~ CHAPTER 1 ~
Christmas Eve was the next day. Nettie Wells was straightening up her house in preparations. She had asked the boys to come out for Christmas dinner when their chores in town were complete. Hopefully, they'd be done in time for 4 PM. She had gotten a special tablecloth for the holidays from back East. It had napkins to match. When some of the seven protectors of Four Corners found out about the fancy cloths and dinnerware, they argued with Nettie about attending. She knew she had to be strong and put her foot down to them. She gave them an order to come for dinner, and they knew better than to disobey her. Each man promised to be there. She was baking apple pies and a Christmas cake. She had yams, mashed potatoes, turkey and roast beef. By the time night fell on her farmhouse, it was spotless and smelled so good. Nettie went to bed early to get a fresh start on Christmas Eve. She still had to do a few more things.
While she slept, a young couple trespassed onto her property. A man pulling a donkey, which carried his pregnant wife. As they slowly drew near the farm, the woman began whispering in Mexican to him.
"Speak English, Maria, you know I can't understand you when you speak like that," he told her referring to the speed of her speech rather than the language itself.
"I said, how do you know these people will let us stay?" she repeated in her thick accent.
"I don't know. What do you want me to do?"
"I do not know, Joseph."
"How 'bout the barn. We can stop there; then, continue tomorrow."
"Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. We have to get to Little Bethlehem."
"Maria, you are going to have a baby. We can get to Little Bethlehem after the baby's born."
"What do you want to do, then"
'We will stay in the barn tonight so as to not disturb the folks in the house. Tomorrow, I will approach them."
"OK, Joseph," she conceded knowing the argument was going nowhere.
Joseph led the donkey carrying Maria to the barn. It was an icy cold night. The wind was terrible. It swirled around Maria chilling her through the two blankets that clung to her. Joseph opened the barn door carefully. Several animals were occupying the barn already. Nettie knew the weather would not be fit to be in the next few days - she always could tell. Joseph led the donkey inside.
"We can lie near the animals to keep warm," he told Maria.
Joseph reached up and helped the pregnant Maria down from the donkey. He placed the donkey near some hay a horse was nibbling on. The donkey satisfied himself with a mouthful of food. Joseph returned to Maria.
"Do you think these people will let us stay?" she asked her husband.
"I hope so. That weather's awful, and I'd hate to keep you out in it."
The wind rattled the boards of the barn. The doors and shutters on the windows creaked in the wind. Joseph laid down beside an old milk cow. He pulled Maria close to him and covered them both with the blankets Maria had wrapped up in while riding the donkey.
The night passed slowly as the couple tried to stay warm. In the early morning hours they heard a rooster crow outside. The sun was just breaking the horizon. He sat and watched Maria sleep. She'd need as much strength as possible, he thought. He rose every now and then to peek outside at the house. What would he do if the occupants of the house told him he and Maria couldnt stay; after all, he was a white man married to a Mexican girl that was about to give birth to their first child.
Joseph watched the house intently. He saw a form in the front window. Before he could begin to think about what he would say, the form came outside. The woman swept at the front porch. The wind from the previous night threw sand and leaves all over it. As she swept, she felt a pair of eyes watching her. She stopped sweeping and turned to the barn. Joseph quickly closed the door. His heart was pounding; he could feel the throbbing inside him. He didn't get the door closed quickly enough, however.
The woman placed the broom to lean against the wall of the house. She reached just inside the door for her shotgun, and she carefully approached the barn. She swung open the large door and aimed the shotgun at Joseph.
"Who are ya, and what are ya doin' here in the stable?" she scolded the man.
"I I um I needed a place for my wife to rest. I am sorry to intrude. We'll leave immediately," Joseph answered holding his hands above his head nervously.
Nettie dropped the shotgun from its aim to her side.
"What's your name?" she asked him realizing the woman was pregnant.
"Joseph Christianson. This is my wife, Maria," he answered as Maria awoke staring in confusion at the sight.
"My name's Nettie Wells. This here is my home. Next time, knock on the door if you need a place to stay for the night."
