Christmas in Mossy Creek

Christmas in Mossy Creek

Carolyn McSparren, Martha Crockett, Susan Goggins, Darcy Crowder, Maureen Hardegree, Nancy Knight

November 2017 $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-834-9

Book 9 in the Mossy Creek Hometown Series

Our PriceUS$15.95
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"Hire me a moving van. It's the kind of town where everyone wishes they could live." —Debbie Macomber

The friendly folks in Mossy Creek are back for a Christmas filled with love, laughter, holiday cheer, and zany antics.

From a wild & wooly parade debacle in Town Square to the quiet tears of a surprise homecoming, from the tinsel-lined streets of archrival Bigelow to the lofty spires of Colchik Mountain, Creekites celebrate the season as only Creekites can.

Your favorite Mossy Creek citizens are back with their own stories of Christmas gifts and decorations, of community spirit, of sacrifices and lessons learned. Merry and Louise struggle to make the annual parade a success. Inez and Lucy Belle keep the feud with Bigelow alive. Jayne receives a blessed gift from the new Santa in town. Pearl and Spiva give Mossy Creek Books and Whatnots—and their sisterly relationship—a needed makeover. Tag and Maggie struggle with the importance of career vs. family. Join us for these stories plus much more fun and Christmas joy in Mossy Creek.



Praise for the Mossy Creek Hometown Series

"Written in the tradition of Fannie Flag and Garrison Keillor.”   —Nola Theiss, KLIATT

"Delightful.”  —Marie Barnes, former First Lady of Georgia

"Mitford meets Mayberry in the first book of this innovative and warmhearted new series from BelleBooks.”    —Cleveland Daily Banner, Cleveland, Tennessee

"You won’t want to leave MOSSY CREEK! These pages offer readers a taste of country charm with characters that feel like family.”  —Joyce Handzo, Library Reviews

"If you have never entered the city limits of MOSSY CREEK, then you should go there immediately. The books of this series are among the most readable and enjoyable you will find anywhere.”  —Jackie K. Cooper, WMAC-AM, Macon, GA

"Mossy Creek combines the atmosphere of an Anne River Siddons’ novel with the magic of a Barbara Samuel’s character study. The latest trip is worth the journey.”   —Harriet Klausner, reviewer

"The characters and kinships of MOSSY CREEK are quirky, hilarious and all too human. This story reads like a delicious, meringue-covered slice of home. I couldn’t get enough.” —Pamela Morsi, USA Today bestselling author

"MOSSY CREEK is a book you will not lend for fear you won’t get it back.”—Chloe LeMay, The Herald,Rock Hill, SC

"For those who like books with a strong sense of community and place, engaging characters and stories that will take you from tears to laughter and back again. It’s very ‘Southern,’ and very small town.” 

—Renee Patterson, Alachua (FL) County Libraries



The Mossy Creek Gazette
106 Main Street - Mossy Creek, Georgia

From the desk of Katie Bell, Business Manager

Lady Victoria Salter Stanhope
The Clifts
Seaward Road
St. Ives, Cornwall, TR3 7PJ
United Kingdom

Merry Christmas, Vick!

The Thanksgiving turkeys have been consumed, the pecan pies are gone, and the extra cans of cranberry sauce have been put in the pantry for a few weeks. Now Mossy Creek is turning its attention to Christmas.

I know y’all don’t have Thanksgiving over there across the pond, but you do have Christmas. Here in the South we celebrate all kinds of ways. Of course, we decorate our houses and buy presents. We have church choral celebrations and pageants and holiday bazaars.

Mossy Creek’s Christmas parade is coming up soon. We’ll have floats from various community organizations, the high school marching band, Santa Claus, and even a depiction of Baby

Jesus fleeing from Herod’s soldiers, complete with a local donkey.

We also decorate the town. Although they’re up in the air at the moment, ‘cause our committee can’t decide on a theme. So Creekites are waiting with bated breath. Snowflakes or angels? ’Tis the Season or ’Tis the Reason? Reindeer or manger scenes? Who knows? I’ll keep you informed!



