Friday, August 18, 2017

Dr Thomas Eased my Pain & can Help You Too

Howdy Friends!
You’ve seen me write about Dr Thomas and his healing ability for our horses with Contemporary Chinese Herbalism, but now I have a story to tell about how he is helping me. A few close friends know how I struggle with managing my back, leg and hand pain – most of you don’t, as I tend not to talk about it. It is what it is. And it’s been my lifelong unkind companion. You see I was born with 2 conditions, neurofibromatosis and acromegaly. They created what we used to call birth defects, each in their own way. I have among other things a twisted pelvis, spinal issues; nerve and bone, hands and shoulder blades formed wrong. I can’t remember not hurting somewhere. On the farm where I was farmed out on at 9 (dropped off like an unwanted cat and was put to work for my keep; I had no childhood) they always told me I was lazy. I believed them, I didn’t know then that everybody didn’t hurt like I did in my back and legs. Enough back story, but to properly credit Dr Thomas, you needed to know.
I can once again do my morning chores, thanks to the pain relief Dr Thomas gave me.
As I got older the issues became more and more bothersome, painful. I’ve walked with a cane for about 25 years now. From my shoulder blades to my hip there are almost no disks, my hands hurt so badly everything now is an effort. Some of you may have read stories I wrote over the years about Equine Assisted Therapy, there is a rooted reason I have a fondness in my heart for those special horses and people. I ride so I can walk, numerous doctors have said without the core strength riding creates I’d surely not be walking. In recent years I’ve ridden when I didn’t really want to, but I had to. 

Now let’s talk about Dr Thomas, and why I’m writing this. I’m writing this for you, my friends, to help you understand how he can help you, as he has me. Anyone who knows anything about Dr Thomas and his company “For Love of the Horse,” understands he can help horses truly heal from a wide variety of ailments. He healed my Kessy from both Heaves and Lyme. And I’ve seen many other horses he’s healed. He is the world’s foremost authority on Contemporary Chinese Herbalism, you can find his credentials and much more on their website .. What most folks don’t know is he began his practice treating and curing humans for over 25 years. Then he began healing horses when his wife’s horse had been given a death warrant by 3 veterinarians for founder. He swung into gear and saved her, that was nearly 15 years ago and she is still thriving today.
As I mentioned not too many folks today know he can, and will, heal humans, but I did because the first story I wrote about him for Natural Horse Magazine I learned it in the interview. And wrote about it. Some 8 months ago my back, leg and hand pain had gotten so severe I became unable to function. Even sitting or laying was no relieve. I was forced to purchase hospital grade sheepskins just to find any comfort sitting or laying. Robin had to assume the chores, I could not manage to move around. I’ve been on a spiral down for years but a sharp decline had begun about a year ago, or longer. Eventually it simply shut me down. No relief could be found with our family doctor or specialists, though we tried. Eventually I was taking as many as a dozen advil a day! And still not much help.

So one day I decided I’d ask Dr Thomas for help. I knew him well now, have become friends and written much about him and for him, but had never said a thing about my personal issues. I wish now I had! Long before this! I had no clue if he could help me, but I’d seen horses he’d cured from arthritis (I have no arthritis, all my issues come from nerve compression from the spinal deformities and bone on bone pain and something he called “referred pain”) and other structural issues so I thought, perhaps.

Dr Thomas was surprised at my condition, and eager to help. After a very long series of questions, conversation and reasoning he assured me he could indeed offer some help and relief. He formulated a Chinese Herbal blend he called my, “upper and lower spine degeneration,” and I had it in 3 days!

I was sure excited the day they arrived! The excitement was short lived – they tasted awful! However I mixed them in 2 ounces of water as directed, took them 3 times a day … And on the third day I began to notice a change in my pain! He had asked me not to take Advil after starting the herbs as they would interfere so I didn’t. My blend has a strong anti-inflammatory component which began to work quickly. It is difficult to explain how much better I felt within a week.

After taking Dr Thomas’ formulation for about a month I was riding with my friend Chris, when we got back to the barn and I stepped down from the saddle I was overwhelmed with a startling sensation. I could feel the bottoms of my feet. Something I’d not felt in 20 years! It was wonderful and shocking!

