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December 13, 2013

NOTES FROM THE JOURNEY: A necktie for Roy – a Christmas story

By JOHN PAUL CARTER

When we walked into Roy Parnell’s real estate office on the square in Glen Rose almost 40 years ago, we were looking for a little piece of land on the Brazos River. What we found was something far more valuable than the beautiful property he sold us – a priceless friendship with a truly generous man.

For the next 15 years, until his death, I would stop and have lunch with him on my way to the land. It usually took at least two hours because Roy was a big talker. But much more, he was a wonderful storyteller.

This season of the year always reminds me of Roy’s story of his favorite childhood Christmas. His father was working as a ranch hand in a remote area of West Texas. They lived in a two-room, clapboard house down by the barns. They were so poor that the children had to stay inside on snowy days because they didn’t have shoes.

The rancher was a hardened man who demanded much of his hands and paid little.

Embittered by his own losses over the years, he forbade his wife from seeing to the needs of those who worked for him. Christmas gifts were not allowed.

On this bitterly cold Christmas Eve morning, the prospects for any gifts under the scrub cedar bush that served as the Parnell’s Christmas tree were bleak, indeed. At daybreak the rancher sent Roy’s father to ride fence while he went into town on business.

An hour later the rancher’s shivering wife knocked at their door. Invited in out of the cold, she stayed only long enough to give each child a present carefully wrapped in tissue paper. She apologized that she couldn’t do more. As she left, she warned them that her husband must never know what she had done, lest they all would have hell to pay.

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