"When's she due?"
"Anyday now. We're on our way to Little Bethlehem."
As they talked, Maria gasped for breath. She started to ramble in her quick native tongue. Joseph recognized her panicked speech and turned to her.
"Maria, in English!" he begged her.
"It is time!" she answered.
"Now?" he questioned.
"Now!" she exclaimed grasping his arm for support as she felt another contraction.
"Oh, dear, I have to get Nathan here, immediately," Nettie said as she rushed out of the stable.
Nettie ran into the house where Casey was still sleeping.
"Casey! Casey! Wake up!" she cried out.
"What is it, Aunt Nettie?" she awoke started.
"I need you to go to town and get Nathan," she rushed the girl out of bed.
"Nathan? Why? Who's hurt?"
"No one is hurt. A man and woman acme in last night and stayed in the stable with the animals. She's pregnant and in labor. Go, now!"
"A man and a pregnant woman about to give birth in our stable with the animals on Christmas Eve?" Casey questioned insinuating a thought that already entered Nettie's mind.
"I know. I know. It's all very ironic, but I don't question why the Lord does these things, Casey. Just go get Nathan."
Casey quickly dressed and took her horse from the stable. As she did, she greeted both Joseph and Maria. She left the couple and headed towards Four Corners.
~ CHAPTER 2 ~
Nathan was still angry with Ezra from the previous day. Ezra refused to help the orphans enjoy Christmas as Nathan saw it. He couldn't understand Ezra. How could he be so heartless, Nathan thought? Nathan sat in his office watching from the window everyone go about his or her business in the street below. He saw Casey ride in, but figured she was going to see JD.
In a matter of minutes, there was a knock upon his door.
"Come in," he told the person on the other side of the door.
"Nathan?" Casey called out excitedly.
"Casey, calm down. What's wrong? Is JD hurt?"
"No, I haven't seen JD, actually. We need you out at the house."
"Why? Nettie is she OK?"
"Yes. Yes. It's this couple that stopped by last night. The woman's pregnant. She's gone into labor. You have to come now, please!" she begged.
"OK, OK, OK. Let me get a bag together."
Nathan quickly got a few medical supplies together in a bag. He grabbed a couple blankets and headed to his horse with Casey close behind. After loading the supplies on his horse, Nathan and Casey headed out to the Wells homestead. Nettie met them as they rode up.
"Nathan! Thank God!" Nettie exclaimed as she greeted them.
"Nettie, we got here as soon as we could," Nathan replied as he dismounted.
"She didn't have the baby yet did she?" Casey asked.
"No, not yet," Nettie answered.
"Where are they?" Nathan asked.
"The stable," Nettie replied.
"The stable?" Nathan questioned.
"I know, Nathan. I asked them to go inside. The man, Joseph, didn't want to impose, or move his wife."
"Joseph? What's his wife's name; Mary?"
"Maria, and their last name is Christianson." Nettie told him.
"You're kidding, right?" Nathan asked.
"No, she's not," Casey answered.
"Joseph and Maria Christianson? They're having a baby in a stable on Christmas Eve?"
"Nathan, the Lord has brought these people to us for a reason; we shouldn't question it," Nettie told him.
"You're right," Nettie answered.
Nettie led Casey and Nathan into the stable.
"Mr. and Mrs. Christianson, this is Nathan Jackson. He worked as a medic during the war. He can help us bring that baby into the world," Nettie introduced Nathan.
Nathan examined the woman and determined she still had a little time to go.
"So, where are y'all headed?" Nathan asked.
"Little Bethlehem," Joseph answered.
"Little Bethlehem, huh?" Nathan repeated.
"Si," Maria answered.
Casey and Nettie kept the couple calm until the moment arrived.
Nathan left them for a brief time; so, he could let the others know where he was. While in town, he met with Vin, Josiah and Mary.
"Have you found Chris yet?" Nathan asked.
"No, not yet," Josiah answered.
"I'm getting worried about him. Vin, are you sure he didn't say anything to you as to where he was going?" Mary asked.
