It was early December in Kansas, and the last night had graced the scenery with a thick cover of bright snow. Two boys, both less than ten years old, one of them blond the other one dark-haired, were spending the late afternoon in the front yard of a small farm, working on a snowman. An impressive example of which, already dominated the yard.
Yet the blond boy had started another sphere. He rolled a ball of snow quickly across the yard which made it grow rapidly in size.
“What you’re doing Jed?” his dark-haired friend asked.
“He needs company,” the younger one declared.
“Why? Sergeant Snow’s a soldier on guard.”
“It is not good that man should be alone, my pa told me just last Sunday. That’s why the dear Lord made Eve.”
“So, you wanna build a Snow-Eve?”
“There are no women in the army.”
“There are! I heard them talking about women who care for the wounded and take care of their needs.”
Han coughed. He had heard rumors, too, but it didn’t sound like those ladies were really ... well ladies. He was pretty sure the righteous Mr. Curry wouldn’t be pleased to find a woman of easy virtue in his yard. “Well, maybe you’re right. But they aren’t regulars and they wouldn’t be on guard duty,” he objected carefully.
“Maybe the world would be a better place if they were. On duty. In the army. Women, I mean.”
“How’s that?” Han asked, his curiosity awakened.
“They could take care of the soldiers, keeping them warm, reminding them of their manners and feeding them well,” Jed argued. “Then there would be no need to go round and grab other folks’ stock.”
“Well, maybe you have a point there, but I guess that’s just not how things work, Jed,” the older boy said as he lay his arm around his friend’s shoulders and told him confidentially, “AND if it’s supposed to be Eve you have to consider that it was pretty warm in Paradise and they didn’t wear a lot of clothes back then. Do you know how to shape a fig leave?”
“That’s what they were wearing there. In Paradise I mean.”
Jed shook his head. His shoulders slumped and he cast his eyes down.
“Aw, come on, Jed. I bet it would be way too cold for a woman to wear only that in winter anyway. Why don’t we just build another snowman, huh? A soldier. Sergeant Snow’s ... uh ... corporal? Corporal Carrot?” Han brandished one of the wrinkled vegetable pieces they had snitched from the root cellar and that were meant to decorate their masterpieces of snow art.
Jed screwed up his face and pouted, a strategy that worked pretty well on female members of mankind, but failed totally on his older cousin.
Han, grinned, shook his head and started on another big sphere of snow, while he explained to his friend the advantage of having a second soldier guarding the farm, hoping to cheer him up. Jed felt uneasy about the rumors of bloody raids and the different kinds of regular and irregular troops dropping by their farms now and again. That’s why they had decided to build a frozen guardsman in first place.
Han hoisted his masterpiece up and placed it on top of the first big ball. Without his cousin’s help it ended up somewhat lopsided, but Han didn’t care about its lack of symmetry. The guy was of a lower rank and was allowed to look a mite awry.
The dark-haired boy eyed his handiwork, nodded self-satisfiedly and began working on a third ball for the head. He would have been grateful for Jed’s help, but the younger boy was still sulking. Now, there was no need to make a big head, because everybody knew that corporals were not the brightest candles on the cake, at least that’s what Sam, Jed’s older brother, always told them. They both liked his stories about, soldiers and war and just causes, as well as his rebellious mind and fancy ideas.
The yard was crisscrossed with the tracks of their work now, creating a strange pattern. When they were finished, they had to get to higher ground to see what it looked like from above, Han thought. Preferably a warm place. His hands were getting cold by now. A mug of hot milk and a couple of sweet cookies would be pretty welcome, too.
He threw a glance at his cousin. Jed’s cheeks were as red as his small hands, and the golden curls above the light-blue eyes where covered with frost. Their work had been more exhausting than they had thought, but the result had turned out mighty fine. A big impressive snowman, his head decorated with a tin bucket helmet, stood guard at the side of the barn, looking proudly over the little spread he protected. The companion at his side was about finished now – a low moan accompanied Han’s efforts as he placed the new head on top of the figure - he just needed a little refinement.
Jed looked up again, his jaw set. His entire stance oozed stubbornness.
