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Steve Crabill: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year… Or Not.

That wonderful time long ago and far away. Thanksgiving to Christmas was, during my childhood, a mix of magic and weirdness.

My dad finally allowed my three year old brother to sit, minus the high chair, on three phone books at our Thanksgiving feast. Little Eric was so proud, and dad was most gracious, filling his plate with all the goodies, including giblets in gravy over his dressing. When he put a piece of dark meat into the kid’s mouth, Dad asked, “What do you think?”

“It’s a little tough, but I like it, Dad. What is it?”

Always the jokester, dad whispered that it was the turkey’s private-part. Yeah, old pop really caught hell for that one! My other brother and I thought it was totally funny, but refrained from laughing in front of Mom. She was pissed.

I’ll never forget my ninth Christmas. Santa brought me a Red Ryder BB gun! I was the only kid on the block that got one that year. Dad insisted on hand holding a balloon in the backyard for my first target practice. He tried to calm my hesitancy by simply telling me, “Aim at the far end of the balloon, Steve, and hurry. It’s cold out here.” The balloon rotated wildly in the wind, the sight on the gun wavered, and I put a BB in dad’s thumb. Mom removed it in the kitchen, and it didn’t even leave a scar! Other than that, we had a beautiful white Christmas that year.

Truly a most wonderful time of the year. The “or not”? It’s your call.


To read the details about these and other Steve Crabill adventures, check out, Wipe That Smile Off Your Face.


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H. Scott B butler – This Time of Year

This time of year, the turn from fall to winter, is one I wasn’t much aware of growing up in Louisiana.  Tree leaves went directly from green to brown and dropped off, and the weather got a little cooler, and that was it.  Once—once—it snowed, a half inch, and when I tried to roll a snowball over a driveway to add more snow to it from the next yard, the whole thing melted away.

As an adult I lived for many years in coastal Virginia, where there was a greater sense of a seasonal change, though not much greater. But I did experience the kaleidoscopic loveliness of autumn and the full stark beauty of winter in Thanksgiving and Christmas visits to my wife’s parents, who lived in the western, mountainous part of the state.

And some of this experience made it into my first mystery, “Night Journey,” set in Northern Virginia: “Pale orange stalks waved above the green grass of the rolling meadow, and in the distance several horses were grazing near a line of yellow and red trees. Beyond the trees, the autumnal mountains carried lightly on their backs the moving mountains of white cloud.”

In 2015, following the death of my wife’s mother, we decided to move into her house, and so now we get the full effect of the great natural transition. Because the world is warming, autumn was subdued this year, but then in early November it suddenly blazed into full glory—a heart-stopping reminder of the preciousness of life.

(Picture:  Douthat Lake, about 30 miles west of Lexington, VA)