I grew up during the Great Depression in the little town of Taylor, Arizona. In those days there were no jobs around Taylor, so when I was seventeen years old, a couple of friends and I decided we would hitchhike the 250 miles to Phoenix to find some kind of work.
It was the first week in December of 1933, and we rode part of the way in the back of a cattle truck. We had to get down between the cows to keep warm.
When we arrived in Phoenix, we found out that there was no work to be had. Many men were standing in lines waiting for the free soup the government was giving out to those in need. You could buy hotcakes for ten cents, but we didn’t have a dime; so after a while we joined the soup line.
We looked for work and somehow survived for two weeks; then Christmas drew near. One of my friends had a sister who lived not too far away, and he and my other friend decided to go to her house for Christmas. But I was determined to go home.
Early the next morning, the day before Christmas, I started hitchhiking.
I didn’t get to Flagstaff until 5:00 in the afternoon. That was halfway home. The sky was steel gray and it was bitterly cold, with eight inches of snow on the ground. There were holes in both of my shoes, so I found some cardboard and cut pieces to fit inside to keep my feet a little drier. Then I started down the highway again, trying to get another ride.
Since it was Christmas Eve, there wasn’t much traffic. It grew darker and colder, and I became more and more dejected as the few cars swished by in the snow and the chill of the night penetrated my thin coat.
By 10:00 I had become so cold and numb that I began to wonder what it would be like to freeze to death. I was so tired that I knew I’d never make it unless someone stopped soon. Several more cars passed me by, and I had to talk to myself to keep going. “One more car,” I said. “If the next car doesn’t stop, I’ll lie down under a tree and let it happen. One more car.”
In a short while I could hear an engine in the distance. “This is it,” I told myself, taking a deep breath as I held out my thumb. Swish.
The car went by me. I closed my eyes and sank to my knees in total despair.
In my misery, everything was shut out of my mind for several seconds; but then I heard a sound. The car had stopped and was backing up! I struggled to my feet, heart pounding. In the car were two men from my hometown of Taylor.
They had recognized me as they passed.
At about 1:00 a.m. I was safely deposited at the front door of my home. I could see there was still a light on, and as I came quietly through the door, there sat Dad and Mom with their heads in their hands, praying. When I spoke I was greeted with joyful cries and tears. Mom told me they had been praying all evening and into the night for my well-being and safe return home.
There were no presents that Christmas. Dad killed an old rooster next morning, and that was our Christmas dinner. Yet I have never felt the spirit of Christmas more strongly than I did that day as I sat with Dad, Mom, and my brothers and sisters and felt the warmth and love of our family.