The Tumbleweed Gang: A Christmas Story


By Nancy Burns

We get wind storms here in Tumbleweed Gulch but never one like we had in early December. It howled and yowled and blew and blasted for three long days. Tree limbs fell, windows blew out, and mothers clung to their small children for fear that the roaring wind would whisk them away.

When the storm was over two things remained; ruined decorations and tumbleweeds. Our town’s winter holiday trimmings lay strewn about, ripped to shreds. We citizens had held fundraisers for the past year to purchase them. We had bake sales, talent shows, and dog washes, and raised the money we needed. Less than a week ago the whole community came together for a celebration and lighting ceremony in the town square. The marching band omm-pahhed around the square followed by kids on bicycles decorated with pine boughs, shiny ornaments, and blinking lights. Folks had refreshments and played games.

Sirens wailed as police motorcycles led a long black car to the square and came to a stop by a stage. Mayor Maybelle Hutchins stepped from the car waving and smiling at all the townspeople, and strutted up to a microphone. “Citizens of Tumbleweed Gulch!” she said. “I welcome you to the lighting ceremony for our new holiday decorations.” The mayor talked on and on about the hard-working citizens until two of the older gentlemen started snoring and little kids began to twirl like dust devils. Someone flipped a switch and there was a collective “Ahhhhhhh!” as the square changed into a glittering fairy-land.

The crowning glory was the 18- foot-tall tree that came all the way from New Mexico in Fred Turner’s cattle truck. The people of Tumbleweed Gulch had never seen such a glittering, shimmering sight.

Now all the glitter and sparkle lay ruined by the wind. In the calm after the storm, the square filled with crying kids, and people found it hard to believe the mess they saw. The lighted garlands lay in twisted, broken lumps, Santa’s workshop was missing, (probably blown to Somewhere, Kansas) and worst of all, the tree lay broken in pieces.

The townspeople drifted silently through the square – their holiday joy as shattered as the once beautiful tree.

The wind storm brought something else to Tumbleweed Gulch. Masses of tumbleweeds covered the entire town. They smashed against every fence, filled every nook and cranny, and piled up to the top of the school flagpole. Prickly, stickery tumbleweeds big and small covered the town like snow covered it after a winter blizzard. Even the old timers could not remember when Tumbleweed Gulch had been so overwhelmed by tumbleweeds. Old Macon Nelson commented, “Well, sure the town’s named Tumbleweed Gulch, so tumbleweeds are a common sight here, but in all my born days I ain’t never seen the likes of this!”

The day after the storm, Emma Jo Perkins sent her children outside to try and clear a path through the tumbleweeds, so she could get to the chicken coop and see if the chickens were okay. Soon, Maryanne rushed into the house saying, “Mama come quick! Something’s wrong with Sadie Jones. It looks like she’s lost her mind. She’s out in her yard jumping up and down in her old boots flapping her arms and cackling like an old hen!”

When Emma Jo rushed outside to help Sadie, all the neighbors were out gawking at her, thinking she had gone plumb loco. Billy Ray Burns turned to the crowd and said, “Sadie’s just stomping on those tumbleweeds to make them smaller so she can get rid of them. It looks like she’s dancing!” And you know, there was a rhythm to Sadie’s stomping. Stomp, stomp, turn. Stomp, stomp, twirl. Pretty soon all the neighbors began stomping on tumbleweeds in their yards too. Stomp, stomp, turn. Stomp, stomp, twirl.

More and more curious people gathered to find what all the commotion was about, and before long the chaos had turned into a town party. The ladies brought homemade chili and cakes and pretty soon everyone was doing the tumbleweed stomp. The cowboy/cowgirl band even joined in with some stompin’ music.

The next day all the kids gathered at the local park and started to uncover their playground equipment from a big pile of tumbleweeds. “Look, these tumbleweeds are piled up in a Christmas tree shape,” said Barbara Jean Simmons. “Let’s decorate them and put them in the town square to replace the tree that got ruined.”

“Hey, I have some green spray paint in my garage,” said Joey Johnson. “We could paint the tumbleweeds green like a real Christmas tree.” Bobby Jo Martin offered to get her extra lights and Norma Neenan said she had some spray-on snow and ornaments to contribute. The kids ran home to gather whatever supplies they could find, and they all met in the town square and got busy.

The Tumbleweed Gang was born. The kids worked for days painting, glittering, and lighting tumbleweeds. Soon decorated tumbleweeds adorned the whole town of Tumbleweed Gulch.

Joey made a cowboy tumbleweed covered with tiny horses, spurs, and cowboy boots. The gang painted angel tumbleweeds white and dangled angels with lace wings from its boughs. Mrs. Jenkins donated some red spray paint and dried chili peppers from her garden and the kids created chili pepper tumbleweeds.

The holiday spirit quickly returned to all the folks of Tumbleweed Gulch. Everyone agreed that the new decorations were far better than the ones that had been destroyed in the wind. Mayor Hutchins started another long-winded speech which got drowned out by the cowboy/cowgirl band, and she joined everyone in dancing the tumbleweed stomp.

Now every year the town of Tumbleweed Gulch is decorated with, you guessed it, tumbleweeds!

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