The Ninety-Sixth Annual
Mossy Creek Christmas Parade

Let’s be naughty and save Santa the trip.

Gary Allan

Early November—The Planning Committee

"YOU’RE THE ONLY person in Mossy Creek with a miniature Sicilian donkey,” Louise Sawyer said to me. "The Virgin Mary needs to ride Don Qui in the Christmas parade.”

I choked on my coffee and coughed until my eyes streamed. It had to have been a full minute before I could speak coherently. "I will notbe responsible for the Virgin Mary’s losing the Baby Jesus in a premature birth before she gets to Bethlehem. You know what that donkey’s like. In the ongoing battle between Satan and the angels, Don Qui bats for Satan.”

"All taken care of, Merry. First of all, Kristin James is playing Mary in the parade. If she can’t actually ride Don Qui, if he gets fractious, she’s tall enough to jump off his back without getting hurt.”

"With sofa pillows under her robe so she’ll look pregnant on her way to that second-rate inn?” I asked. Louise, my best friend and sometime partner in my horse breeding and training operation outside of Mossy Creek, had volunteered herself and me to chair the Mossy Creek Christmas Parade committee.

Big mistake. I didn’t like committees, and committees didn’t like me. Nothing good ever came from being on a committee. For me, at least.

Louise was a retired school teacher and volunteer extraordinaire. She had time for boards and expertise at bossing everybody in Mossy Creek around. She’d taught most of them.

I, on the other hand, was younger and anything but retired. I had a farm to run and carriage horses to train. Besides, I was an incomerto Mossy Creek, where your family had to have been resident for at least three generations before you were considered a native.

"Kristin can only be Mary if the parade supposedly takes place after the birth when the Holy Family is running off to Egypt to get away from Herod’s soldiers,” Louise said. "Her mother and father said that under no circumstances will they allow her to ride through Mossy Creek looking as though she has a bun in her particular oven.”

"So Mary and Joseph are going to flee Herod, then swing back to the crèche so they can lay Baby Jesus back in the manger? Doesn’t exactly follow the Biblical account, does it?”

Louise shrugged. "Kristin is seventeen. They don’t want her showing up on Facebook looking nine months pregnant.”

"Now that I understand.”

"Kristin is borrowing one of her little sister’s Cabbage Patch dolls to carry. Wrapped in swaddling clothes, it’ll do just fine until they get to the crèche on Town Square to lay it in the manger.”

"Where’s she going to put him on the trip? In a saddlebag? Don Qui should love that.”

"You can be extremely exasperating when you put your mind to it,” Louise said. "Kristin will hold the baby in one arm and Don Qui’s reins in the other.”

I rolled my eyes. "Like that’s going to work.”

"Meredith Abbott, this is a Christmas parade in Mossy Creek, Georgia. It is not Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. We do not have blimps that look like superheroes flying over the Square tethered to two dozen handlers. We do not have giant floats that we have been working on since New Year’s Day last year. It is a small, local, everybody-wave-at-Santa-Claus-and-grab-candy-out-of-the air parade. Mary, who will not still be pregnant, will hold the Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes.”

"That she has snatched out of the manger ten steps ahead of Herod’s soldiers with their scimitars. Are we going to have scimitars, by the way?”

"What is the matter with you?”

I was sulking, but couldn’t help it. "I hate Christmas. And this one is already shaping up to be a disaster.”

"Why on earth would you hate Christmas?” Louise asked. "Everybody loves Christmas.”

"Not everyone.” I sighed. Might as well tell her. She’d get it out of me eventually. "When I was growing up, my Daddy was always off somewhere getting ready for a horse show the day after Christmas. If he remembered and had time, he’d call on the phone, but since it was a landline at that point, it was expensive, so we couldn’t talk long. It was always just me and Mom. We never had a turkey. The smallest was too big for the two of us, so we had one of those turkey roast things that come wadded up in a net and do not look, smell, or taste like real turkey. And the horses that Daddy hadn’t taken to the show still had to be fed, watered and exercised by Mom and me. Invariably, whoever Daddy was working for that year had kids and grandkids who wanted to come play with the horses on Christmas afternoon. Guess who had to babysit the little brats?”

