Luke thought he was just ordinary. He did his daily work without notice, kept himself out of trouble and did what he was told. That was why he was totally shocked when he was told he was selected for the yearly journey. Not just an ordinary journey but the Christmas Eve trek to the Stockyards. The Stockyards, to the uninitiated, was the magical place in Fort Worth where, for many years, all the animals gathered.
So on the morning of Christmas Eve, Luke filled his little pack and headed for his destination. He knew this would take a while with his little legs. Why such little legs? Because Luke was an ordinary country rat.
On this day, he was glad he was a just a small little rat. The chilled wind whipped above him. He didn’t travel much, really never at all. However he did realize that the dark ominous clouds above might bring some snow. With the possibility of snow on his mind, he started to walk a little faster. He knew that he could handle the wind, but the snow would make his trip impossible.
As one hour led to the next, Luke started to get tired and hungry. Looking around, he saw a trash can that might have some nourishment for him. As he headed towards the impending meal, he stopped suddenly and began to shiver. It was not the cold that made him shiver but right in front of him stood a gray monster. By the looks of its fur, whiskers and claws, Luke realized it was the dreaded cat he was told about.
“What are you doing way out here in the city, Rat?" The cat asked in a surprisingly gentle voice. Luke was afraid to answer, thinking this might be some sort of trap. However, he thought if he did not answer he was doomed.
“W-W-Well I am heading to the Stockyards. I have a gift to deliver for the festival,” Luke said as he felt his legs shake in fear.
The cat gave him a look of surprise. “You’re going to the Stockyards festival? So am I!” the cat exclaimed. “Let us go together.”
The cat noticed that the rat was still frozen in fear. “Don’t worry little fellow. This is Christmas Eve and this day has special meaning to all of us animals. And by the way, my name is Mr. Woods, but most every one calls me Woody.”
After realizing he didn’t have many options, Luke agreed and the odd twosome made their way towards the Stockyards. The further they traveled, the more comfortable they became with each other. They told each other about their lives, their favorite things to eat and wondered what lie ahead of them tonight.
They started to get excited when a gust of wind brought with it the scent of large animals. This was their sign that they were getting closer to the place they needed to go. Even though they were nearing their destination, they both were getting tired. Neither had walked so far for so long. All of a sudden Woody stopped suddenly and shielded his new little friend. “Look over there,” he whispered. “What is wrong with that dog?”
A dog, Luke thought, I never imagined I would come across one of these on my travels. However, this creature looked exceptionally sad. With as tough of a voice as he could muster, Luke asked, “Why so sad, dog?”
Startled by the visitors he did not know were there, the dog stood up but kept his head down in depression. “I was chosen to go to the festival but I have no gift. I will be shamed if I get there with nothing,” the dog said as he was shaking his head.
Luke glanced at Woody and they both new what they needed to do. “Come with us!” they said in unison. “We are positive you will find your gift on the way.”
“Really? Thank you so much.” The dog’s disposition changed immediately and he happily told them his name was Buck.
It started to get cold and darker as the sun began to set. Then the first snowflake fell. Then another. And another. As far as they had come, they could not believe their journey would end because of the snow. They all watched in sadness as the snow began to accumulate.
“I’ve got an idea!" Buck exclaimed. “Why don’t the two of you jump on my back and I will carry you the rest of the way. Just be careful with your claws Woody.”
So the two smaller animals jumped on Buck’s back and he carried them until they saw the sign. It was not the sign of a bright star that they heard about from a long time ago but the lit up sign that read Fort Worth Stockyards.
They looked on in awe as they saw animals of all types gathering. They were led by a small herd of Texas longhorns. They followed along until they saw their ultimate destination, the Stockyards Christmas Tree. This is where they were to leave their gifts.
The gifts were part of the festival that the animal world only knew about. If any humans had wandered by, they would be in amazement at the gathering before them. Cows and pigs and sheep and horses. They came together on this and every Christmas Eve to celebrate and remember the great contributions of the animals in protecting a baby that was born many years ago in a livestock barn to a kindly man and a heavenly mother.
Luke, Woody and Buck waited in line for their turn to present their gifts. Luke opened up his pack and placed a few pieces of hay at the base of the tree. This hay symbolized the bed of hay that this baby would sleep on. Then Woody came to the tree and began to meow a song that all the animals joined in singing. They all knew this was the song that the animals sang in that barn to help the baby sleep in his bed of hay.
Now Buck came to the gift giving spot and realized he still had nothing. Luke tapped his big friend’s leg and said, “Why are you worried? You already presented your gift. You carried me and Woody when we could not go any further on our own. This is just like the donkey that carried the pregnant woman to Bethlehem where that special baby was born.”
A smile appeared on Buck’s face as he realized what he had done. He looked at his two new friends and realized that gifts are not always what you can see but how you help each other. As the night continued, more animals came to celebrate the amazing events of Christmas.
As for Buck and Luke and Woody, they sat a short distance from the tree. They were all tired form the trip so the smaller two again climbed on Buck’s back and they all proceeded to fall asleep. It was a good sleep because they knew, for at least tonight, there would be Peace On Earth. Merry Christmas!