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The Least Of These
By La Belle Rouge Poetess Of The Heart
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Rated "G" by the Author.
The Best Christmas Ever Is When We Learn How To Love And Give To The Least
Dedicated To JASMIN HORST SEILER
The Least Of These
By La Belle Rouge
“Judy take this cornbread and vegetable soup down to your Gramma. Be careful now, it’s hot; and wrap up warm it’s still snowing.”
Judy hurried to her room and threw on her heaviest coat and gloves. She pulled a stocking cap over her head. Gramma lived lower down the mountain and it would be an easy trip down but a difficult one back up. She wore her boots with the grip soles. Virginia’s Blue Ridge was a beautiful place to live but it could be punishing in Winter. Snows were sometimes two to four feet deep. Christmas was still a few weeks away and it looked like it would be a white one.
“Here you go.” Ma said as she shifted the container from her hands to Judy’s. “Now keep it upright and don’t let it spill. Don’t stay too long at Gramma’s. It’ll get dark soon.”
“ Be back soon Ma,” She replied as she thought about the deserted way it felt on a snow-drifted mountain after dark. It could be a bit scary for a ten year old girl.
“Any message for Gramma?”
“Just tell her I’ll call her tonight and check on her.”
Judy stepped out of the cozy kitchen into the freezing cold of a mountain winter afternoon. It was so cold it made her glad that it wasn’t too far to Gramma’s house, especially if she took the short cut through the woods. As she stepped through the forest path sometimes the snow drifts were so deep they came up to her thighs and caused her to shiver from the wetness seeping through the legs of her jeans. Her breath made clouds of steam in the crisp air . Gramma’s warm cabin would feel so good.
She passed an old junked pickup truck and washing machine as she walked the trail behind Mr. Connelly’s barn. Just past the Connelly farm was a large gulley filled with trash. She wouldn’t go near it in warm weather because rats lived there. In cold weather you hardly ever saw them since they were burrowed down into tunnels beneath the trash. Still Judy kept her distance as she passed by. It was then that she heard a faint whining coming from the trash pile. Could it be one of those huge rats? No it sounded more like a….like a puppy!
Her curiosity overcame her fear of rats and she carefully tread near the edge of the gully. There lying on top of an old, snow covered, wooden crate was a ball of matted, dirty fluff. Its coat was black all over with a white bib on its chest. It resembled a black teddy bear wearing a tuxedo. It looked up at her with the most pitiful brown eyes and made that whining noise again. It should have been someone’s little lap dog. What was It doing out here in the wilderness? It was obvious someone had lost their pet or dropped it off to get rid of it. The dog wore an enormous metal clip attached to its collar that must have once connected the tiny poodle to a chain. The clip was so big Judy wondered how such a small mite of a thing could carry it around. She cringed when she thought about the puppy being tied to a heavy chain outside in the bitter cold.
“Come here Baby,” She called to the frightened creature that lay shivering in the snow.
It seemed as afraid of Judy as she was of the rats. Finally she got down on her knees and coaxed it with baby talk until the little dog crawled to her and lay flat on the ground motionless at her feet. She gently picked it up and realized it was a girl.
“Oh poor little Girl,” she crooned as she cuddled her close.
Her hair was so matted and dirty and she could feel every rib-bone through her wool gloves. It was obvious that someone had treated her so badly she was afraid of everything. Then Judy realized the Poodle was skinny but she had a fat middle. Something tiny like a finger pressed from inside the fat stomach into the palm of Judy’s gloved hand.
“Oh Little Girl, you are going to be a mother, and soon. We have a barn. I can make you a warm bed in the hay and bring you food and water when we get home. I can’t leave you here. What if those big rats came out and bit you? I can’t leave you not even long enough to go to Gramma’s.’
Judy bundled the dog under her heavy coat and continued on her way to deliver the soup.
“Now you be quiet and I’ll have you in a warm bed of straw in no time. I think I’ll name you “Noel” since it’s almost Christmas time.”
