We were getting ready to celebrate that glorious day of days, Christmas Eve with all its magic and reverent joy. Santa Claus, presents and the birth of Jesus were the day’s topics.
We and our two young girls were at my parents’ farm in North Dakota, 220 miles from our own small beef farm in Minnesota. Since these were their only grandchildren, it would be an extra special Christmas Eve for my parents. Then the magic feeling died with a call from my mother-in-law.
My in-laws were doing the chores of feeding and checking on the animals at our farm for the few days we would be gone. They lived 16 miles from our farm in a small town, but would drive out each day. We planned to return home the night of the 25th.
Our farm was nestled in the wooded hills of west central Minnesota. Chickens, cows, and horses shared the idyllic scene with us. Half our 160 acres was covered in pine, maple, poplar, sweet smelling dog wood, and other woods I hadn’t learned to recognize. Crab apples, chokecherries, wild strawberries, asparagus and wild grapes were part of the bounty we plucked from the fertile woods.
Tucked up against the trees, the corral was on an incline leading from the barn to the edge of the woods. Being a typical Minnesota winter, it was now covered with snow and patches of ice.
While walking across the corral spreading hay to hungry cows, my husband’s father slipped and broke his leg. After crawling across a snowy, frozen yard and up the steps to our house to alert my mother-in-law, who luckily had gone out to the farm with him, he was driven to the doctor and was now in the hospital.
Celebrating Christmas immediately with my family that afternoon began, as well as packing to go home. For a while, the girls’ excitement over their presents from one Grandpa and Grandma, aunt and uncle, took precedence over sorrow about the other Grandpa’s mishap. Then, cutting short the stay at my parents, we left for home and our hungry cows late that afternoon.
It was a beautiful night for a drive. One of those clear December nights with every star competing for our attention against an inky black sky on that country highway. We were heading east and I imagined we were searching for one special star, as the Wisemen did so long ago. Who knew the light of a gas truck coming from the East would seem like that star?
With the cold outside so crisp your nostrils would stick together with a deep breath, the warm car seemed like a cozy cocoon. Since the kids’ injured Grandpa was in a hospital 180 miles away but on the same road to our farm, we would stop and see him on our way home.
Since we had hastily celebrated Christmas in North Dakota and had been anxious to get on the road before too late, we neglected to think about feeding the gas tank on our car as we left on our journey that day. Almost 180 miles later we were approaching the town where Grandpa was hospitalized, and the car coughed. “Oh,Oh,” my husband intoned. “The car’s out of gas.”
A quick glance at the gas gauge confirmed his statement as the car coughed again but kept on going. He took the next exit off the interstate just on the outskirts of the twin cities of Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota, hoping to make it to an outlying gas station on the exit, or get close enough to walk. I began praying with the first cough.
Up the exit which curved over and above the interstate, and the car died right at the top. But the first blessing: This enabled us to coast down off the exit and toward the service highway a small ways. And just as we noticed a gas station a short way ahead and to our left, we also noticed it was closed. But of course! It’s 6:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve!
Then, as the prayer for help left my lips, we saw a semi coming toward us, from the east, and it looked like it carried gas! AND, it was turning into the closed gas station! By now we were sitting on the edge of our seat wondering at the possibilities!
As we watched, the semi pulled up to the gas storage tanks and stopped. The driver got out and prepared to hook his hose up and fill the tanks. On Christmas Eve? Hopeful, my husband walked over to the driver. And soon he was walking back with a container full of gas, courtesy of the driver.
Since this prayer had been answered in such an astonishing manner, I figured it was up to our human ingenuity to produce a funnel to get it into the car’s tank! And a rolled up magazine did the trick!
Less than 20 minutes after our empty car rolled us up to a closed station where a truck full of gas was just arriving, we were on our way. And we didn’t pass another gas station for several miles. And it was closed too.
We missed having Christmas Eve with my parents, but we didn’t miss our Christmas Eve miracle! And Grandpa’s leg healed just fine.