I continued to take the his herbal formulation and things continued to improve. In a few more weeks I noticed my legs not only had lessened in pain, but felt stronger too! I wrote Dr Thomas and told him that fact. He responded, “I am not surprised that your legs are getting stronger – I placed an herbal group in your spinal formula that very, very few physicians of Contemporary Chinese Medicine are aware of. If there are a handful of us in the US that know about the pharmacological actions, related to bone strength/function, of these herbs I would be most astounded. I know of this "lost/new" information from my beloved, illustrious teacher Dr. Leon Hammer, MD through his teacher, the late great Dr. John HF Shen, considered the greatest physician of Chinese Medicine for at least the last four centuries. Trauma rooms in China all make sure to keep these herbs in supply to treat bone fractures, breaks, diseases of the bone.....One of their primary care functions is to develop strength of/in the bone, recover bone strength.”

Friends I’ve been taking Dr Thomas’ formulation for over 3 months now and while I will always have some issues that come with my conditions, the back and leg pain has been vastly reduced. Haven’t taken an Advil in months. My balance has improved, my ability to function has been restored to a level I’ve not enjoyed in some time – and I’m doing my chores again. Yes if I do something exertive for more than an hour or so I’ll get all stove up and need a day or so to recover, but just living life and being careful I can be nearly pain free. I still need my cane to walk, but now I can do that again. My hands, while somewhat improved seem not to want to totally get with the program, hoping more time on the herbs will help them too.

I share this story with you so that you might know, perhaps you can be helped by the wonderful Dr Thomas too. Don’t hesitate to contact him if you have any issue, (or your horse does) he is truly a rare blessing. And Thank You Dr Thomas for all you do.

~ Gitty Up, Dutch.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

"Control Lyme Disease & Maintain your Horse’s Immune System Forever."

Howdy Friends!

Lyme Disease is a horrible thing, and very difficult to “cure,” “manage” or “prevent.” But there is one thing we can do I personally know works, to manage this dreaded invader of soundness in our horses. All the Holistic Veterinarians, and doctors I’ve interviewed, or read, come back to the same opinion, “The best long term defense is a sound, super strong immune system.” So years ago I set about to find the best, most dependable and proven way to build the strongest possible immune system in my mare, Kessy, who had 5 years ago tested off the charts with Lyme. Yes first I did, and believe in, treat with doxycycline, and had seemingly satisfactory results, almost.
My mare, Kessy, enjoys a Lyme free life and powerful immune system thanks to my animal husbandry, and Dr. Thomas' "Total Immune Health" Chinese Herbal Blend. Do it for your horse.

I wanted long term protection and management. You see in all my research, and I did much, I found that when we treat with any antibiotics the mutated spirochetes feel the attack, and hide deep in the muscle tissue only to reemerge when the threat of antibiotics are gone, and in a newly morphological form. And each time they can attack another system, nerves, muscle, joints, organs. It is an ever-present threat, not to mention your horse could get a new flea bite any day.

So what to do? Again the best solution is a powerful, top notch, firing on all cylinders Immune System. That way no matter how the Lyme spirochetes awaken and attack, the horse can defend itself AND WIN. And it will.

It is also imperative we help our horses maintain a healthy immune system for many other reasons because most of the things we do to, and with our horses, deplete the horse’s immune – especially their ability to produce white blood cells. The very heart of the immune.

How do we injure our horse’s immune? Most everything we do, fly sprays, grains, over-vaccinations, chemical worming, stress from repetitive training, confinement to stalls and too small turnouts, too much grass, insufficient exercise, inadequate water, too little forage –and on and on. All these human induced differences to the equines’ echo system, diet and life style effects the horse’s ability to maintain in peak efficiency its immune system, and white blood cells which are the very soldiers of the immune defensive army.

I recommend and use Dr. Thomas’ “Total Immune Health Solution.”

I have a history that spans a number of years with Dr. Thomas and have seen the results in my own horse Kessy for IR, Heaves and Lyme. And have seen first hand the results in horses as I traveled about doing clinics. As to the white blood cell counts and his formulation, he has proven it in field trial case studies with before and after blood count tests. And shortly I’ll be writing about how he helped me personally with my severe chronic pain, too... I also recommend, and keep Kessy on a maintenance dose permanently of his “Total Immune Health.”

I’ve said here pretty much said all I can here, read on now in Dr. Thomas’ own words, and yes, he does write like a doctor, but you’ll enjoy!

