Harry shoveled the snow away from the barn door and, once inside, made his way to the two pairs of wooden snowshoes hanging on a nail. The larger set was his; his wife, Gladys, wore the smaller ones when she was alive.
He lifted the shoes off the wall and laid them on the workbench. A month earlier he went through the routine of weathering the snowshoes by lightly sanding the ash frame then coating both frame and rawhide webbing with varnish. He attached the leather bindings, soft from regular treatments of oil. Sixty years earlier he and Gladys had given these to each other for Christmas.
Harry was eager for his for his grandson’s arrival; he laid Ethan’s letter on the workbench to read again:
Dear Grandpa Harry,
I shared the jerky at school from the deer we got at Thanksgiving. My friends liked it and they want to go hunting with us next year. I told them about the gun you gave me.
When I come over Christmas, can we chop down a tree like I saw in the picture of you and Grandma? I think that would be fun.
See you soon!
P.S. Tell Chauncey I got him a new bed he can put by the fireplace.
“Chauncey, old boy,” Harry said to the golden lab curled on the floor. “Looks like you’re going to sleep a lot better this winter thanks to Ethan.” Chauncey wagged his tail at the mention of Ethan’s name.
Early the next morning, Chauncey’s ears perked at the sound of an engine and he bounded out of the cabin to welcome Ethan.
“Grandpa Harry, are we going to take a chainsaw to cut down our tree?” Ethan asked. “The only trees we’ve ever had were fake.”
“Oh, no,” chuckled Harry. “I have a special saw for cutting down Christmas trees, one my Daddy made when I was a kid. He found a broken saw blade, sharpened the teeth then bent a small branch from an ash tree to make a bow saw. It’s the only saw Gladys and I ever used to cut our tree. It’s hanging in the shed; let’s go get it.”
Ethan raced for the shed with Chauncey giving chase. It seemed that Chauncey’s arthritis, like Harry’s, disappeared when Ethan arrived. Soon they returned with the saw in hand, Ethan gingerly touching the teeth.
“Wow, Grandpa Harry,” Ethan said. “Those are sharp! How old did you say this was?”
“Oh, probably 75-years-old but if you take care of things, they’ll last a long time.”
Ethan watched as Harry slipped his boots in the leather bindings on the snowshoes; he followed suit and laced his own.
“You follow behind me and pack the trail down,” Harry said. “That makes it easier for Chauncey to follow us.”
Soon they found the perfect tree and scooped the snow away from the base. Harry explained how to cut through a tree so it didn’t bind or split when it fell. He then taught Ethan to tie a rope with a clove hitch around the trunk and they dragged it back to the cabin.
Later that evening with the amber glow of the fire dancing in the room, Harry rocked in his old chair as Ethan curled up asleep with Chauncey on his new bed. It had been ten years since his cabin had seen a Christmas tree covered with a string of popcorn, old tinsel and couple of presents.
“Gladys,” Harry whispered. “This old cabin hasn’t been this full of love since you passed. I discovered today why I kept your snowshoes in such good shape; I know you’d like Ethan wearing them.”
Harry retrieved a large package from his closet. Poorly wrapped in paper by an 89-year-old man, it was an obvious set of snowshoes. He propped the package by the tree then covered the sleeping boy and dog with his afghan. The gift tag read:
To: Ethan
From: Grandpa Harry, Grandma Gladys and Chauncey
Harry sat back down, warmed his cold hands around a cup of hot chocolate and softly began to sing with a quavering voice:
“Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…”
 (This was published in the November/December issue of Kansas Wildlife and Parks Magazine – please subscribe!)
Merry Christmas!