My Very Own Northern California Christmas Story – Merle Haggard

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Me, with my two favourite horses Bella (closest) and Trigger, at the Cottonwood Ranch 2013.

Time off always sparks my creativity. Maybe it has to do with the amount of books I devour then? Goodreads told me yesterday that I’ve read 24 900 pages across 83 books during 2019 (but of course not all the books I’ve read are mainstream enough to even be on Goodreads, so the actual number of pages and books are much higher.) Maybe all the stories I read pushes my own stories to the surface? This morning I woke up thinking about something that happened 6 years ago in the year of 2013, around this time of the year. I don’t think that I’ve shared this story on the blog before, but it is one of these stories that will stay with me. That I will tell my daughter when she’s older.

I lived by the end of a dirt road outside Cottonwood, in northern California. It took me 40 minutes of driving down dirt roads before reaching the small town of Cottonwood, where the nearest gas station and small grocery store was. I leased a small ranch where I housed horses that had been through a bad period of their life, usually due to human stupidity. At the beginning I did not like the dry ranch at all, the drought kind of made it look ugly, but I came to love the place. My daughter was 1,5 year old and for the most part a doll. On this particular day however she was teething and had been unusually unhappy, there was a lot of crying. In fact there had been a lot of crying for three days and neither of us had slept much at all. All I wanted to do was to close my eyes and sleep. My daughter kept on crying. I had no idea where my husband was, he had been gone for weeks, and forgotten to tell me where he was. Of course he didn’t answer his phone. That was pretty much normal. 

I decided to drive in to town and get groceries, and pick up a couple bales of hay since we started to run out of both. At the time I was driving a big, old diesel truck, and the reassuring sound off the strong engine caused my daughter to fall asleep almost immediately. I turned up the volume on the country station I was listening to as they started to play Merle Haggard’s Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star.

 

I had many things I wished for that day. In most peoples eyes I had everything. It is true that I was blessed with a wonderful daughter, and to be surrounded by horses (I loved that part,) and of course being in California is a big adventure. It is also true that I rarely knew where my next meal would come from, and I couldn’t take my daughter out of the US at the time. Holding on to the little pride I had left, I simply did what I had to do, and tried my best to keep a positive attitude about it. I was deep in thoughts and instead of taking the turn onto Main Street, I drove out on I-5 towards Redding, the next big city. I had a lot on my mind with a failing marriage and 17 horses to feed, an infant daughter, and at the time no current job permit. My daughter slept the peaceful sleep of a child, and for a minute I felt that peace too. We reached Redding way too fast. I went by the feed store first and had them load up as much hay as the truck could handle (12 bales carefully loaded in perfect balance.) I really didn’t want to wake my daughter up, since she’d barely slept at all for three whole days and was exhausted, but I had to get the groceries before leaving town. I simply couldn’t afford to drive into town more than once a week, or if I pushed it twice a week. I had no idea where my next money would come from. I did some Equine Photography, but there was a lot of bills to pay. 

I woke her up, and she looked around quietly with her big eyes, until we stepped into the store… The grocery store was crowded. My daughter was not happy. I grabbed the bare minimum of things we needed as fast as I could, while my daughter for the most part cried her lungs out. I got in line for check out as fast as I could. People were looking, and I imagine that the two of us were a sad sight. The line just stretch out forever. I unbuckled my daughter from the cart and danced with her to the music blasting out from the speakers around the store. I don’t remember what they played, I just remembered trying to make her happier. Anything to stop the crying that made both my head and boobies explode (the milk never seemed to dry up even though I stopped breastfeeding when my daughter was 13 months old.) It worked. Luckily. I figured we had around ten minutes of waiting before it would be our turn to pay for our groceries, and make our way back to the safety of the sound of the trucks engine, and hopefully some more sleep for my Princess. 

The gentleman in front of us, a typical northern California gentleman that is, with a cowboy hat, pearl snap shirt, and boots started talking. At first I barely registered what he said in my state of sleep walking. He continued talking, not in a pushy or flirty way, but in a kind way. He complemented me for being a wonderful mother, and told me how beautiful my daughter was. We exchanged some pleasantries about the weather and upcoming holidays. I do not think that I ever seen him before, but there was something familiar about him. I had my hands full and as he paid for his groceries we said our goodbyes. As the door closes behind him the grocery clerk, a woman in her 50’s, asks me if I knew who the man was that I had been talking to for the past ten minutes. I told her no, we didn’t know each other. She then smiled and said: Sweetheart, that was Merle Haggard. 

Do you have a story from your life with a special place in your heart, that you will tell your children, and grandchildren one day?

 

Love,

Maria

23 Comments on “My Very Own Northern California Christmas Story – Merle Haggard

  1. Wow Maria, what a story! I can only imagine your state of mind in that time, such stress. I recall my kids teething – uhg. Reading this tells me what a great place you and your daughter are in now, I’m so happy for you! And you met a music superstar too. 🥰😎

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow what a story! I grew up listening to Merle Haggard, he was my absolute favorite country western singer. I had no idea of your struggles as a young mother. It reminded me of my own mother’s struggles with her first husband and she too was left for days without food and once during a snowstorm. This was also in Northern California. I have many stories that I share with my children but yours is absolutely a beautiful memory. Happy Holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words. Merle Haggard is something extra, an icon for sure. I’ve listened to him a lot, he is only second to Johnny Cash among the great ones for me.

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  3. It is a beautiful story! Merry Christmas Maria! For your previous blog you have found your bliss in a small town in Sweden just like the one in Northern California. Wish you all the best!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. that is fun that you met this country singer – never heard this song and it is delightful today, Maria.
    also – your enduring story sounds like you have a lot of grit!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You know how they say when your pregnant you have baby brain, forgetful, emotional, don’t recognize anyone cause your so tired you cant even see let alone hold a conversation. I actually think that lasts for at least a year or more for some after having baby, lol. It was so nice he spoke to you so kindly. Great share. My son used to fall asleep in my arms on the ride on mower, worked every time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I agree. I think that for me the fog got even worse when I was nursing my daughter. Those hormones are very strong. I would do it again in a heartbeat 😉 Thank you for your kind comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great story, Maria. I love those brushes we sometimes have with stars, who are, of course, just ordinary people like us. It was nice that he was so kind.
    I once came out of a shop I worked in in Boston and as it was blistering hot, blew air out and exclaimed “Whew!” I looked up to see Meryl Streep walk by and laugh at my outburst. I smiled sheepishly and after she passed me, I realized who she was.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great story. I will have to think about a story from my life that I would tell my Grandson when he is older. I can think of a few but choosing one will take some thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A great story, Maria, and I’m so glad you’ve come through that difficult time.
    In my ignorance I don’t know much Merle Haggard, but, as in one of. your comments, I do love Johnny Cash. The Walk the Line movie is a favourite.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a wonderful story, Maria, albeit all the hardship you endured at the time. Seems like Mr Haggard brought his twinkly star into your day unannounced, kind of like an angel might do. A heart warming story that brought tears to my eyes. How far you have come! It was nice to be your nor Cal neighbor for a bit and meet you IRL last year. I wish you a wonderful Christmas filled with new memories and love!

    Liked by 1 person

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