This poem was written in 2012 for the Christmas program at Bethel Church.
This story you are about to hear took place way back in the earlier days when farmers had no tractors. Instead, they worked with horses and mules. It is about a farm couple who lived on a farm and worked hard raising corn and hay to feed the livestock. They made their money by selling cream, eggs, wool from the sheep and sometimes fattened hogs.
They never had any children although they had prayed for many years to be blessed with a little girl or boy. The good Lord never blessed them with that child, but we must remember He moves in mysterious ways as you soon will hear. So without further ado, here goes ...
THE ORPHAN TRAIN
Note: This is the farmer talking.
Hello friends and neighbors.
It surely is good to see you here tonight.
I have written this poem to read to you,
And I hope it comes out right.
I hope this poem warms you up,
Clear down to your big toe.
And I hope it does a right smart job,
Before it starts to snow.
Our Father who art in heaven
I come to you today.
It’s Christmastime in the country, Lord
And there is something I want to say.
Christmastime is for rejoicing,
For Christmas is your holy birth.
Maw and I thank you, Lord,
For our health here on earth.
In a way, Christmas is a sad time,
For poor Maw and me
We prayed for a boy and a girl
That would have made us a real family.
Christmas is a time for giving, Lord.
Me and maw do every year
We help the less fortunate, too,
By giving big hams to others,
And always a goose or two.
So I jump into by bib overalls
And step spryly down each stair.
I get close to the table
And pull up a chair.
After a prayer and a big breakfast with Maw —
Coffee, sausage, biscuits and four eggs.
I slowly get the milk buckets
Down from the wooden pegs.
So out to the barn I trod
Through the new fallen snow.
Then here comes Belle, my old coonhound jumping and bawling
Telling me something she thinks I ought to know.
Old Belle races to the cow barn
And looks up at the hay mow.
She makes so much noise
She actually scares one old cow.
I climbed cautiously up the ladder,
And to my great surprise,
In the corner of the haymow sat two little boys
Both with great big brown eyes. “Please, sir, do not harm us,”
One had the guts to say.
Just last Tuesday Maw and Paw got killed
When the horses ran away with the sleigh.
Maw and Paw are in heaven
Where Jesus is today
The neighbors told the sheriff we had no relatives left,
That we had no place to stay.
So I dressed my little brother here
In the warmest clothes we had
I told him we were leaving
And he seemed very glad.
So out across the fields
We started through the snows
I had to carry my little brother,
For he was frozen down to his toes.
When we got to the clearing and saw your great big barn,
We climbed up the ladder where nothing would do us harm
So we snuggled down without making a single peep
And quite quickly went right off to sleep.
I sat right down in there in the haymow
With tears running down each cheek.
Lord, forgive me, but I swallowed my cud of tobacco.
It was a while before I could speak.
Finally I got the boys down the ladder,
And we started off to the house
Those boys walked right behind me,
Each as quiet as a field mouse.
When we got to the warm kitchen,
Maw said, “What have we here?”
I told Maw I found these boys in the barn
As each of my eyes shed a tear.
So Maw set the boys down to the table.
She could see they were nearly starved to death.
She quickly filled their plates with warm food;
She could see they were a little afraid and nearly out of breath.
But before they took a single bite,
They bowed their heads to pray,
Thanking the Lord for the food,
And a nice warm place to stay.
Me and Maw talked it over,
Very quickly, so we did.
“Why,” Maw said, “If we were lucky,
Them boys could just be our kids.”
We went into the living room
And we kneeled down to pray.
We asked the good Lord for his permission,
To let these little boys stay.
The Good Lord answered our prayers
And he answered them just this way.
“You’ll have to go the Court House
To get the final say.”
I then heard the cows bawling fearfully.
They were still out there in the lot.
Those old girls still needed milking.
In my happiness I had near clean forgot.
I hurried to the barn, took care of the cows
And got the milk to the house right away
I told Maw we had to hurry
We had to be on our way.
I harnessed up our mules,
Old Kate and Old Nell
They hadn’t been hooked up together
For quite a long spell.
As I hooked them up to the sleigh
In the hallway of the barn
Here comes my neighbor, Tom.
He seemed to be all in an alarm.
“Howdy, Willie,” he struggled with each word,
But he finally managed to say to me,
“Have you seen two little boys,
Both as cute as they can be?”
“They were supposed to be staying
With my sister, Nell,
But they slipped away
When she made a trip to the well.”
I put my hands behind my back and says to Tom,
I was sure to cross my fingers real tight,
“If I see them little boys, I’ll come get you,
Even if it is in the middle of the night.”
Maw filled the sleigh with blankets
And I grabbed the two little chaps up
Covered them both with the blankets
And I told the mules to getty-up
Over the road we rapidly traveled
And soon we came to town
Maw made sure the boys were covered up
And warned them not to make a sound.
I tied the mules to the hitching rack and started up the courthouse steps.
Then I stopped in the middle, not able another step to take.
I looked to the sky and told the Lord he was in charge
Me and Maw would live with whatever decision he was to make.
I walked on in to the courthouse
And walked right up to the desk.
The secretary gave me one look and said,
“Hello, Willie, you old pest.”
“I have come to see the judge,” says I.
“I surely hope he’s in today,
Because an important matter has come up,
And I need to see him right away.”
“He can’t be seen today,”
The secretary says to me,
“He has a terrible cold,
And all he does is sneeze.”
But I just had to see the judge that day.
I told her it concerned two little boys.
They might be leaving on the Orphan Train
And have not Christmas joys
So off to the judge’s chambers we went,
She decided to let me in
And there sat the judge
He was six feet tall and thin.
“Hello, Willie, my old friend,
It’s sure nice to see you once again.
I hear there is a problem
Out on the west end.”
There surely is, Your Honor
And I just had to see you today.
It concerns two little boys
The county may take them away
Me and Maw would love to have them.
We’d like to make them our little boys
It’s Christmas season, you know, your honor,
They need a new home filled with many joys
The judge then considered the evidence
And then put it to me this way.
“Willie, those little boys are yours,
Take them home and there they will stay.”
So out to the hitching rack I go,
I’m taking two steps at a time.
And when I reach the sleigh,
I quickly untie the line.
I spoke to the two old mules
And soon we were on our way
Back out to our old farm
Where the two little boys would stay.
After a quiet and swift ride back to the farm house,
Maw finally asked, “What did the judge say?”
I told her in a real calm way,
“These are our little boys and they are here to stay.”
So out to the wood lot we soon hurried
The two little boys, Maw and me.
I found the old broad ax
And we went out to cut a Christmas tree.
Soon we got it back to the house
And we decorated that tree
And then I realized
That it was durn near chore time for me.
So out to the barn I scurried
And I milked the old Jersey cows.
I went up to the hog lot
And fed the old brood sows.
I fed the mules their grain
And threw fresh hay down from the mow
The animals were all fed and happy
Ready for the night by now.
Then, I saw John, one of my new sons
Had followed me out to the barn on our farm
And there my old hound go wagged her tail
And really turned on her charm.
From there under the manger
Was a litter of newborn bluetick pups
He then leaned gently down
And picked one of them up.
He says, “Paw,”
As the little pup let out a grunt
“Do you reckon me and Tommy
Can teach this little fellow to hunt?”
“You sure can,” I told John
As we hurried off to the house leaving the little pup
We all ate a hearty supper
And then we hung the stockings up.
That Christmas, the Lord surely blessed Maw and me
For now we finally had our family.
The next Sunday morning I would go out and hook up each mule
And all FOUR of us would be off to Sunday School.