A Christmas Memory, Part II


Rangely, Colorado, has in recent years been the home of several published authors and writers. Erik Storey is one of the most recent -- he was in town for Septemberfest last summer with the second in a series of his fiction books set in the area. Yours truly, lifelong cartoonist and comic book author and writer has set two stories in R-town. Robert Haag, Kathy Hirt, and Welton Pollard have written local histories.

There have been others, both writers of fiction and non-fiction.

Mary Wilkins.jpg

For several years in the 1960's, Rangely played home to a famous children's author, MARY CALHOUN WILKINS, wife of Episcopal priest Leon Wilkins (both now deceased). Mary's career as such spanned decades, with the KATIE JOHN series early, the HENRY CAT series middle, and the EUROPEAN FAIRY TALES series later.

Mary also was active with the Friends of the Library in Rangely -- we posted a photo last autumn from the TIMES of Mary and my mother Lillian, among others, turning over dirt in 1969 (I think) for the new (and present) Library.

One of my Christmas memories centers on the OLD library in Rangely. It was a storefront building on the south side of Main Street in the central part of town, near the former EXCHANGE. It was Christmas, and the Library had asked Mary to come and read a story to the Children.

I don't know the title of the story Mary chose, but I remember details of it to this day (it was not one of her own, but one she had picked out to read). In the story, there was a famous Cathedral in old Europe. Pilgrims would come from far and wide for the Christmas Eve service. Each was hoping for a certain sound to occur -- the bells high in the Cathedral Tower to ring at the height of the service.

You see, an old tradition had it that angels would ring the bells if the acts of charity done by the many pilgrims over the Christmas Season included one supreme act that the Heavenly Beings felt warranted it.

Each year, pilgrims hoped they would perform some great act for humanity that would ring the bells --or at least, get to hear the same.

In the story, three children -- a boy, a girl, and a smaller "little brother", very poor, were making the long trek to the Cathedral on foot on Christmas eve, in the snow and cold.

They were hoping, of course, to be there to hear it when and if the bells rang.

Along the course of the arduous trip through the snow and cold, Little Brother spied a fellow traveler who had met with some misfortune. The man lay unconscious in the snow and would freeze to death if he did not get help.

The three kids did their best to provide assistance. With their own jackets, they managed to get the man warmed up to the point he regained consciousness. They got him some fresh water and food. But, alas, time was slipping away -- the danger of missing the service they had waited all year for was growing for each moment they delayed further.

You can guess where this was going: the three had to choose between not abandoning the injured man -- or leave, hoping he could now fend for himself -- so as not to miss the event they so longed to attend.

They chose the former, sending Little Brother on alone to make it to the church.

The injured man, hearing the story, had little to offer, but he did provide a few small coins for Little Brother to put in the offering.

Meanwhile, at the church, the service had started.

When the time came to put the alms in the offering, the many pilgrims came forth. Each hoped their service would trigger the glorious bells, but for each gift, the Cathedral remained silent.

And then, last of all, a small figure appeared in the back of the church. It was Little Brother.

He timidly walked to the front and dropped the small coins into the plate.

High up above, in the towers of the mighty Cathedral, the bells rang out in glorious splendor.

*** thus ended the story Mary read. I don't know who wrote it, or even its title. The little store building in Rangely in which it was read has not been a library for fifty years.

And I have not heard the story again since that day.

But I remember it in enough detail to tell it to you, as done above.

Merry Christmas, Mary. And Merry Christmas, Rangely.

(P.S. -- Can anyone identify this story, its title, or its author, to me?)