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Wyoming People

Ranch women recall holiday stories

Written by Heather Hamilton

This year the Roundup contacted several ranch wives from around the state, asking them to share favorite Christmas stories. Listed below are several fond memories of Christmases past.
3 a.m. wake-up call
Jo Keith of Casper recalls when her kids were little and her husband’s aunt Trudy and uncle Earl came up from Cheyenne to spend Christmas with them. They were in there 70’s and didn’t have any kids. On Christmas morning Jo’s children Lesley and Robert got up at 3 a.m., waking Earl, Trudy and everyone else.
Jo’s husband Bill noticed the time and ordered the kids back to bed. “It’s three in the morning, get back to bed!” she recalls him yelling at the two excited kids. After that everything calmed down for a few more hours, but not before the entire house was wide-awake.
“Aunt Trudy said it was the most joyful Christmas they had ever had,” Jo recalls. Trudy also noticed the East Star that early Christmas morning and said it was the most beautiful star she had ever seen, possibly due to the time of day. She hadn’t ever star gazed at three in the morning before.
“Aunt Trudy is now 93 and she still talks about that Christmas and how it has stayed in her mind all these years,” Jo says. “It has always been a fun little story to tell around this time of year.”
Did Santa visit?
Thea Nuckolls of Hulett enjoys a story from when she was a young girl. One Christmas her mom made her dad a Santa suit and the family delivered Christmas presents around the neighborhood.
“We didn’t have a lot of money but we made fruit, nut and candy packages and delivered them to all the neighbors,” she remembers. At that time there was a 12 party-line phone system and she recalls “rubbernecking” or listening in on ever one as they called each other asking if Santa had visited them. The conversations went on all Christmas day.
“We played right along and said we got a package too,” she recalls fondly.  Her family had a great time listening to the conversations and Thea still enjoys retelling of the fun Christmas activities she and her family came up with.
Another activity Thea always enjoyed during Christmas was visiting her grandparent’s house 23 miles south of Douglas. “I never remember the snow being less than waist deep,” she says.
Despite the weather her family always made the trip. “My grandma’s house was a castle when I was young,” Thea explains. She and the other kids were allowed to light the candles on the tree and let them burn for a while.
She says, “It was a magical place to be with all the family for Christmas.”
A musical tree hunt
Barb Pape tells a story from the Christmas of 1993, when she and her family had an especially wonderful time finding their Christmas trees. While her daughter wasn’t home, her two sons and their families bundled up along with Barb and her husband Norm to head for Tip Creek, where they always cut trees.
“We snow machined up to Tip Creek. We got up there and it was snowing and there was already about eight inches on the ground. It was deep,” she says.
They found trees for all three families. “Then I pulled out some little books with Christmas carols,” says Barb. While her boys groaned at first, she says they did sing Christmas carols on the mountain while the snow was falling.
Barb says it was a wonderful time with her family in an amazing setting. She also notes that the arrival of her third granddaughter three weeks later added to the great memories.
New Beginnings
Krystal Wood of Moorcroft is busy building a new house with her husband Matt this Christmas. While it sounds like this will be a memorable holiday season for the couple, Christmas Day 2007 is still her favorite story to tell.
Krystal recalls getting up “really early” to head to Matt’s parent’s house for Christmas. “When I got there, Matt’s dad Jim was plowing, and he never plows, and I was wondering what was going on,” she recalls. Matt’s mom, Teresa, was on the porch wanting to visit, “but Matt pulled me down the barn where two horses were saddled.” Krystal remembers thinking, “Are you kidding, I have to ride?” It was snowing and cold and she wasn’t thrilled at the idea.
Then she noticed a new saddle on one of the horses. It was her Christmas present from Jim. Matt explained that his dad wanted her to try it out. “So we rode out behind the house,” she continues. After going for quite a ways the couple noticed some odd tracks in the snow. At Matt’s suggestion, they followed them.
As they wandered through the Black Hills, “I noticed Matt digging in his pockets and was wondering what he was doing,” she says. At that moment she spotted a tree in the middle of nowhere decorated with blue Christmas ornaments.     Then Matt pulled out a ring and said, “Krystal Kayce, will you marry me?”
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..