Christmas at WapitiThe highlight of the school year was the Christmas play. Right after Halloween, we would start working on it. Sometimes it was a traditional story, like Dickens’s Christmas Carol, or maybe a modern story, like Home for Christmas, or the Gift of the Magi. On the last evening of school before Christmas holiday, folks from all over the valley came to see the program. The classroom was crowded with ranchers, and their families, cowhands all slicked up and fine young ladies who that very morning had been cooks and cabin maids. A canvas curtain as wide as the classroom separated the audience from the stage. Advertisements from Cody Drug and Shoshone Feed and Seed covered the audience side. On the other side children scurried to get into their costumes and take their places. As the screen rolled up everyone watched as the children presented their play, weaving the story of the importance and meaning of Christmas. After the final curtain and a rousing round of applause, there was community singing, lead by the school teacher playing a slightly out of tune old upright piano. The evening always ended with singing Silent Night. Even though it was just a bunch of mountain folks, the sound was like a heavenly choir. Many a ranch hand had tears in their eyes as the last note ended. But then it was time for cookies and punch in the library, visiting, catching up on the latest gossip. Finally, everyone, tired and happy piled into their cars and trucks and headed home over the crisp snowy roads. The memory of that night filed away with the nostalgia of growing up.