Another Gift of the Magi, Part III: Mom, the Wheeler Dealer
By Algie Ray Smith

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

For background on the series "Another Gift of the Magi," see Part I at and Part II at

“As if have told you countless times, “Grandfather began, “my father... your great-grandfather… had a terrible accident. He was blasting rock at the stone quarry on the Stevenson Mill Road when a small landside fell on him, crushing both his legs.

“It was one of those freak accidents when the dynamite charge did not go off as planned. Dad waited and waited, but the other dynamiter simply shrugged his shoulders as if to say, ‘I dunno. Maybe you better check it out.’ Dad was at the base of the wall when the explosion occurred. The blast knocked him off his feet; and before he could recover, the wall of rocks came crushing down on his legs.

“He was in the hospital in Bowling Green for the longest time before he was well enough to come home. And even then he had to get around in a wheelchair, as his legs remained so weak he couldn’t put any weight on them. In fact, the doctor said that he might never regain enough strength in his legs to ever walk again. But he did walk… and his recovery is a part of my story.”

It was two weeks before Christmas before I got up the nerve to mention a bicycle to Mom. And when I did, she only shook her head. “I was hoping,” Mom said, “that you understood about you dad and that you shouldn’t be expecting much for Christmas. I’m earning money cleaning other people’s houses. We’re getting by on my earnings. Enough for food, the rent, and the like, but certainly not enough for a bicycle.

“Mr. Turner has told me that you may go out to his farm and cut a tree for Christmas. He said that he would bring you and the tree back to town, that he thought you would like to pick out the tree yourself.”

I hastily told Mom that I would love to do that… that I would cut a big cedar to go in the living room where we always had our tree next to the old front door.

Mom smiled. “Good. Good. We don’t use that door anyway, since I lost the key. That’s a good place for a tree. And I have all the decorations from previous years, so we won’t have to spend any money for them.”

I nodded. I supposed Mom could see that I was crestfallen, so she added, “You see my point, don’t you, Johnny. We’ll have to make good with what we got. I’ll not be bothering others or the church for charity, not as long as I can draw a breath and work. And, when you go out to cut the tree at Mr. Turner’s, I want you to take a couple of jars of the pears I canned. I don’t believe the Turners have pear trees on their farm.”

I bit my lip. I tried to show Mom that I was okay, but I wasn’t. My heart sank right through the floor. Frazer and Snack had already met with the paper representative and had been promised paper routes. They told me that there was only one route left, and that it would be filled the week after Christmas.

Anyway, three days before Christmas Eve, Mom asked what I wanted for Christmas. She had saved four dollars out of her meager earnings. She wanted to buy Dad an extra soft stuffed pillow for his wheelchair. She said that would leave her with about a dollar fifty for my present.

Certainly, I understood that there was no money for a bicycle, so I told her that I would really like to have one of those Army camouflage flashlights I had seen at Mr. Timmon’s Trinket Shop. They were the very latest gadgets. They had a right angle head with a clip that went on your belt. You could use the light when walking, or you could take it off and aim it like a regular light. I thought it was swell, just like the ones the soldiers at Camp Campbell carried in their packs.”

Mom fairly beamed when I told her that the flashlight was $1.50 and had five D cell batteries included. Here was something she COULD afford for me.

I have no earthly idea what transpired when Mom visited the Trinket Shop, but here’s what I was able to gather later.

Mom went shopping the very next day. The front windows of the stores were all decorated for Christmas. Perry’s Drugs Store had big boxes of Whitman Candy all arranged on a field of snowy cotton. The Croslin Hat Shop featured hats that were similar to elf hats like Santa’s helpers wore. The Citizens National Bank had a big tree in the lobby, and beneath the tree were giant Nutcracker soldiers and a Sugar Plum fairy. Even Riley’s Barber Shop was all spruced up for the season.

But what caught Mom’s eye when she peered in the window at Timmon’s was not the Lionel train or the windup clown. Not even the Army jeep with the white star on the door. What glued her eyes to her heart was the LITTLE BICYCLE. It was parked on the lawn of a small doll’s house as if the tiny people inside had left it there. Mom hurried into the store.

When Mr. Timmons asked her if he could be of assistance, she piped up, “How much is that little bicycle in the window?”

Mr. Timmons smiled and rubbed his big rough hands together. “Ah, I hadn’t thought about selling it. It’s a salesman’s sample. See, he didn’t want to cart around a regular size bicycle, so he left me this one.” Mr. Timmons went and gathered the little bicycle from the widow. He handed it to Mom. “Notice how sturdy it is. The wheels actually spin. The handlebars turn. It has a tiny chain; and when you turn the tiny pedals, the back wheel rolls.”

He pulled a rather large magnifying glass from his porter’s jacket; and, taking the bike from Mom, he held the glass to one of the cross bars. “Look carefully. You can actually see the company name: HUFFY. Very realistic. Isn’t that clever?

“I have an order coming in this afternoon for three of these bicycles… regular size, of course. Two models in red for boys and a green one for girls. You can come back tomorrow and see for yourself.”

“Oh, no,” Mother exclaimed, “that’s not possible. My husband was in an accident at the quarry. He’s not been able to work for a long while.” Her voice trailed off. “He may never be able to work again. I’m afraid I only have enough money for one of those new Army flashlights.”

He handed the little bike back to Mom, who clasped it as if were a precious diamond. “When you asked how much for the little bike, why did you want to purchase it? It has no real function except to sit on a shelf as a conversation piece?”

And Mom told Mr. Timmons the whole story of our plight, how I had asked for a bike, how she was barely getting by… but she didn’t need any help, thank you.

I hadn’t told Mom about getting a paper route, so Mom didn’t tell Mr. Timmons that. Mr. Timmons smiled broadly. “All boys want a bike. They’re a rite of passage. Had a bike myself when I was a kid. It was my ticket to freedom. I rode that old Schwinn everywhere. Don’t know where it is now. I could use it.” He patted his slightly protruding stomach. “I don’t get as much exercise now as I did then. Cars, you know.”

“Well,” Mom finally got a word in, “when I saw the little bike, I had a terrific idea. I thought I could give Johnny this little one with a note explaining, ‘When our good fortune is flowing again, you can trade this little bike in for a regular sized one.”

Mr. Timmons brightened. “Sounds like a sensible plan. In the future I’ll be glad to give you full value for this one on a regular sized one.”

“Then you’ll sell it to me?” Mother was elated.

“I guess I could sell you the little bike for a dollar. The salesman told me it was mine to keep.”

Mom hugged Mr. Timmons so firmly that his jolly face turned pink. “Oh, thank you, Sir. And Merry Christmas!”

Mom bought the bike, brought it home and wrapped it in paper leftover from last Christmas, and put it under our big Christmas tree… the big 8-foot one I had cut on Mr. Turner’s farm.

Next Part IV: A Most Amazing Christmas Morning

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