Just when it appeared Thanksgiving was snowed out, amazing things happened.
Nov 18, 2013
Out the schoolhouse window all I could see was a blanket of heavy white snowflakes dropping down from the heavens, the wind whipping them hard across the plains. The streets were deserted. I could just barely make out the outline of the road, but no car tracks.
Most of my students had been picked up two hours ago, an early dismissal. I myself had got ready to head home and prepare for tomorrow’s holiday. Now it looked like Thanksgiving 1951 might not happen at all.
I glanced back at the five children huddled behind me, bundled in their coats and hats. Homer and Sarah Kuntz’s kids. Their parents were unable to make it to the school. “We might be here all night,” I said when I got the call.
“But where will we sleep?” little Twila said.
“I’m cold!” Edward added. “And hungry!” Dwight said. Warren and Dorlan nodded.
I divided the sandwich and apple from the lunch I hadn’t eaten among them. I was too nervous to eat anyway. It was up to me to keep these children safe. And calm. We’d lost power earlier, and with it the heat.
Already our breath hung in the frigid air. How long could the kids hold out in this chill? And what about my own kids? I’d called my wife, Faithe, but that was before I knew about the Kuntzes.
Faithe was home alone with our two young boys. Had they lost power? Were they cold? When I left the house in the morning Faithe was full of plans for Thanksgiving. I wasn’t feeling very thankful now.
I picked up the phone to update my wife. But when the operator tried to place the call, nothing happened. “That line’s dead,” she said.
Back at the Musser house, Faithe heard someone yelling. Her neighbor Bert Zook was standing out in his yard, hollering over the howling wind. “David’s stuck at the school,” he told her. “Your phone line is down, but he got through to my house.”
Faithe waved and went back inside. “Send your angels to protect my husband,” she prayed. He seemed so far away trapped at the school. Could angels even reach him there? Did angels have snowplows?
She surveyed the food for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Normally she’d be getting ready for a house full of guests by this time. Baking apple pies, rolling out the crusts while David peeled and sliced the apples. But no one was going to come to see them this year, not even for roasted turkey.
She felt so lonely, even with her two boys playing by the fire.
Just then there was a knock on the door. She opened it and was startled to find two young men and a young woman huddled together on her porch. They were covered with snow, their cheeks red from the wind.
“We’re college students,” one of the men said. “We were on our way home for the holiday and my car slid into a ditch. Would you have any room for us?”
“Why of course,” Faithe said. “Come in and get warm by the fire. I’ll make a pot of coffee.” Here I was feeling lonely, she thought, and now I have unexpected guests. She almost had to laugh.
Fresh coffee made, she was just pouring when again there was a loud, urgent rapping.
“My delivery truck spun off the road,” said the man outside the door. “I saw your light on. Would you have a place I could stay?”
“I’m sure we can figure something out. Do you like coffee?”
Faithe had prayed for angels to protect her husband, but God had also heard her silent plea for company. Now she had a house full. Where were they all going to sleep? Plus she needed to get started on something for dinner.
She was walking to the kitchen when—No! It couldn’t be—she heard the sound of feet stamping on the porch.
Two men, linemen for Kansas Power & Light. “Our truck slid into a ditch,” one said.
Inside the schoolhouse it was freezing. I racked my mind for ideas to keep the kids moving. We’d played tag. And Duck, Duck, Goose. Simon Says. What now?
I found some candles and lit them. I pulled the heavy curtains from the windows down and draped them around the children. But still they couldn’t stop shivering. I could feel the fear, a deepening sense of dread, building inside of me.
Soon it was pitch dark, save for the flickering light of the candles. We huddled together. I could hear little Twila sniffling, trying not to cry.
I thought about Faithe and how she was coping all alone. And these children’s parents. How frightened they must be. I’d never felt more alone. Cut off. From everyone.
I heard rustling. The door flew open and a shadow filled the doorway.
“Uncle Harry!” the children all shouted together.
“I’ve come to get you out of here,” Harry Kuntz announced. “Mrs. Kugler called me and swore she couldn’t sleep knowing you were here. She made me promise to come after you. So I hitched up the horses and, well, we better get going.”
Mrs. Kugler was the community’s most vocal resident and no one refused her requests. She had in mind where everyone would safely stay out the night.
We held each other in the back of the wagon, while Harry urged the horses, a team of Percherons, through the drifts. Finally we reached Brian Curran’s house, where Harry dropped off the older kids—and me. From there I could make it home in daylight, once the snow stopped.
The younger children he took to Jimmy Wick’s house. They would be well taken care of until their parents made it over. Laying in a warm guest bed that night, I thought about everything that had happened. Boy, would I have a story to tell Faithe. She’ll never believe it, I thought as I drifted to sleep.
Late the next morning I rode up to my house astride Brian Curran’s horse. By then Faithe’s unexpected guests were gone, but she told me all about them over a meal of turkey with all the trimmings.
It was just the four of us for dinner. But the house—and our hearts—had never been more full, knowing we lived in a town full of angels.
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