Prather’s Pick: A Christmas miracle
Audrey Wood wrote this week’s book after researching journals and diaries as to first-hand accounts of life in the early American West. She was especially inspired by accounts of widowed women raising children and even managing ranches all on their own.
“A Cowboy Christmas: The Miracle at Lone Pine Ridge” is a picture book intended for all ages. It was illustrated by Robert Florczak whose beautiful illustrations were done in oil on canvas.
Cully, a cowboy, makes his living riding the range. Now it is December, and Cully has been out on the range, looking for strays that will bring in some extra cash. Part of the cash is used to buy a burnished silver bridle, a gift for Evan, a young boy who lives on a ranch below Lone Pine Ridge.
Before Evan’s father died, he got Cully to promise that he would stay with Evan and his mother Della through the cold winter months, helping with the chores. Cully has kept the promise, arriving at the ranch by Christmas Eve. But this year, Cully should have stayed in town when he stopped to buy the bridle.
Cully is sick. He is feverish and has a bad chest cough, but he rides on toward the ranch, letting his horse find her way. Finally, when they reach the crest of Lone Pine Ridge, Cully slips off the horse onto the cold ground.
Meanwhile, at the ranch, Evan can’t stay away from the window. He’s worried about Cully. He’s never been this late before. Finally, Evan goes outdoors to close a barn door and notices a silvery light in the sky. Evan remembers an old saying: “If a cowboy dies alone on the range his soul will shoot to heaven like a star.”
Evan tells his mother that he saw a light and thinks it might have something to do with Cully so they both saddle up their horses, take lanterns, and go out to search for the cowboy. They’re about to give up when Evan notices Cully’s horse and then a dark shape on the ground.
Evan and Della take Cully back to the cabin and put him in bed by the fireplace. Cully is gravely ill, and they know he might not make it. Della doctors him the best that she can. On Christmas morning Cully is still alive.
Some time passes until Cully is well enough to move into the bunkhouse. Evan notices that he isn’t the same. One day he announces that he’s decided to leave for Mexico to join a friend in a ranching venture, but Evan has other ideas.
This is a must read book, especially for the Christmas season. The book is published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2001. The hardcover book costs $19.95. You can also find the book, with holiday books, at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries.
Audrey Wood has written several books for children, some of which were co-authored by her husband Don. One of the books, “King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub” was a Caldecott Honor book.