There was no more whining and soon no more shivering as the little one cuddled up close to Judy under the coat. Judy hurried to Gramma’s so she could get the dog home and settled before dark. She almost ran onto the big front porch and knocked hard on the old wooden door. Gramma was a bit hard of hearing now so she would have to knock loudly to make her hear. Soon a short, stout, gray haired lady opened wide the door. Her faded blue eyes twinkled with joy as she wiped her hands on her apron.
“Judy, so good to see you Sweetheart. Come in and warm by the wood stove. We’ll have some of that, whatever it is, you are bringing me. And I baked a chocolate cake!”
“Sorry Gramma, I can’t stay. I need to hurry back since Ma might want some help with fixing supper tonight.”
The old lady’s face fell with disappointment. She and Judy were kindred spirits and they always had so much to talk about. Judy felt bad that she couldn’t stay. The puppy wiggled against her and made a low whine. Judy was glad Gramma couldn’t hear well enough to notice.
“Ma said she’ll call you tonight. I’ll come back tomorrow Gramma, I promise,” she said as she leaned over and gave her grandmother a kiss on the cheek.
“Burrrr, that was a cold kiss. Thanks for bringing the whatever” Gramma laughed as she waved goodbye from the doorway and watched Judy disappear into the woods.
The snow began to fall fast in large flakes and the wind moaned like a banshee through the hollow. Judy tried to walk as fast as she could through the trail up the mountain. It was a hard climb. The pine trees were loaded down and sometimes a clump of snow fell across her path. It was bitter cold and the wet jeans were making her shiver but under her coat she and Noel stayed warm. She passed the trash pile and the old junked truck behind the Connelly barn. It was starting to get dark because the snow clouds were so heavy. Judy had to make it home before dark or she might lose her way. People had disappeared in these snowy mountains during blizzards and never been seen again!
Finally their barn came in sight. Judy hurried inside to get her new friend settled in. She found a place near the cow stall and decided that maybe the body heat from the cows would keep Noel warmer. There were bales of straw and of hay. Judy chose the hay because it was denser and would be a softer bed than the straw. She found an old wire cutter hanging on the barn wall and used it to cut the baling string. The hay made a grand bed, she spread it lightly but left some of the bale intact. Being a country girl she knew the ways of animals. Foxes always made a den to have their pups in, where they could be safe and kept warm by the moist breath of their mother. Maybe this little mother dog would do the same.
“Be back soon, Noel, with some food and water. You just keep warm.”
She hurried to the house and into the warmth of her mother’s kitchen.
“Judy! Where on Earth have you been? I called Gramma and she said you didn’t even come in and left in a hurry. What happened? I’ve been worried.”
“Sorry Ma, the snow is really deep and falling hard, it took a while to make it back up the mountain.”
“Well, go get those wet boots and socks off and come eat your supper. Pa and I already ate but I kept some soup and cornbread in the warmer oven for you. After you eat you can go on up to bed. Pa already took care of feeding the stock so you don’t have to help tonight.”
“Ma you really looked tired tonight, I’ll eat and do the dishes before I go to bed. You can go ahead and lay down for the night.”
“Why that’s very sweet of you Honey. I believe I will. See you in the morning and try to get out of those wet clothes as soon as you can. Put the leftovers out on the back screen porch. Goodnight Sweet Girl.”
Judy smiled to herself as she thought about how there would be no leftovers on the porch. She ate hurriedly then broke the cornbread into pieces and placed it into the pot of soup which still had enough left to provide a large meal for a small dog. She would have to be as quiet as the trash pile rats in Winter when she sneaked out to the barn.
Noel had been busy. She had dug a den into the hay bale and was lying fat and warm inside.
“Here Noel, here girl,” Judy called as she sat the pot of leftovers down in front of the den.
Still frightened, Noel crawled out on her fat belly and laid at Judy’s feet. She was afraid to eat but Judy persuaded her by holding morsels in her palm and coaxing the little Poodle to taste it. Noel’s fuzzy tale began to wag furiously and soon the food was gobbled up. Tonight she would sleep safe, warm and full for the first time in Judy didn’t know how long.