“The culprit behind Lyme disease is Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacterial infection that typically responds to antibiotics such as doxycycline. However, Borrelia burgdorferi can exist in a morphological form
known as a spirochete and is a form of ‘resistant’ bacteria that can evade antibiotics. The spirochete cells ‘communicate’ among themselves and ‘exchange information,’ an event that also occurs with other resistant bacteria. After doxycycline treatment, or the other antibiotics used for this infection, the horse's immune system is left seriously weakened. Once the antibiotics are out of the horse's system the spirochetes re-enter the previously infected ‘site.’

“The Lyme infection causes an immune ‘complex’ imbalance between the innate immune complex/system and the adaptive immune complex/system. Both of these immune complexes have different leukocytes (white blood cells) that work independently as well as synergistically with the adaptive immune system ‘jumping in’ to assist the innate immune system when it cannot effectively deal with the ‘invading ‘ infectious antigen...Lyme disease appears to actually suppress the body's natural white blood cells, that are critical to the innate immune system.

“It is common for horses in the later stages of Lyme disease to mount a poor immune response due to low white blood cell (leukocytes) counts as seen on blood chemistry CBC with Differential.

It is because of my Total Immune Heath Solution continued usage that brings about successful treatment of this virulent bacterial infection and following with maintenance dosage of this herbal blend keeps Lyme's from returning. The benefits of keeping your horse on Total Immune Heath Solution after successful treatment of an immune related disorder/problem begins with the maintenance of the ‘correct’ number and balance of mature healthy leukocytes (white blood cells). From this place your horse looks and feels healthy, happy and ‘prepared’ for any disturbance in their health. Total Immune Heath Solution is precisely formulated to stimulate the production of the specific leukocytes needed to fight off infection and keeps immune health with a maintenance dosage.” ~ Dr. Joesph Thomas, The world’s foremost authority on contemporary Chinese Herbalism.

I whole-heartedly recommend, and suggest, every horse owner who worries about Lyme, has treated their horse for Lyme, or simply wants to be assured their horse has a top notch immune system, put their horse on Dr. Thomas’ “Total Immune Health Solution.” And continue a maintenance dose year round. This herbal formulation works directly with the bone marrow to build leukocytes (white blood cells).

For your horse’s sake go to their website and have a look, and contact them. If your horse has, or has had, Lyme, put them on Dr Thomas’ Total Immune Health, and consider using it for all horses just to boost that immune, forever. I do for my Kessy. ~ Gitty Up, Dutch.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Posture and Locomotion.

Howdy Friends!

Posture and Locomotion. Watching your horse casually stroll along is a great time to check her posture, and overall movement. Do you see the hind end propelling your horse, the big hind muscles lifting and pushing? Toes, the last to lift, pushing down into earth. Can you witness the flow of energy from her gluteal and hamstring muscles and pelvis forward and along the topline? Can you see her abdomen engage, lift and support with each stride? Are those hind legs moving powerfully, and yet effortlessly forward to set down under her barrel in a fluid heel to toe placement? Hind foot placement should be just about where the front foot left, sometimes exactly on, sometimes half a sole behind. Is her head horizontal to her topline, her neck soft and sleek? Do her front legs float like butterflies with graceful, soft lift and effortless heel toe foot placement? Watch closely and you’ll see those feet, front and rear settle then roll from heel to toe. (This can’t happen effectively if the horse is shod). This is a description of a horse moving in correct, healthy posture and body carriage.
My Kessy strolling along
What we don’t want to see is a horse dragging with her front legs, as if that’s where the power originates. Many horses, because of what we do, fall into a “forehand” posture—and it’s bad. The hind end will become disengaged, and begin to fall farther back and atrophy, becoming weaker and weaker. (I’ve worked with horses who had no idea where their hind end was, from all the disengagement and break down). The abdomen cannot engage, the topline will drop. In her effort to find mobility in forehand posture she will be forced to carry and toss her head high, inverting neck muscles and further forcing down her topline. Muscles forced into overwork will tighten, preventing release and even restricting nourishment. Heel toe foot placement will become replaced with a plodding, slapping, jarring footfall.