"I had no idea.” I could see Louise’s mind working. "You never said anything.”

I shrugged, glad of her empathy but feeling self-conscious all the same. "It not the kind of thing that comes up in everyday conversation.”

"We had a lovely little Christmas last year, didn’t we?” she asked hopefully.

I hugged my dear friend’s shoulder. "Thanks to you and Charlie. I would never have gone to the Nine Lessons and Nine Carols service at the Presbyterian Church or learned to cook candied yams...”

"Or hitched up Heinzie and gone for a lovely long carriage drive in the afternoon. Besides, the Mossy Creek Christmas parade is the Saturday after Thanksgiving weekend, not Christmas Day. It will be fun. You’ll see.”

"I will do this insane thing,” I said, "if you promise to get Kristin to come out and learn to ride Don Qui.”

"I doubt the head of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna could learn to ride that jackass.”

"Probably not. But she’s got to come out and try at least a couple of times a week after school.”

"But she has cheerleading practice and football games and gymnastics and school. She’s a senior. She has SATs.”

"Take it or leave it. Ask her. Who’s playing Joseph, by the way?”

"We lucked out on that. She’s dating Meat at the moment. If anyone can handle that donkey, Meat can.”

"Meat who was all-state tackle last year?”

"Right. Being heavily recruited by the University of Georgia, the University of Tennessee and LSU as we speak.”

"Meat can toss them both over his shoulder and finish the parade on foot if he has to,” I said. Meat’s actual name was Cal Reece. Until his hormones kicked in, he’d been a relatively normal boy, if a trifle outsized.

When he topped six feet and two hundred pounds at age nine, his coach said he reminded him of Refrigerator Perry, the legendary pro-football player.

When Cal outgrew even the largest kitchen appliance, however, his teammates looked for a bigger nickname. The only thing they could come up with was Meat Locker, immediately shortened to "Meat.”

"It’s the perfect romance of the Titans,” Louise said. "Since they were homecoming king and queen this year, they’ve been hot and heavy, so he’s going to play Saint Joseph and wrangle Don Qui—at least keep him tethered to a lead line and walk beside him. He has good reason to keep his girlfriend intact. This will work, Merry. I promise.”


Kristin James stood six feet tall and maybe weighed a hundred and fifteen pounds, almost all of which was muscle. Even Meat envied her six-pack abs. She’d always wanted to be an Olympic gymnast, until she came up against the hard wall of fact that they were usually under five feet tall and had no discernible boobs.

She then focused on leading the Mossy Creek cheerleading squad. She was the anchor in any pyramid. The girls trusted she would never drop them.

Kristin decided against using some sort of temporary dye to turn her ash-blonde hair dark to play Mary. She’d once tried it on Halloween and wound up looking like a Tasmanian tiger with stripes ranging from black on the ends to blonde at the roots. She enlisted fellow cheerleader Shamira, even though her father disapproved, to show her how to fashion a hijab to cover her hair.

The Virgin Mary traditionally wore a blue robe, which suited Kristin’s coloring perfectly. The blue hijab would enhance her blue eyes. The cheerleaders all agreed she’d look fabulous. Not necessarily virginal, however, or like a very young girl who has just given birth to a baby boy in a stable a long way from home with no midwife around.

I knew all of this within an hour of making Kristin’s acquaintance. Like most teenage girls, she was a talker—with herself her favorite subject.

To get ready for Kristin’s first attempt to ride Don Qui, I’d worked every day to attempt to turn him from a very small donkey pulling a very small carriage—his usual duty when he couldn’t misbehave himself out of it—into a riding animal for a lanky girl carrying a doll.

I was almost as tall as Kristin and weighed considerably more, so I figured if I could get Don Qui to carry me, getting him to carry Kristin should be a piece of cake.

At least Kristin knew how to ride a horse. Her equine sport of choice was western pole-bending. While I considered that an even crazier horse sport than jumping five-foot fences, obviously Kristin had no fear.


