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 would come for the program. The classroom would be 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, The Irma Hotel 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 curtain rolled up everyone watched as the children presented their play, weaving the story of the importance and meaning of Christmas.
Following a brief intermission, the curtain went up again and the nativity story was presented. Sometimes, Jesus was a real baby if one of the families had a young baby, otherwise it was a favorite doll. Every boy and girl looked forward to the time when they would be old enough to be Mary and Joseph.
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 only 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, and plans for the holidays.
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 nostalgia–one of the good things of life on the North Fork.