“Now stay in there Girl, unless you need to do your business, then do it where it won’t be seen and if Pa comes in here early tomorrow, you stay still and be quiet. Good night Sweet Girl.”
Judy felt really special when Noel crawled out long enough to lick her hand. Then she scurried back to the house and her warm nightgown and bed. The hot dishwater felt wonderful after such a chilly day. Judy soon finished the chore and headed for bed. She changed into her nightgown in the bathroom. Ma had laid it out on the cast-iron, steam radiator to warm. The fragrance of fresh air drifted up from the line dried flannel and the warmth felt heavenly against her skin. When she opened the door to the stairwell the freezing air hit her and she rushed up the steps and into her quilt covered bed. Even the bed sheets were cold but they soon warmed from her body heat. Judy felt snowflakes hitting her face and melting. They had found a welcome into the house through the old un-boarded eves. Judy went to sleep thinking of the beauty of snow and the joy of a tail-wagging, black ball of fluff.
“Judy, breakfast.” Ma called up the stairwell. The small window in the gable showed that it was still dark. Farmers rose early to tend to the animals. Judy shook the drifted snow from her quilt and pulled on her woolen socks. By the time she got downstairs Pa was finishing his breakfast and second cup of strong, black coffee. He’d be headed to the cow barn after he fed the hogs.
“Mornin Sunshine,” he said as Judy bent down to give him a hug. “Need to get goin early. Snow shows no signs of stopping anytime soon, need to keep those cows shut up in the barn until it stops.”
“Pa, I’ll fed them this morning and shovel the stalls and milk” Judy quickly offered. I know you have plenty else to do.”
Ma and Pa smiled as Ma replied, “My, you sure are helpful lately!”
“Oh, just doing my part.”
Judy ate the steaming buttered pancakes then dressed hurriedly in the bathroom. She could hardly wait to go see her little friend in the barn. She had managed to take a bit of smoked sausage and pancake from the table, unseen. She’d surely get rewarded with tale wags for this.
She hurried though the big barn door, calling out as she entered, “Here Noel, here girl.”
After lighting the lantern she looked around in the dim shadows. The four Holstein cows mooed out a low greeting. They were ready for their food and to be milked. The hay den was still intact but no little dog came crawling out to see her. When she heard a whining noise Judy got down on her knees and peered inside the circular den. Noel was there, lying on her side her back feet dug into the floor as her fat tummy rose and fell with her pushing. Judy knew, because she had seen the new calves, foals and goat kids being born, that Noel was ready to have her puppies. She watched her push and push but no puppy was born. Judy knew Noel was in trouble.
What can I do? she thought. There would be no getting a vet, even if Ma and Pa agreed there was no way to drive off or on the mountain with three feet of snow. I’ll get her to Gramma, she’s helped bring lots of animals and human babies into the world. Gramma will know what to do.
As quickly as possible Judy fed the cows, shoveled the dirty stalls out into the snow beyond the back doors of the barn. Then she milked all four cows into the two clean buckets she had brought with her. When she brought the milk into the kitchen Ma was waiting to put some on the screen porch to chill and to churn some into butter in the wooden churn. Judy set the buckets on the kitchen table. She would have to hurry once again, animals sometimes died when their babies were too slow to be born.
“Ma I promised Gramma I’d come for a visit today? Is it ok if I go now. It’s light outside and maybe I could spend the day. Gramma loves it when I spend the day.”
“Alright, the chores are taken care of until tonight. But you call me soon as you get there. Don’t you worry me again like you did yesterday.”
“No ma’am I won’t worry you.”
Judy went back to the barn. She pulled Noel out of her cozy den. Poor Noel moaned with pain and looked up at her with such sadness. She wrapped the little poodle in a heavy towel and zipped her into her coat where she could be kept warm and dry. The snow was really deep now but Judy kept pushing her way through. Finally she reached Mr. Connelly’s barn. It wouldn’t take long now to get to Gramma‘s cabin. As she was passing the back of the barn, wooooosh…. a huge drift fell from the roof. It was the last thing Judy remembered until she woke up with Mr. Connelly holding her hand and calling her name. Her eyes opened and her head hurt, badly.