She hadn’t met Don Qui.

But then Don Qui hadn’t met Kristin.

Don Qui only lived on my farm because he and my big Friesian gelding, Heinzie, were much closer than David and Jonathan, despite the difference in their sizes. Heinzie didn’t mind spending a few hours away from his buddy. Don Qui, however, usually spent his times of separation braying his head off. I’d finally given up and kept the pair together as much as possible. Today, Heinzie grazed happily on the other side of the arena fence where Don Qui could see him.

By the time Kristin showed up for her first encounter with the donkey—looking like some kind of Norse goddess in jeans and boots—I’d had limited success with him. Very limited.

Over several years and with great difficulty, I’d trained Don Qui to accept a harness, accept a bitted bridle with attached reins and pull a miniature horse cart. Usually. He had never before, to the best of my knowledge, worn a saddle nor carried a live human being on his back.

Over the last week, I’d gotten him to accept the saddle, though I had to chase him down to get it on him. But he nipped at me every time I tried to mount.

"This is crazy,” I told Kristin. "He’ll try very hard to kill you, and he may succeed.”

"This sweet little old baby won’t hurt me, will you, sugar?” Kristin scratched the donkey’s face gently until his eyelids began to droop. She moved to his poll, then his neck and all over his little brown body down to his hooves.

I’d always said those dainty little hooves were secretly cloven, although they seemed perfectly normal.

Don Qui sighed in ecstasy.

"He’s biding his time until he’s lulled you into trusting him,” I whispered.

"Why, he’s the one being lulled, aren’t you, baby boy?”

Don Qui leaned against her and sighed.

I watched the pair together, amazed. Kristin must be a donkey whisperer, or she’d secretly slipped him some drugs. Likely drugs.

I let Kristin groom him, pick his feet, all the while crooning to him. The horses in the paddock, including Heinzie, were now hanging over the fence watching and envying their small brother’s massage.

"You have to wear a hard hat,” I told her.

"But Mary wouldn’t have worn a hard hat. I’ll look stupid. No way.”

"No hard hat, no Don Qui. As a matter of fact, nobody rides or drives any equine on this place without wearing a hard hat.

Bones mostly knit, but busted skulls can leak all over my nice clean arena.”

"But Samira is going to teach me how to tie a hijab. I can’t wear a hard hat over that.”

From her place at the arena fence, Louise said, "Can’t you wrap that hijab over your hard hat? Mary would have been wearing something like that over her hair, wouldn’t she?”

"You know how big those hard hats are?” Kristin said. "I’ll look like one of those aliens from War of the Worlds in drag.”

"Borrow it and try it,” I insisted.

Kristin sighed deeply. Don Qui echoed her. "All right, but I’m going to look ridiculous.”

"Good. Here’s one of my hard hats,” I said. "Put it on and we’ll try out Don Qui. I didn’t know whether you wanted to try riding him bareback or in a regular saddle. I also have a sidesaddle. Two thousand years ago, Mary would probably have been riding astride, although I suspect having just had a baby, she’d prefer to sit sidesaddle. Must have been hellish riding a creature with a backbone like a donkey, so they must have laid rugs across his back cinched somehow so they wouldn’t slide off him.”

"All the way to Egypt,” Kristin said in awe. "It doesn’t say the angels gave them any help on the trip, does it? And poor Joseph had to walk all the way.” She scratched behind Don Qui’s long ears.

If he could have purred, no doubt he would have.

"I did bring one of my bareback pads,” Kristin said. "It’s padded and has a bucking strap to hold onto. We can take off the stirrups. I’d rather be able to bail.”

"Let’s try it.”

The bareback pad and the cinch obviously felt close enough to his regular harness that Don Qui didn’t protest too much when they tacked him up. He only cow-kicked at me once and Kristin not at all.

He did protest the bridle, however. His big old donkey teeth snapped at my fingers and nearly nipped my hand, but I pulled away in time.

"Now, you stop that,” Kristin said in a voice she’d honed on rowdy cheerleaders.