Have a look at your horse as she strolls. Be honest with your evaluation. Her health depends on you. One of my strongest mantras is, “A horse’s health begins with posture.” Proper, healthy posture and body carriage is easy to establish, and maintain. But we must make the effort, for their sake. This is why I promote, and teach the exercises created by Peggy Cummings, taught me by my mentor Diane J. Sept, for the horse. A little effort can mean a whole new life for a horse. It’s up to us, our horses give for us all we ask. To ignore their posture and body carriage is not only letting them down, it is a form of neglect. ~ Gitty Up, Dutch.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Goldfinch & DistelFink

Howdy Friends,

The Goldfinch & DistelFink. I’ve long wanted to write about the spirited and lovely goldfinch, that sweet little yellow bird found in open fields and bird feeders all across our land. The poet T.S. Eliot wrote what pleasure it is to, “Follow the dance of the goldfinch at noon.” Year round residents for most of us this tiny burst of excited sunshine is often the first bird many amateur birders learn to identify. At feeders they love thistle seeds, in the wild they love seeds of every tiny variety. Nesting late in the mid-summer their preferred nesting material is thistledown, and can often be spied darting from thistle bloom to thistle bloom gathering fluffy down.
The American Goldfinch.
Growing up PA Dutch on a humble and, very old fashioned dairy farm, I spent many a hot summer day walking fields and pastures with a sickle cutting down tall Canadian thistle plants, and enjoyed repeated sweet encounters with frisky goldfinches as they gathered down, gobbled seeds and chattered. So many of my lonely childhood days in summer fields laid the foundation of my bird watching love. And the goldfinch is one of my earliest feathered friends. My understanding of their connection to the ever popular DistelFink is rooted in my PA Dutch youth as well.
Hex Sign with DistelFink, tulips and heart. All bring good luck and happiness.
While most folks understand the Hex-Sign (another PA Dutch tradition) as symbols of good luck, protection and happiness, not very many grasp the DistelFink origin, name and importance. In PA Dutch the tiny yellow bird is known as the “thistle finch,” pronounced in PA Dutch as “distel-fink.” Understood by PA Dutch folks as a symbol of the good luck, the goldfinch was a welcomed sight. It’s highly likely then that the “English” folks misunderstood the pronunciation of “Thistle Finch,” (“distel-fink” by PA Dutch folks) gave birth to the name of the most familiar little bird painted on most PA Dutch Hex Signs. In your travels keep your eyes peeled for this tiny golden burst of happiness and luck.

 ~ Gitty Up, Dutch.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let’s be Honest with Ourselves.

Howdy Friends!

Let’s be honest with ourselves. What, from the horse’s perspective, have we as advocates really accomplished in past decades? Thoroughbreds still started and raced before skeletal systems are even 60% mature—many broken down and discarded by age 3. Quarter Horses contorted in abnormal posture and gaits. Standardbreds and Saddlebreds twisted into bizarre posture, movement and head set. Tennessee Walking Horses still tortured beyond any ability to imagine a human could do this. Thousands of wild horses standing starving, freezing, blistering in ravishing sun in filthy holding pens. Rescues all across the country bursting at the seams with broken hearted, throw away horses. Breeders of all breeds still producing and producing. Auction houses flush with horses once magnificent, loved and pampered, now just so much waste to be discarded. People, sometimes well meaning people, care for and ride their horses in ways that break down their physical and mental well being. Poor fitting tack, harmful by ignorance or purposefully. Lousy housing, by ignorance or by design. I could, and probably should go on, and on. Let’s be honest with ourselves, from the horse’s perspective we’ve not done much. We serve the horses best by not blaming others, but looking in our own mirror. I learned decades ago in real estate sales, effort, no matter how valiant, means nothing without results. From the horse’s perspective there have been painfully few results. It’s not the horses fault, it’s not government’s fault, it’s those of us in the horse world who shoulder the blame—all of it. ~ Gitty Up, Dutch.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Posture, for the Horse’s Sake

Howdy Friends!

Reminding my Kessy of correct body carriage.
When a rider is braced the horse cannot move fluidly, in a healthful manner. When the rider is in neutral pelvis, and moving “with the horse,” the horse can respond in kind. When the horse is forced on the forehand by a rider’s bracing, it can only become compliant, and the rider is in charge. The horse is in a no choice position, which is why people are then taught to “control” the horse. The equation is backwards. What really needs to be taught is—the powerful effect of elasticity and freedom in the rider’s body, returns twice as much from the horse—in a much faster way along with a lot of stress release, on horse and rider. The rider really needs to look at herself/himself, and be willing to change. Even the language we use is compressive and invites students to squeeze, push and hold, which only increases the bracing during motion. Neutral posture helps the rider to override bracing and tension patterns in their body and their horse while creating truly freer movement. Find your neutral, your horse will thank you. I teach posture, for the horse’s sake.

Gitty Up, Dutch.

