Humble Christmas left precious memories

Kay and Dave Mattis share their story of a humble family Christmas in 1973 that remains among their favorite memories:

“Christmas 1973 was approaching. In August, while traveling through the West, we had put earnest money on an 8-acre ‘ranch’ south of Manderson, fulfilling a dream we had of living ‘out west.’

“It took us until December to sell our house and property in southern Michigan and dispose of everything. We only kept what we could haul in one large truck. I’m sure we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies. We wouldn’t have left before Christmas but we only had until the end of December to return to Wyoming to finalize the property sale. Needless to say, our families were heartbroken to see us leave for a place they thought was uncivilized.

“With only one semi-major breakdown, in Lincoln, Neb., we arrived at our new home on Dec. 22, 1973. We couldn’t have imagined what awaited us. The former renters had destroyed the house; what they didn’t destroy, they let the chickens take over. All the water pipes were frozen, there was very little heat and it was very dirty. Needless to say we spent the next few nights in the travel trailer. But we persevered and started cleaning the next day. The neighbors were wonderful about having us for showers and meals, bringing hot water for us to clean with.

“We managed to get it somewhat liveable and on Christmas Eve took off for shopping in Worland. We found one last little Christmas tree at a motel lot and the man must have felt sorry for us because he gave it to us. Dave bought me a set of dishes and I bought him an electric frying pan (we did have electricity). We got gifts for the kids (Scott was 12, Dan was 10 and Tammy was 8) and headed home. Thank goodness they all thought this was a wonderful adventure.

“When we got home a neighbor had left a cherry pie on the counter. Christmas morning we cooked our ham in the electric skillet and counted our blessings while eating on our new dishes. That was 41 years ago this Christmas and we’ve never looked back or regretted that move. It‘s been a great journey and we are truly blessed with this life we chose in the ‘wild west.’

“This is the story of probably one of the best and humblest Christmases we ever had. We’ve been blessed with 12 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren as a result of that move.”