After the soft crooning in his ear, Don Qui’s eyes snapped open at her tone. She went right back to the crooning, however. Possibly in surprise, he opened his mouth and let the bit slip inside.

"There. That’s a good little angel,” she said.

I could only shake my head as I snapped an eighteen-foot longe line to the bridle in hopes that eighteen feet between me in the center of the circle and him on the perimeter would be enough to keep me safe. So long as he chose not to charge.

Kristin walked into the arena beside the donkey, scratching and crooning.

She leaned against his side, leaned back and slid onto the bareback pad sidesaddle.

Stunned, Don Qui stood perfectly still. He took two steps.

I crossed my fingers.

One more step and all hell broke loose. He bucked high and hard. Kristin landed on hands and knees six feet away while Don Qui tried to kick the moon, brayed like a wildebeest being chased by a lion and took off to the end of the longe line.

I hung on by digging my heels into the arena sand when he dragged me.

After a fit of giggles, Kristin hopped up off her hands and knees. Then with a look of steel in her eyes, she took the longe line from me and hand-over-handed Don Qui—much against his will—into the center of the arena and up tight against her.

"Let’s try that again. Unhook the line, please,” she said calmly. "We’re about to have us a goat rodeo.”

This time she threw her leg across the saddle. No more of this sidesaddle stuff, apparently.

She was one heck of a rider, I had to admit, even if she was twice Don Qui’s size. She stuck to him like a limpet while he performed amazing feats of bucking and kicking. She grinned the whole time, even when he started braying at the top of his lungs.

I figured they could hear him in downtown Mossy Creek.

He wore out before Kristin did, although I could see the sweaty patches under her arms and down her back. In twenty minutes, he was walking on a loose rein in figure-eights around the arena while Kristin crooned to him.

She finally walked him over to where I stood awestruck and slid off.

"Who’s a good boy, then?” she crooned.

She was barely out of breath. I’d have been on my way to the emergency room if I were still alive.

"No problem,” Kristin said. "Let’s get him rinsed off and feed him some carrots. I brought some in case you were out.”

She walked off with Don Qui trudging tiredly along beside her without a lead line or even a bridle strap holding him.

Later, after dinner, I said to Louise, "I don’t know what she is, but according to Don Qui, she’s not human.”

"He’s not broke yet, you know,” Louise said. "This is just the opening salvo in Kristin’s campaign. He’ll probably behave worse when she comes back again.”

"I am well aware of that. He still harbors a demon inside, but if Kristin manages to cast it out for the duration of the parade, I’ll be satisfied.”

"But we have to take Heinzie along or Don Qui won’t move a step,” Louise said at the next board meeting for the Christmas parade committee.

Hosting it at her cottage, she’d restricted the drinking of

Mossy Creek mimosas until after the meeting was officially closed, otherwise nothing would get done. Nobody would be able to pass a Breathalyzer test on the way home, if Amos should be lurking somewhere close.

Comprised of Ida and all the Garden Club members Louise could wrangle, the committee members grumbled, but agreed it was prudent.

So far, I’d sat back, letting the committee be the committee.

"And what role do we have in mind for that ginormous black Friesian gelding?” Ida asked me directly. "I thought he and that donkey came as a matched pair.”

"We could dress Amos up as a Roman soldier and have him chase the Holy Family down Main Street,” Louise answered for me. "Waving a scimitar.”

Everyone snickered.

Ida shook her head. "That won’t work. Amos can’t keep his attention on the parade and be in it too. That’s an all-hands-on-deck day for the police department.”

"Well, who else is there?” Louise said. "I don’t see Herod slaughtering his own innocents.”

"How about the Magi?” Helen Overbury suggested. "That black gelding and a couple of quarter horses or Arabians with riders dressed up in robes could follow along after the Holy Family?”

"That’s not a bad idea,” Louise said. "We have plenty of horses around who march in parades all the time. Put turbans instead of Stetsons on the guys who ride them, we’ll be all set. But they probably should ride ahead of the Holy Family instead of behind so Don Qui can see Heinzie. And that way, they can soften up the crowd.”