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Story

Howdy Friends,

I wrote this little story as a thank you and Christmas present to all our Coffee Clutch and Facebook friends a few years ago. I figured it might be a sweet tradition to share each Christmas. I hope you'll enjoy readin' it to your youngin's and grandbabies. Ravishin' Robbie and I, and all our critters wish you all a love filled and HAPPY CHRISTMAS!
A Christmas Story

With a piece of kindling, Sarah scratched ice from inside the lone cabin window. Cupping hands against her face she squinted through the tiny pane to see blowing, swirling snow. Nothing new to see, except the darkness moving in. She shook her head. "Can't even see the barn now."

If he wasn't getting home tonight, and her hopes were fading, she'd better bundle up and tend the animals in the barn. Jed had been sure to load the wood box before leaving the day before. Load the box? She chuckled at the heavily laden box with wood stacked halfway up the wall. "Wood enough for a week," she remembered him assuring her, even though he was planning on being gone only a day.

This would be the first visit to the orphanage she'd missed since they'd wed three years ago. But this year, with a month old daughter of their own, and the threatening skies, Sarah thought it best Jed make the ten mile ride without them. So he'd set out in the shadows of early morning alone.

She bent over the black kettle filled nearly to the brim with simmering duck stew. Stirred it thoroughly and swung the black arm out from the fire to hold the kettle just near enough to the hot coals and gentle flames to keep the stew at the perfect temperature. She'd have a Christmas feast waiting for him when he returned.

The orphanage sat way outside of town, on a little farm well off the beaten path. Out of sight. Out of mind. Run by old widow Martha Bowman, and two ancient broken down ex-cow pokes, Jake and Shorty. Jed had grown up there. "Poor kids." Jed told her once. "Not only don't they have families of their own, but most town folks don't even want to see 'em. They'd just as soon forget 'em."

Jed never forgot them. Each Christmas he'd visit and carry a feed sack of toys to share with the children, usually numbering around ten. Toy horses, he'd whittle, a fishing pole or two, and dolls Sara would sew. Of course a few scarves and mittens too.

Not being able to see the children this Christmas Eve had Sarah's heart a little heavy. She'd grown so used to the singing, laughing and playing. And the happy faces. Even the old cow pokes would join right in and sing along. Jed had a way of really throwing a lively Christmas Eve party.

Sarah tended to the fireplace, wrapped the baby in their warmest blanket, grabbed the milk pail, the coal oil lantern and started for the door. Forcing the door into the wind took all her strength. The gale hit her full on, slamming the door closed behind her, nearly sucking the very breath from her lungs. Leaning low she sheltered the baby, pushed into the wind and hurried for the sheltering barn. Tiny frozen flakes pelting her cheeks like stinging bees. It was a journey of only fifty feet, but tonight it seemed a mile. The snow wasn't deep, but the wind halted her every step.

Cold, full hands made sliding the barn door latch nearly impossible. She could set nothing down for fear it blow away. Struggling with an elbow and the back of her hand she managed to pull back the thick, black, frozen metal latch. Fierce wind ripped the door from her grasp slamming it wide open. She hurried to the far corner, past the cows, the horse and chicken coop.

Inside was a different world. Jed had labored a full summer four years ago to build the barn out of logs instead of boards. "Harder to be burnt out that way," he'd explained. They'd lived in the barn a full year after that while together they finished their one room cabin. She settled the baby snugly in a bed of hay. "There now," Sarah soothed the sweet girl, "you sleep easy, Jessica, while I milk the cows, and I'll bet Daddy will be home before I'm through."

She battled the raging wind to pull shut and latch the heavy door, hung the lantern on its crooked peg in the center of the barn and paused a moment to look around. Three cows and a horse make plenty of heat inside a barn as tight as this one. The wind howled and raged but could find no way in. She settled down on the milking stool and started milking the first cow. Snug as they were in the sturdy barn, her mind was on Jed. The first streams of milk rang out on the pail side. She tried to time the ringing sound of milk hitting the metal bucket to "Silent Night" as she squeezed in rhythm to the hymn she hummed.

"Why isn't Jed home yet?" Worry began to creep into her thoughts.

Only two cows in milk right now, so milking didn't take very long, or give even half a pail. Clover, the youngest was due to calve any day, and her milk would surely be welcome.

Milking finished and still no sign of Jed. Sarah checked on Jessica all snug in her nest of hay, then busied herself giving hay to the cows and horse. The chickens hardly stirred, few even pulled their heads from under their wings.