"Nothing. I didn't even see him go. I was with Ezra," Vin replied.
"Has our local gambler and swindler come to his senses yet and decided to help them orphans? Or is he going to continue being a scrooge?" Nathan asked in a condescending tone.
"Don't worry, y'all, I'm working with Ezra," Vin answered.
"Look!" Mary yelled.
The three men looked in the direction Mary was pointing in. In the distance, Chris' figure was approaching. They greeted Chris, and Nathan tended to the wound on his forehead. When Nathan finished with Chris. He told them of the couple out at Nettie's place.
"You're not going to believe this, but their name's are Joseph and Maria Christianson. They're having a baby in Nettie's stable. It's Christmas Eve. They were headed to Little Bethlehem. Does any of this mean anything?" Nathan told them.
"A Christmas miracle, perhaps. The Lord has brought them here; possibly, they need you or we need them," Josiah said before returning to the church where he had been most of the day.
~ CHAPTER 3 ~
Upon returning to Nettie's home, Nathan entered the stable.
"How's she doin'?" Nathan asked.
"Not well, Nathan," Nettie answered.
"What's wrong?" Nathan questioned.
"It's the baby. It's not birthing properly," Nettie replied after she ushered Nathan outside of the stable.
"The buttocks is first?" Nathan asked.
Nettie and Nathan returned to the expecting parents. Nathan knelt down to again examine Maria Christianson. It was true the baby was birthing in the wrong direction. Nathan took his time and special care in attempting to bring the infant into the world.
Nathan told Maria to push only upon his instruction. Nathan first gently guided the baby's buttocks to delivery. Luckily, the legs followed without incident. Nathan made sure the umbilical cord would not be compressed with each contraction. The infant's body and shoulders were also extracted without incident. With the baby's belly lying on his forearm, he carefully placed his fingers inside the birthcanal. He placed them below the baby's mouth on its chin. With his upper hand, Nathan used his index and middle fingers on either side of the infant's neck to gently press downward with each contraction as he applied upward pressure against the birthcanal with the top of his hand. The fingers of his lower hand began pressure on the baby's chin gently with each contraction while he lifted the baby up on his forearm. This would help roll the baby's chin downward aiding it out of the birthcanal. Nathan repeated these procedures until the baby had been completely delivered. Nathan took the infant and immediately wiped its mouth. He made sure the baby's airways were clear, and the infant could breathe on its own. Nathan, then, severed the umbilical cord. He cleaned the newborn and handed it to Nettie.
"It's a boy, Maria!" Nettie exclaimed as she lay the baby beside his mother's head.
Nathan returned his attention back to Maria to deliver the placenta.
After tending to Maria and making sure she was as comfortable as possible, Nathan and Nettie questioned the couple about names for the newborn.
"So, what are ya gonna name him?" Nettie asked.
"It's up to Maria," Joseph answered.
"Joseph, we should name him for my father," Maria replied in her thick Mexican accent.
"What's your father's name?" Nathan asked.
"Jesus," she answered.
"I think that's sweet," Nettie told them.
Nathan checked his pocket watch to see what time the baby was born. He knew it had gotten late - it was dark outside, for one. He couldn't believe it - 12:07 AM, Christmas Day.
Nettie informed the couple she would make room for them in the house. She and Nathan along with Joseph helped Maria and little Jesus into the house.
Within a half an hour, Vin, Chris and Buck decided to check on Nathan and the parents to be.
"Hi, y'all, we wanted to see if everything was OK," Chris told them as the three men entered the house.
"We brought a few things incase you needed 'em," Vin added.
"We brought some blankets, food and a cradle for the newborn," Buck informed them.
Nettie went through the gifts the three men brought. She lined the cradle with blankets and placed the infant in it.
"Thank you, Mr. Jackson," Joseph offered his gratitude.
"Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Christianson!" Nathan answered.
"Nettie, we'll see you for Christmas dinner," Chris said as he, Buck, Nathan and Vin left to go back to Four Corners.
Tale Four: The Gift
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