By BRYCE ANGELL

Axel thought of Christmas, then he tossed a frozen bale. The cowhand had no family. He was fresh, right out of jail.

Christmas wasn’t Axel Harker’s favorite time of year. He lived out in the bunkhouse and he needed winter gear.

The foreman’s wife loved Christmas. She could mother anyone. She taught the cowboys ‘bout the birth of Heavenly Father’s Son.

She reminded all the cowboys, “You’ll be home on Christmas Day. But Axel is alone, could use a gift or two his way.”

The cowboys had no money, so they chose a piece of tack. Floyd had an extra rope of horsehair dyed in black.

Wilbur found two right hand mitts and pulled one inside out. Axel would have a proper pair just good enough to tout.

Whitey had a second coat which no one did back then. He wrapped it in a gunny sack and placed in Axel’s bin.

Dalley spent the day in town. The feed store had a hat. The owner said, “It’s yours for free.” Can’t beat a deal like that.

The foreman’s wife was quite a gal. She made a brand-new shirt. She tore up one old tablecloth and one well worn-out skirt.

With presents wrapped and put away those cowboys felt akin, to a quiet man who they called friend. Now Christmas settled in.

Axel woke up Christmas morn, went out to do the chores. He fed the cows and gathered eggs, then opened all their doors.

While walking back toward the house, he noticed teams and sleighs with cowboys and their families too, tucked tightly in the hay.

They all sat down for breakfast. It was dang near half past ten. Then the foreman’s wife set out the gifts to Axel from the men.

The tears of joy, that freely flowed which once seemed out of place were now a part of this old cowboy’s worn and grizzled face.

With children smiling back at him he heard the foreman say, “Merry Christmas to you Axel on this very special day.”

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