“Don’t worry Child, Mr. Connelly was saying. “I’ll get you down to your Gramma’s and we’ll call your folks from there.”
He picked her up like a baby and carried her down the mountain to Gramma’s. She was asleep and then awake, then asleep again. She was awake long enough to hear her grandmother cry out when she opened the door.
“Better get her inside and dried off then into bed.” Mr. Connelly said. “She took a pretty hard whack to her head from a fallen snow drift. Guess you need to call Judith and Bill, Sophie. Doubt you could get a doc out here in this weather”
“I’ll take care of her Tom, thank you, put her there on the bed.”
This was all Judy heard or knew until sometime later when she woke up in Gramma’s spare bed. One of Gramma’s handmade quilts covered her. There was a fire made up in the fireplace and Judy felt warm but her head still hurt and she was sick to her stomach. Reaching down to unzip her coat she realized it was gone and she was dressed in a nightgown. She always loved sleeping in one of Gramma’s nightgowns but along with her clothes, Noel had disappeared.
“Ah, you’re awake Baby Girl, good,” Sophie said as she tucked the quilt closely under her granddaughter’s chin. “Don’t worry about that wee thing. I took care of her. She has three pups, two boys and a girl. The boys are black like their mama but that girl is tiny as a mouse and with a coat as red as your hair Judy! We know they’re half poodle, as for the other half only God knows what that might be but they sure are tiny and fuzzy.
Judy smiled and then sank back into nothingness as she came and went in and out of consciousness. She could feel her grandmother’s hands shaking her and her voice calling,
“Wake up Judy, you had a hard bump on the head, you can’t sleep now.”
Judy couldn’t seem to stay awake. The next time she realized what was going on around her she saw Gramma and Ma sitting by her bed and she could hear Pa on the phone. He hung up and moved to the bedside.
“Doc says that since she has a fever it’s more complicated than the head injury. She may have lain out in the snow too long before Mr. Connelly found her. He’s going to try and drive his jeep close to the foot of the mountain to meet me and give me some medicine. I’ll have to walk from here. I’ll be back as soon as I can."
“Be careful Bill,” Ma said as she squeezed his hand.
“You and Mom just take care of our little girl. I’ll hurry.”
Judy shivered under the quilts they had piled on top of her. Her whole body ached and she was thirsty. Gramma gave her some ginger ale.
“What on Earth were you doing with a pregnant dog Judy? You know your Pa has always said any animal who lives at the farm has to pay for itself and that little lap dog is of no use.”
“Judith, be quiet,” Gramma said. “This is not the time to talk about it and besides the dog is here at my house and not at your farm. I’ll talk to Bill, he’s always reasonable. What did you expect your very kind and loving daughter to do, leave a mite of a thing like that tiny Poodle on the trash pile to freeze?”
Judy raised her head off the pillow,Gramma can I see the puppies?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Judith said. “You can’t get out of bed.”
Gramma smiled and replied, “Then we’ll just have to bring them to you .”
In a few minutes Noel and her new babies were lying on the quilt beside Judy. She had never seen anything as tiny. They looked like little blind mice as they contentedly nursed their mother. Judy ran her fingertips lightly over their wavy coats.
“Good job Noel, you’re a good mother,” she said as she stroked Noel’s head before they both fell asleep.
When she woke again Judy realized there was only darkness behind the lace curtains and Pa wasn’t back yet. What had she done? Would she be the cause of Pa being hurt or even lost in the snow? Hours seemed to drag by and still no Pa. She reached out to touch Noel but even she was gone, banished with her puppies to the kitchen where the wood stove would keep them warm.
Dawn lightened the room with pink hues and Pa was standing beside Ma as she held out a spoonful of medicine for Judy to take. She was so relieved to see her Pa was safe.
“Pa, I’m sorry about the dog. I know she can only be a pet and not useful on the farm but I couldn’t just let her die in the snow.”
“You did exactly what you should have, Darlin, but you should have told me. Never try to hide things from Ma and me. Noel is fine and so are her puppies and you’ll be fine too soon.”
