A Gift of Christmas Hope is my contribution to the Prairie Rose Publications' Wild Texas Christmas anthology.
The gist of the story is a well-to-do lady gambler—Lady Sapphire as she's known in the European gambling circuits—is traveling back home to Texas with a stagecoach full of 'treasure' when she encounters a con man on the look-out for another wealthy woman he can charm out of her money. The story unfolds with hints about the woman's mysterious true identity, what her 'treasure' really is, and how the con man, Neal, is a link in her life's chain of events.
That's the storyline, now here's the rest of the story...
Located in the Texas Panhandle, and just outside of Amarillo, is a facility with a history dating back to 1938. This facility is still in existence today. The facility, and what it came to stand for, was the life's work of a man with a vision who created a 'place' for homeless, wayward, and abandoned children—boys to begin with and later girls—to live and have the opportunity to turn their lives around. It was a place where children could get a decent education, have enough food to eat, sleep with a roof over their heads, learn a trade or skill, be involved in athletics, receive medical attention, and have their spiritual needs met. It was a home where there was no home for these children.
This man with a vision was Cal Farley, and and the place he built for needy children is now called the Cal Farley Boys Ranch and Girlstown, U.S.A.
This is the website's url to the history of the ranch: https://www.calfarley.org/boysranch/Pages/BRHistory.aspx It is a heartwarming, makes-you-feel-good-about-your-fellow-man true story of generosity, kindness, and hope.
I incorporated the essence of the Cal Farley ranch as her driving force behind the heroine's determination to make it home for Christmas despite the blizzard that has upset her travel plans.
Here's an excerpt from A Gift of Christmas Hope.
“Hope! It’s always hope with you.” Neal threw up his arms and left the bed in a bound. He crossed the small room in quick strides to stand at the fireplace, one arm resting on the mantle as he gazed into the flames.
She sat motionless, frowning at his outburst. “Yes. Hope is all we have.”
“My parents had hope, too, and look where it got them.” His voice was hard and cold. When he turned, a dark shadow of regret and anger clouded the usual sparkle in his eyes. “They put every penny they had into the hope of a better life, and it was stolen from them. In the end, they didn’t even get to say goodbye to each other. They each died alone and hopeless eighteen hundred miles apart. I’ve carried that with me all these years. Here and here.” He touched his head then his heart. “We’re born, we endure—and then we die.”
Lady Sapphire left the bed in a whirling swirl of skirts, clutching both hands to her breast, her heart pounding, stomach churning. His cavalier sarcasm cut her to the bone. “You are not the only one who carries memories so painful that remembering them physically hurts.” Tears she’d kept bottled up for years came unbidden, streaming down her cheeks, fueled by the anguish she’d buried in the deepest part of her heart.
“I was orphaned before I was two years old. My mother was a young Mexican girl who died at the hands of a vicious patron.” She saw the recognition in his eyes. “Yes, she was a prostitute. I was too young to remember, but I’m told after she died, I was passed from one person to another because no one wanted me.” Her face contorted with the effort to stem the flow of tears...
Until next time,
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