So it was decided. I reluctantly agreed to line up the magi and Louise agreed to line up their wives to make their costumes and turbans.

"All right. Now, so far, we have the Mossy Creek marching band to start, followed by the drill team and the Shrine clowns and the Garden Club float.” "The youth groups at the churches are all going to do floats,” Peggy Caldwell said. "Not big ones. They’ll be pulled by pickup trucks.”

"What we don’t have is Santa Claus,” Louise said. "With Ed Brady gone...”

A spontaneous silence hushed the group as everyone remembered the beloved icon who’d played Santa Claus in Mossy Creek for decades.

Always pragmatic, Peggy finally broke the quiet. "We also don’t have any kind of float for Santa to ride. Amos has played Santa before, but he can’t... or won’t.”

"He’s too young and too skinny,” Ida insisted.

Knowing looks around the table said, "And she should know.” The ladies kept their mouths shut, however. They preferred to down their mimosas through all their teeth. Ida could be prickly about her thing with Amos.

"What about the fire truck?” Eleanor Abercrombie asked.

"Ed always rode on top.”

Ida shook her head. "Unfortunately, those days are over.

The State Fire Marshall’s office has cracked down. They tried to insist several years ago, but Ed was dead set on tradition. It was one of those cases where we asked forgiveness instead of permission. Now that Ed’s gone, we’ve got to toe the line or we’ll lose state funding. So we definitely need a float.”

"The Holy Horns brass quartet from the Baptist Church want to ride on Santa’s float. They’ll play all the way, then have a sing-along with the spectators at the Square to sing carols,” Eustene Oscar said.

"It’s a shame it’s too hot for reindeer in Mossy Creek,” said Mimsy Allen.

"We don’t have a sleigh or snow either,” Ida said dryly.

"But we have plenty of horses,” Louise said.

Finally, I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. I had what could be the perfect solution. "Let me work on a Santa float. I think I can get my hands on just the thing.”

That afternoon I called my friend, Dick Fitzgibbons, a horse breeder from lower South Carolina who showed draft horses in horse shows and parades all over the South.

When he answered, I said, "Dick, I need you.”

"Sweet thing, I been tellin’ you that, but you don’t listen.”

"Not for that. I need your largest pair of Percherons to pull a big flat-bed hay wagon for Santa to use in the Christmas parade. I also need to borrow a wagon.”

"Uh-huh. When?”

I gave him dates and times.

"Why do you need a flatbed?” Dick asked. "How come Santa can’t just ride in my big Victoria carriage?” "The Holy Horns, the brass quartet from the First Baptist Church, is going to be seated on the float in front of Santa.

They’ll play carols along the parade route, then do a carol sing-along at the big crèche in the park. You don’t care if we drill a few holes in the floor of the wagon, do you? We need to secure the orchestra chairs so that the musicians don’t get knocked around, and Santa’s throne behind them.”

"Go right ahead. It’s got plenty of nail and screw holes in it already.”


Over the next few weeks, everyone on the parade committee brainstormed possible Santa Clauses. Just before Thanksgiving, we were still minus one Kris Kringle.

Ida was set against fake beards except as a last resort, which let out a number of clean-shaven jolly ol’ elves. Of the remaining candidates, several had beards that had been treated to suspicious black rinses. The ones left were either too thin, too fat, or too sour.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I happened to be talking with Ida as she waited to pick up a prescription at the drug store when a man walked up behind us. She turned to give him a mayorly smile but instead gasped and grabbed my arm.

I turned to look. He was Miracle on 34th Streetcome to life.

The smile he turned on us was incandescent.

Ida recovered first and said, "I’m Ida Walker...”

"Ah. Her Honor the Mayor.” He actually bent over her hand. "I am delighted to meet you. I’m Beauregard Hatcher. Call me Beau, everybody does.”

Ida waved a hand at me. "This is Merry Abbott, who owns a horse training facility just outside of Mossy Creek.”

The man beamed. "Ah, Mossy Creek. I’m thinking of moving to your charming town.”

