Home > A Texas Christmas Carol(6)

A Texas Christmas Carol(6)
Author: Karen Witemeyer

“Name’s Lester,” the bowlegged man said as he thrust his hand out for a shake.

Evan clasped his hand. “Evan Beazer.”

“Ebenezer?” Lester started cackling. “Well, how ’bout them apples? I knew a fellow named Ebenezer once. Older’n you, o’ course. Kinda crotchety, but he grew on me.” He clapped Evan’s arm. “Glad to meet ya, Eb.”

“No, my name’s not Ebenezer. It’s Evan. Evan Beazer.”

“What’s that?” Lester raised a hand to his ear.

“Evvvan.” He raised his voice for the correction and vibrated the v with extra vigor.

Lester’s brow crinkled, then cleared. He pulled a pocket watch from his vest and looked at it. “Sorry, Eb. It’s already half past seven. We might have ya home by eight, though, if yer as strong as ya look.”

Evan inhaled, preparing to try again, but Tom caught his eye and gave a slight shake of his head. The man didn’t say a word, but the small gesture communicated quite clearly that any further attempts at correction would be futile.

Fine. Evan had never seen these men before and probably never would again. They didn’t live in town. Probably just drifters passing through. Though why none of them had horses was a mystery. Not one he would waste any brainpower trying to solve, though. Thanks to Miss Wiggins ambushing him in his stable at the crack of dawn with her partnership proposals and dinner invitations, his brain was disrupted enough already.

Leading Fred behind him, Evan followed Tom around to the far side of the bog.

Lester chattered at him the whole way. “Ol’ Prez startled a half-grown white-tailed deer this morning. Poor thing went boundin’ away without lookin’ where it wuz goin’. Bounded right into that there mud hole and got hisself stuck. Prez felt so bad, he marched in there after him and lifted him out. ’Course, he got his own self stuck in the process.” He chuckled, then elbowed Evan in the ribs. “Ol’ Prez ain’t exactly a planner. He likes to live in the moment.”

“Better’n living in the past like you, you old windbag,” Prez called from the bog, easily overhearing Lester’s loud conversation. “Always jabbering about the good old days as if there ain’t nothing worthwhile in the here and now.” Prez glanced at Evan and tipped his hat. “Sorry for interruptin’ your ride, mister. Didn’t expect this mud to grab me and not let go.”

“Yes, well, I’ve got a business to run, so I can’t tarry.” Evan looked at Tom. He seemed the most intelligent of the bunch. “You have a plan for extricating your friend?”

Lester, however, was the one to answer. “All you gotta do is lasso him, tether him to yer horse, and pull him right on outta there. Just like a calf in a water hole.”

“I’m afraid I have no experience with such things. I own inns. I don’t wrangle cattle.”

Lester eyed him with a frown of disapproval. “Don’t wrangle . . . ? What kind of Texan don’t know how to wrangle dogies? Well, never ya mind. I can do the ropin’. Yer horse can do the pullin’. You and Tom can assist.” He lifted the rope from the back of Evan’s saddle and started shaping a lariat with the same ease most men would have in tying shoestrings. “Greenhorns,” he grumbled.

Evan’s pride pinched. Keeping hold of Fred’s reins, he tromped forward, moving past Lester as he neared the bog’s edge. He might not know how to lasso a calf, but he knew his horse, and Fred wasn’t terribly fond of strangers. Well, except for Miss Wiggins.

And there she was again. Intruding on his thoughts. His life. Could she not stay out of his head for five minutes?

Thankfully, Lester knew what he was about and had Prez roped and tethered to Fred’s saddle horn in a matter of minutes. Evan urged Fred backward until all the slack in the rope pulled taut. The noose tightened around Prez’s torso until he leaned like a sapling in a windstorm, but the mud refused to release him.

“Better get down there and help pull,” Lester said. “I’ll direct yer horse.”

Fred showed no signs of balking as the little man came alongside him, but Evan still hesitated.

“Go on, son,” Lester urged. “God gave ya them muscles fer more than just coat padding.”

The old man’s words grated. Evan hadn’t taken orders since his clerking days. He’d worked hard to lift himself above the rabble and claim a position that demanded respect. To regain what his father had lost. Yet here he was, being made to feel like an insignificant bellboy again, ordered into the muck to fix a problem not of his making.

“You one o’ them Levite types, then?”

Evan raised a brow at the odd question. “What?”

“Too full o’ pride and self-importance to help a feller in need?” Lester pierced him with a disapproving gaze. “If yer lookin’ fer the other side to pass by on, it’s over yonder.” He jabbed a thumb past his shoulder.

The Good Samaritan reference cut through Evan’s sanctimonious armor and slid beneath his skin, stirring an itch of shame that couldn’t be ignored. Heaving a sigh, he followed the rope line until he reached the edge of the mud hole.

“There ya go, Eb!” Lester’s joyful cackle echoed loudly behind him. “I knew you was the man fer the job.”

Thankful for the riding gloves that protected his hands, Evan grabbed the rope and dug his heels into the mud at the edge of the hole.

“Pull!” Lester yelled.

Evan clenched his jaw and pulled. Every muscle strained, from arm to back to leg.

“It’s workin’!” Tom proclaimed from his vantage point on the opposite side, where he was trying to shoehorn his friend out of the bog from behind with a fallen tree branch. “Hang on, Prez.”

“What d’ya think I’m doin’?” Prez’s top half was nearly horizontal as he gripped the rope in front of his face. He groaned as the noose dug into his underarms.

“Lord?” Lester’s voice rang out behind Evan with even more volume than before. “We’re just poor, humble folk struggling along in this life best we can. All of us been stuck, whether in habits, sin, or good ol’ Texas mud, like our friend Prez, here. We’re doin’ our best, but only you can free us from what holds us down. If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, we could really use a little Psalm 40 action about now. Bring him out of the miry clay, Lord, and set his feet upon a rock.”

A shiver passed through Evan’s chest, as if the prayer were meant for him, not Prez. He shook it off and focused on the job at hand. Yet his effort didn’t seem to matter, for before he reset his grip, a loud sucking sound ensued. Evan suddenly found himself on his backside as Prez pulled free. Evan released the rope and let the horse drag Prez the rest of the way onto solid ground, then scrambled over to the old man’s side. His wheezing breaths were worrisome. Fiddling with the slipknot, Evan loosened the noose beneath Prez’s arms as quickly as he could.

“Hallelujah, Lord!” Lester cried. “You done did it! Thank ya, thank ya.”

Shaking his head at the unconventional prayer yet unable to argue with the results, Evan added his own silent thanks, oddly moved by being part of the rescue.

Something Felicity had said that morning echoed in his mind. Something about the power of being present in God’s work.

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