After a few days the medicine and the Poodle love began to help. They decided not to move her in the cold weather and she was delighted to stay at Gramma’s with Noel and the puppies. Doc said it would be a few weeks until she was good as new so she would have lots of time to spend playing with the puppies. School was closed due to snow and then for the Christmas holidays. The puppies were growing so fast. They ran and played, jumped and fought and Judy knew the time was coming when they would have to go to new homes. She had become so attached to the little red girl she named Rose that she couldn’t stand the thought of giving her away.
By Christmas Eve enough of the snow had melted that you could drive half way up the mountain to Gramma’s house. Pa had put an ad in the local paper about finding a lost poodle but so far no one had responded. One day there was a knock on Gramma’s door.
“Hello,” a nicely dressed middle aged Lady said, as Gramma welcomed her in from the cold. “So you are Judy. I'm Mrs. Turner and I’m so grateful to you. I’m the owner of the black poodle you found. Someone stole her a few weeks ago. Sounds like they treated my little girl really bad. Could I see Coco and her babies?”
Gramma had scooped up all the poodles and placed them on the floor in front of Mrs. Turner. Noel was clean and well fed, she had a pink bow attached over each of her ears.
“Coco, My Darling Girl,” Mrs. Turner said as tears streamed down her face…. and your babies, they’re so beautiful."
She reached down and picked Noel up. Noel licked her face furiously as Mrs. Turner cuddled her near.
“Will you be taking them all away?” Judy asked as tears formed in her eyes too.
“Coco is a registered Toy Poodle. She’s worth a lot of money and so are her purebred puppies. Judy you have been so kind and giving. You’ve taught me much about the spirit of Christmas and about love. I will be taking Coco home because she is my companion but the puppies are yours. Your Gramma has told me on the phone of two widows who would love the companionship of the black ones and that little red girl, well you two are a match so she is yours. I’ve already talked to your parents and they agreed, someone with as much love inside them as you, should have a little red Poodle to share it with!”
Now Judy’s tears began to fall but they were tears of joy. She reached for little Rose and held her close while Rose’s pom pom wagged and she licked Judy’s face just like her mother licked Mrs. Turner’s.
“How can I thank you Mrs. Turner?”
“No thanks needed, you have given me the most wonderful Christmas present of my life. Merry Christmas Judy.”
Mrs. Turner left saying “I’ll be back to get Coco after the puppies are weaned. Thank you Judy and Sophie for all you’ve done to give me the best Christmas ever.”
Sometime later it began to snow again. It would be a beautiful white mountain Christmas. Judy hugged her Christmas present wrapped in red. Yes it would be a very Merry Christmas after all, maybe the best one ever!
12/17/2009 La Belle Rouge
This Story Is The Copyrighted Property Of The Author. Do Not Steal It.
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|Reviewed by Jon Willey
|Belle, wee dogs bring out the biggest, most loving hearts in little girls and grandmothers -- a wonderful story my friend, filled with compassion -- peace and love to you -- Jon Michael|
|Reviewed by Felix Perry
|Wonderfully warm and hope inducing story of what love should be...
|Reviewed by John Bidwell
|Thank you so much for such a beautiful Christmas treat.
|Reviewed by Rose Rideout
|Absolutely beautiful La Belle, with such a happy ending. I loved it.
Newfie Hugs, Merry Christmas, Rose
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|Beautiful story of hope; well done, Belle!
(((HUGS))), much love, and Merry Christmas~!
As always, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :D
|Reviewed by Georg Mateos
|"...tonight she would sleep safe, warm and..." the Lord send am angel to check on a little defenseless dog. A war story apt for a Christmas tale in front of a fireplace, about human kindness, family, home...
|Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner
|Awwe, La Belle, a precious gift, indeed, your words and the message contained therein: thank you. Beautiful.
(((HUGS))) love and Merry Christmas!, Karla. :)
|Reviewed by Richard Arrington
|A very good write, thank you and Merry Christmas.|
La Belle Rouge Poetess Of The Heart