened the pliers and closed them on Amuel’s right ear. When he squeezed the handles the victim yelled and released his throat hold on Corby. Clifton squeezed harder on the pliers and started leading him toward the outside door. As they parted company just outside the door I heard Clifton say, “And don’t come back!”
    As Clifton returned from his riddance chore someone at the nog table shouted, “Hey, there’s some socks in our nog!” Before anyone could offer an explanation old Grandpa Newsome, who was spending a few days with Jim and Anne, began muttering loud enough for all to hear, “I’m guilty! I thought the foot tub was for dirty socks and I piled mine in it before the party!” The noisy crowd quietened until you could have heard a tick sneeze.
    A few of the happy crowd thought it was funny. Clifton didn’t think so – neither did I!