Ida and I exchanged glances. At that moment, all we cared about was that he remain in Mossy Creek until after the Christmas parade.

Five minutes later, after they both collected their prescriptions, Ida and I shuffled Beau off to the Naked Bean to seduce him into playing Santa. Beau Hatcher said he was retired, but not from what or where. He was trying to find a place that was warm in the winter to settle down after a lifetime at work and remembered driving through Mossy Creek many years earlier and liking it. He’d decided to come to town, rent one of the studio apartments down the hill and spend six months or so deciding whether to buy a cottage and stay.

Half an hour later, Ida and I went straight to her office where she called as many of members of the parade committee as she could get on a conference call. "The man is straight out of Central Casting! But I couldn’t walk up to a totally strange elderly man and ask him to play Santa Claus in our Christmas Parade.”

"Why not?” Louise asked. "You’re famous for giving people jobs and demanding they do them.”

"I do not!” Ida glanced at me and my thoughts must’ve shown on my face because she reluctantly admitted, "Well, not often. All I’m saying is I’ve spotted the game. Someone else needs to bag him.”

I could hear exasperation in Louise’s voice as she said, "I guess it’s up to me.”

THE NEXT AFTERNOON, Louise dragged me to town so we could "accidentally” run into Beau Hatcher. We caught him outside Town Hall. She switched her schmooze switch to "kill” and gave him the smile that never failed to straighten out unruly students.

After introductions and a few polite niceties, Louise said brightly, "Now that you’re a Creekite, Mr. Hatcher, we think it’s high time we welcomed you properly.”

He turned a sunny smile on her. "Everybody has been great.”

I noted that he waxed the ends of his white mustache and twisted them up. The effect was a permanent smile.

"Oh, you haven’t begun to be integrated into Mossy Creek.”

Louise shook an admonitory finger at him. "We are very big on civic pride in our small town. When there’s anything important going on, everyone pitches in to make it a success.”

Beau looked a tad confused, but nodded.

"You do know our Ninety-Sixth Christmas Parade is coming up the Saturday after Thanksgiving weekend?”

"I’ve heard something about it.”

Louise laughed and patted his arm. "We’ve encountered a tiny problem that I know you’re going to fix for the entire town.”

Now, he looked not only confused, but wary. "Um, I don’t know...”

"Oh, it’s a great honor and afterward you’ll be the town hero.”

Nervous ramped up to scared. He tried to pull away, but Louise held firm.

"It’s right up your alley. You won’t even have to leave town. Just ride from the high school by way of City Hall for the ceremony.”

"You want me to marry somebody?” He turned ashen, while his warm brown eyes were the size of Mars.

Louise laughed. The tinkly one she used to mollify difficult students. "Of course not! We want you to be Santa Claus in the parade!”

He let out a long breath and grinned. "Is that all? Why, I played Santa for so many years in the Christmas party at the YMCA, I’ve got my own costumes.” He patted his tummy. "Used to need padding. Not anymore.” He turned toward the Square and barked, "Ho! Ho! Ho!”

All discernible activity on the Square halted immediately.

A small child’s voice asked, "Mama, is that Santa Claus?”

With a wink at me, Louise checked off another box on her mental "to-do” list.

AT THE LAST committee meeting before the parade, Ida went over her personal punch list. "Your friend Dick Fitzgibbons, Merry, is no youngster. There’s going to be a lot of fuss. You think he can drive those two giant horses the whole parade route by the churches and into the Square for the crèche ceremony?”

"They’re his personal team,” I told her. "He’s driven them in a thousand draft horse shows and parades and fairs. This is nothing compared to what he normally does with them. We all know the route. From the staging area out by the high school, down Trailhead, Hamilton and Laurel to Church Street. It swings by each of the churches, then East Mossy Creek to Bigelow Rd., circles Town Square, then stops at the crèche by Town Hall so Kristin can lay the Baby Jesus in the manger. I’ll be on the box beside Dick, in case he needs directions or an extra pair of hands on the reins.”

"What precisely happens at the crèche?” Geraldine Matthews asked.

