The wayfarers were gone, but they left a thank-you note attached to the blanket. Signed by Mary, Joe and newborn son Christian, it read: "Goodwill to all".

Good Will To All

By —— Bio and Archives--December 17, 2017

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Good Will To All
That cold Christmas Eve, my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird leaned on the porch rail of his home, looking across Mississippi Delta cotton fields he had worked in since he was a boy.

In moon-blanched stillness, the fields were taking their winter rest.

They deserved it. The old black man had seen good cotton years and bad, but few like this one. The rains came, plenteous and timely. The long summer days were hot and humid, and cotton’s green blood, chlorophyll, raced in photosynthetic delirium from sunlight to leaves to soil to fruit, loading plants with bulging bolls that produced one of the biggest yields ever.

As always, I went to Jaybird’s home on Christmas Eve, knowing he had placed a gift under the tree for me. We children laughed as we jostled one gift after another, speculating about their contents. The fireplace roared, stockings were hung, and good smells wafted from the kitchen. Everyone was home for the holidays.

Savoring this moment of peace and happiness, the old plowman strolled to the barn to check on his livestock. With its tin roof and thick cypress siding, the building was as snug and weatherproof as ever.

A rush of pride lifted his heart when he saw the great, heaping mound of warm, white cotton stored in the barn. Just the sight of it made him marvel again at the magnitude of the year’s bountiful harvest. Satisfied that all was well, he switched off the light, closed the gate, and turned toward home.

In the mild, clear, winter night, Jaybird looked up at a shimmering moon, surrounded by Heaven’s infinite hosts. Then he stopped. That one big star ‚Äî was it there last night? Had it always been there? Surely he would have noticed its glorious brightness, the way it seemed fixed directly above the good soil beneath his feet, the place he had always known as home. He struggled to draw his eyes from it.

Entering the yard, Jaybird saw strangers on the porch, a young couple.

“Greetings, and Merry Christmas,” he said. Noticing the woman’s bulging midsection, he knew her time was near.

The man spoke. “Although your home seems full, can you provide us shelter for the night?”

“Well, a huge pile of warm cotton is stored in the barn, and with all those animals giving off warmth, you should be able to pass the night in reasonable comfort,” Jaybird answered.

Thanking him, the couple moved off into the dark. We children volunteered to take them food, blankets, and gifts—an example of Christmas spirit at its best, our wise patriarch thought.

In bed that night, with his whole family under one roof, Jaybird drifted off to sleep, thinking of the strangers. Well before dawn, he dressed quietly and headed for the barn to check on them.

The wayfarers were gone, but they left a thank-you note attached to the blanket. Signed by Mary, Joe and newborn son Christian, it read: “Goodwill to all”.

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Jimmy Reed -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran, former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer, and retired college teacher.

Jimmy’s latest book, One Hundred by Five Hundred is available at Amazon.

His collection of short stories is available via Squarebooks.com, telephone 662-236-2262.

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