A Holiday To Remember
A Son For Christmas by Nancy Pirri
Cattle driver, Cane Smith arrives in Bozeman, Montana, released after serving seven years in a Texas prison for a crime he didn't commit. Living behind bars has changed him, especially when he discovers he's a father. Now, Cane has been exonerated of the crime and intends to claim his son, born of a prostitute with whom he'd loved, before being incarcerated. As an infant, the boy had been adopted by rancher, Tom Callahan.
Tom can't fault Cane for wanting to claim his son, but has his own daughter, Annie, to deal with. She's helped her father raise the boy she named Mark. After all this time, she can't give him up. He's a Callahan.
Cane, who's been longing for a love and home of his own, has a solution: Miss Annie will have to marry him if she wants to keep Mark in her life. Annie will do anything to keep the boy with her—but can she live with the hard, rough Cane Smith?
The Grayton Family Christmas Supper Contest by Charmaine Pauls
Nobody truly knows what happened the Christmas of 1910 in the small town of Grayton, South Africa. What is for sure, is that people until today still talk about the scandalous event that grew into one of the country's biggest annual food festivals.
The Grayton Christmas Supper Contest
The trouble in Grayton, a small town in the Western Cape of South Africa, started with the Christmas turkey. This is what Susanna van der Merwe argued. She blamed everything that happened the Christmas of 1910 on the English woman who insisted on the foreign habit. Since love was blind, Susanna saw it her God given duty to point out her daughter-in-law’s flaws to her son.
Susanna waited until boetie Hendrik had crossed the yard. She stopped churning the milk and wiped her brow with her apron. “A month before Christmas... You and your father mustn’t wait too long for the hunt. I need the springbok at least two weeks before to ripen the meat. You know fresh game has a wild taste to it.”
“Yes, Ma.” Hendrik dipped a drinking spoon in the water bucket and drank in gulps.
“If your wife needs help with a dish, tell her to put her pride in her pocket and come talk to me. A terrible sin, pride. It’s her English manners that makes her think she’s better than us Boers.”
Hendrik sighed. “If she thinks that, then why did she marry me?”
“Why a turkey? What’s wrong with chicken? We always serve cold chicken.”
“It’s her tradition, Ma.”
Susanna scoffed. “That’s what you get for marrying an Englishwoman. You know how Pa feels about the enemy.”
Hendrik sighed again, letting out a longer breath this time. “The war’s long over.”
“And the youth forget easily.” Susanna wiped her palms on her long skirt and started churning again. “Your grandfather died for the land you stand on. I followed my mother barefoot over the mountain, fleeing in front of the Rednecks. I could have died, and then, where would you have been? Never born. And now a turkey for Christmas.”
Hendrik was an obedient son who avoided conflict, especially with his mother, so he stayed put, as he hadn’t yet been dismissed. The young man’s feet itched, though. He could almost see the gears turning in Susanna’s mind as she searched for a different tactic.
“Where are you going to get this turkey from? The closest thing to a turkey around here is an ostrich.”
“A guineafoul is probably closer.” They hunted them often for his mother. Because he was a big man with a healthy appetite, he licked his lips, thinking about her bird pot with celery, prunes and dried peaches. “Giepie will bring the turkey with the mail from Cape Town.”
Giepie was their trusted mail cart driver.
“In this heat? The bird will die from dehydration on the wrong side of the mountain.”
Everything beyond the Grayton border was ‘on the wrong side of the mountain’, which may as well have been Sodom and Gomorrah in Susanna’s book. Hendrik, who had never disrespected his mother, realized his wife, Pollie, was right. It was time to be a man. He had his own house now, after all, which meant he had to act like the head of a family.
“Sin and nothing else, all the way from there to Cape Town,” Susanna continued, her head following the round path of the churn handle.
Hendrik’s left eye twitched. Susanna should have noticed, but she was too busy listing Pollie’s shortcomings in her mind, including that she was from that godforsaken city.
“A turkey.” She pulled up her nose. “Not on my table. You’ll have to set it on Santjie’s end.”
Santjie was not a good cook, and sending the turkey to the townswoman’s side of the table was as big an insult as Susanna could deliver.
“Listen, Ma, Pollie is going to cook her turkey for Christmas, and that’s that.”
He turned and just for good measure kicked up some dust as he stomped to the sheep kraal. Pa Dirk’s dusting of the earth always put a stopper in Ma’s complaints. It didn’t work for Hendrik, because his mother’s voice chased after him.
“Don’t expect me to eat any of that English traitor turkey!”
* * * *
The whole thing started going wrong when the schooled editor from Stellenbosch with his fancy words decided to print Grayton’s Christmas recipes in his newspaper. Minister dominee Squint Eye du Preez, so called for his unfortunate strabismus, blamed everything that happened the Christmas of 1910 on the owner of the only press between this side of the mountain and Cape Town. If he hadn’t caught the Protestant dominee,the town’s only minister, off guard, his flock wouldn’t have submitted to temptation, and sin. But according to Dominee it all happened so innocently.
The church hall was a commotion of animated discussion. Dominee tried his best to restore order, but his voice was lost as everyone spoke at the same time.
“Silence!” Dirk bellowed. When the mumbling quieted down, Dominee shot Susanna’s husband a grateful look. Dirk pushed out his chest and twisted his moustache. “Let Dominee speak.”
“What exactly did he say?” Gertjie, Susanna’s neighbor, said.
“He said he’d be here to judge the food, and to write critique on each dish.”
“What does he look like?” someone shouted from the back.
“What does it matter what he looks like?” Dirk grumbled.
“Wait!” Susanna said. “I want to hear. What does the man look like?”
“Well,” Dominee pulled at his suspenders, “he has red hair and freckles, and he’s tall and lean.”
“That’s it!” Susanna said. “He’s a difficult man. Red hair, fiery temperament. If he’s thin, he must be unhappy and disgruntled. How do we know he’s going to write the truth?”
“Does that mean he’s going to eat everything?” the blacksmith said.
“He’s going to take your votes into account, but his decision is final.” The town dominee didn’t feel altogether good about this, but it was too late now, since he couldn’t think up an excuse when the imposter had faced him in the vestry. “The winner gets the prize money, but the top ten recipes will be printed in the Herald.”
“Good,” Gertjie said. She looked at Susanna. “It’s about time we have an impartial opinion in this town. And fair is fair. The best woman will win.”
A murmur of approval waved through the small crowd.
“This will make Grayton famous,” Marthinus offered.
“The headline will read,” Dominee cleared his throat and glanced at the paper in his hand, “Grayton Annual Christmas Food Festival.”
“But that’s not what it is,” Susanna protested. “It’s a religious event.”
“No harm in bringing business to town,” the butcher said.
The miller hummed his agreement. “’Bout time we were put on the map.”
“Each family will have a number, which you have to display with your dish,” Dominee explained. “No names. That way Mr. Harris will conduct the tasting fair and square.” He paused for effect. “And the surprise is that Mr. Harris has organized a photographer to take a group photo for his article.”
The hall erupted in excited chatter again. A photographer had never been seen in the district of Grayton.
“If you ask me, that apparatus is a thing from the devil,” Susanna said.
“Now, now,” Dominee gave her a wavering smile, “God blessed us with technology too.”