"It’s the Unitarians’ turn to say the opening prayer this year,” Ida said. "Then I’ll do the welcome and the parade begins.”

Something hadn’t occurred to me. "We’ll be at the High School, over a mile from Town Square. How will we know when it’s time to start? Synchronize our watches?”

"That’s what we used to do before cell phones,” said Eleanor Abercrombie. "Since I’m not in the parade, I’ll be in the crowd on Town Square. I’ll call you or Louise or whoever I need to and let you know the minute Ida’s done.”

"That work for everyone?” Louise asked.

Everyone nodded.

Ida went on with her rundown of the program. "After the parade ends at Town Square, Kristin puts the baby in the manger, everybody sings a few carols to the accompaniment of the Holy Horns. They then lead Santa and the spectators into Town Hall with cocoa and cookies for everyone. After that, the parade circles back to the high school football field. Done for another year. Successful parade over for the—what it is, the ninety-third time?”

"Ninety-sixth,” Peggy Caldwell corrected.

I continued Ida’s list, "Dick Fitzgibbons and I unharness the horses and load them and the wagon back into his van. He and his crew leave to go back home.”

"But the musicians need their music stands on Sunday morning,” Eleanor said.

"And the chairs have to be unscrewed and put back in the Baptist sanctuary,” Helen Overbury said. "They can take their time with Santa’s throne, but not the chairs.”

I ran fingers through my already messy hair, "Shoot, I didn’t think of that.”

"Dick will have a couple of his grooms with him, won’t he?” Louise asked. "They can unscrew the chairs and put them away while everyone is in the Town Hall having refreshments. Shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes. It’s just a quartet, after all.”

"How does that jackass get home?” Helen asked. She neither liked nor trusted Don Qui.

"I figured he could ride with Dick’s horses and get dropped off at my place on the way,” I said.

Louise shook her head. "If those two Percherons get antsy, they could stomp him to a pulp. Merry, I think we need to bring Don Qui in our trailer and take him home ourselves. We have to bring Heinzie anyway to be a Magi horse.”

"An even better idea,” I said. "The closer Heinzie stays to Don Qui, the safer we’ll be. No problem.”

"Right,” Ida said. "What could possibly go wrong?”

Please review these other products:

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$14.95 June 2001
ISBN: 0-9673035-1-6

Welcome to the town whose motto is "Ain't goin' nowhere, and don't want to." Meet the handsome police chief, the beautiful mayor, a chihuahua who flies, and many, many more funny, warm-hearted characters.

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Reunion at Mossy Creek

Virginia Ellis, Debra Dixon, Sandra Chastain, Deborah Smith, Nancy Knight, Sharon Sala, Carolyn McSparren, Carmen Green, and Dee Sterling

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Second book in the series about the town that ain't going nowhere, and don't want to.

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Summer in Mossy Creek

Debra Dixon, Sandra Chastain, Deborah Smith, Martha Shields, Anne Bishop, Kim Brock, Patti Henry, Judith Keim, Bo Sebastian, Shelly Morris, Carolyn McSparren, Susan Goggins

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Book 3 of the Mossy Creek Series

Summertime in Mossy Creek is a time to kick back, reflect, and remember. Join the town for this sweet look inside the town's heart.

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Book 4 of the Mossy Creek Series

Everyone's counting their blessings in town, and a few are wondering if their troubles are blessings in disguise!

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A Day in Mossy Creek

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Book 5 of the Mossy Creek Series

It's a cold, frisky day in January, and rebellion is in the air! At the same time, the unspoken romance between the police chief and mayor is slowly heating up.

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At Home in Mossy Creek

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Cupid never had to deal with a stranded European circus. The townsfolk of Mossy Creek get some unexpected lessons in life and love on Valentine's Day.

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Critters of Mossy Creek

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Book 7 in the popular Mossy Creek Series!

Furry, fishy, four-footed and feathered. Peek inside the lives of the strange and wonderful pets of Mossy Creek and the people who love them.

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Homecoming in Mossy Creek
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Book 8 in the Mossy Creek Hometown series
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