Worry kept her busy. Finished the feeding, Sarah found cloth and strained the milk, a job usually done on the tiny table in the cabin, but she dreaded the trip back through the wind and biting ice crystals, so she did it right there in the barn. Besides, somehow the barn seemed a better place to be tonight, Christmas Eve. Her mind kept busy fretting over Jed. Was he lying in the bitter cold somewhere, hurt? Or worse? She began to build a plan to go search the vast openness that lay between them and the orphanage. That would have to wait for daylight. But wouldn't his horse have found its way back to the barn? Jed's horse, Scout was a big, powerful horse and very smart. Surely had something happened to Jed, Scout would have come home?

Nervously she nursed baby Jessica, to the unsettling sound of relentlessly raging wind tearing at the walls of the tight barn. Gathering Jessica she moved closer to the cows so the sounds of them peacefully chewing might sooth her worried heart. She nestled into the straw next to Clover and rocked gently. The barn was a peaceful place but tonight even its warmth and embrace could do little to sooth her. The ride to the orphanage and back, even with a first class Christmas party should only have taken Jed and Scout about six hours. He should have been home well before dark.

Weary with worry, Sarah almost drifted off.

Her horse pacing and nickering in its stall roused her. "It's okay, Goldie, the wind can't get us in here."

Knowing she must check the fire and the stew in the house, she carefully tucked tiny Jessica safely back in her nest of hay. "I'll be right back, you sleep tight." She kissed her cheek, and wiped a tear from her own. Turning to the cows and Goldie she said, "You all watch over her while I'm gone."

She snatched the lantern from its peg and made the dash from barn to cabin, the never-ending wind at her back. Inside she found the fire nearly out, but the stew still delightfully warm. Building the fire back up, stirring the stew and gathering another blanket to swaddle Jessica took only moments, and through the bitter, blinding darkness she ran for the barn, shielding her face from the stinging snow.

Fighting the wind to pull closed the heavy door, for an instant the wind's roar was blocked. Was that a bell? Did she hear ringing bells? Or were her ears simply ringing in the wail of the wind? She strained her eyes in the direction of what she imagined was the ringing bells. Is that a light? Could that be a light? But what could there be out there moving in this horrible wind? It didn't appear to be a horse and rider, so her hopes sank as quickly as they'd soared. The bells stopped and the light vanished. Sarah pulled tight the door, made fast the latch, then hurried to Jessica to add the extra blanket.

Clover mooed, Goldie stomped and whinnied. Before Sarah could react, from the outside, above the wind, came an answering whinny. “Scout?” Sarah yelled, tears streaming her face. Terrified of the possible answer she yelled, “Scout, is that you? Is Jed with you?” Bells, did she hear bells again? With wings on her feet she flew to the door, only to have the latch yanked from her grasp.

Stunned she starred into darkness, and there stood Jed flashing an ice covered smile as wide as the mountains themselves, holding Scout's rope. Behind Scout stood two horses harnessed to a wagon with canvas stretched over it. “Brought ya a few Christmas visitors Sarah!” Jed waved a hand toward the wagon. Sarah's knees melted, she crumbled to the ground.

“Hey now,” Jed scooped her up with a hearty laugh. “We can't have this, we have us a Christmas Eve party to put on for the young 'ins!”

Jed, Shorty and Jake fought the wind to swing open the big barn door, Martha led Scout and the team right into the barn. Every hand worked together to pull the door closed behind the wagon. Martha flipped down the wagon tail gate, and one by one giggling and laughing children slid out.

Sarah's knees went weak again, she grabbed onto Jed. He could see the love, relief and questions in her eyes.

“Well,” Jed started, “When I rode up to Martha's the wind already yanked the roof off that old shed they call home. Jake, Shorty and me didn't take too long to figure out there was no fixin' that rickety old building. Nobody knew what to do next, not only did they all need a place to live, but heck Sarah, this is Christmas Eve and we got songs to sing and presents to open … so we hatched a plan to stretch this canvas over the wagon, nail 'er down with boards and haul the entire outfit right here.”

With a grin and tip of his hat, Shorty yanked the sack of presents from the wagon seat, and held it high.

The children had settled down in a circle holding hands, except for little Jane, who had discovered baby Jessica. "Look Miss Martha, it's just like the story of baby Jesus, lying in the manger with all his friends in the barn."

Gitty Up and Merry Christmas ~ Dutch Henry