“Come on Jed. Help me finish him and then we’ll go inside. It’s getting mighty cold now, ain’t it?” Han said as he thrust the carrot into the snow face and then added a wooden branch which was ought to represent an arm. It was somewhat crooked and looked a little odd the way it pointed towards Sergeant Snow.
A little spark of mischief showed up in the blue eyes. “Alright, let’s get finished,” Jed said and quickly set about rolling two more snowballs, smaller but still substantial. “But my pa said, no man should live without a woman beside him.”
“You sure a real good friend wouldn’t do?” Han voiced his doubt.
“No!” the blond declared definitely, and determinedly he placed the orbs in strategic sites on the new snow(wo)man’s chest.
Han’s jaw dropped. The lopsided figure with the additional ... uhm ... features looked mighty fancy now. It reminded him of one of the colorfully dressed women working in the saloon. Not that the boys were allowed in there, but there were always ways to run little errands which gave the opportunity to broaden one’s mind, a temptation which Han gave in to willingly.
Jed stood back, hands on his hips and studied the snow sculpture. Noticing the unnatural silence beside him he turned his head. “What?”
“You don’t like her?”
“Well, uhm ...” Before Han had figured out how to explain his doubt to his innocent cousin, the front door of the house cracked open.
“Supper time!” the warm voice of Jed’s mother called out. Only a blink later Sam and Jed’s pa exited the barn in animated conversation, heading for the house towards the promised treat.
They only made it half way across the yard before they noticed the frozen tableau and fell dead in their tracks. For a moment silence reigned. Mr. Curry scrutinized the composition in puzzlement while Sam lost his fight to keep his composure and burst out laughing.
Jed’s father made one step towards the boys, but his first-born son grabbed his arm and held him back. “That’s ... that’s a piece of realistic art if I ever saw one!” he managed to say between bouts of laughter. “Sergeant Cunning, thief of the poor, and Miss Minnie LaRue. That’s her – down to her peaked nose and her other ...” another fit of laughter forced him to pause, “... impressive assets!”
“How dare you...” menacing redness crept out of Zachariah Curry’s collar. He shrugged off his son’s hand and went towards the boys, the expression on his face promising big trouble for both of them. But he hadn’t reached the kids before the door of the house reopened and Jed’s mother appeared on the scene, wrapped in a woolen shawl.
“What’s keeping you, boys?” she asked. “Isn’t a warm fire and a hearty meal incentive enough to turn in today?”
“There’s something I have to take of care, first, Elsa,” her husband growled and pointed towards the offending sculptures.
His wife squinted her eyes in the growing dark, quickly crossed the yard and snuggled herself in her husband’s arms. She studied the snow figures behind her youngest son and his friend, frowned a little and then bit away a smile. “I don’t know what you mean, dear,” she said innocently. “What’s the matter with it?”
“Don’t you see what it represents? This ... offending ... image of loose living and depravity? I’m appalled by the boys’ tainted mind.”
“Aw, no. That’s not what it is, at all,” his wife told him softly, her eyes trained on the kids’ faces. “It’s the good Samaritan helping a woman begging for mercy. I suppose it was inspired by your Bible reading on St. Martin’s day, wasn’t it, boys?”
“Well... “ Jed started, but Han cut him off.
“Absolutely, Aunt Elsa, it’s just what you said,” the dark-haired one confirmed quickly, “It has a biblical meaning.”
Sam started snorting again, but his mother shot him a strict glance and the outburst transformed into a coughing fit. None of the Curry kids was stupid, and nobody with common sense would ever disappoint a cook, even less at Christmas time.
“It’s all in the way you look at things,” Elsa Curry stated. “The way we take what we see says a lot about ourselves. It’s easy to misunderstand if we only judge by our own experience. Due to our fallen human natures, we all struggle with some form of prejudice; we should be quick to recognize it as sin and ask the Lord to rid us of it,” she quoted. A brief smile played around her lips as she watched her husband until he lowered his eyes abashedly. “To err is human, to forgive, divine,” she added, gently running her fingers through his greying hair, then she spread her left arm and invited her youngster to come closer. “And now that everything is settled, I want you to come in, warm up and have a decent meal.”
“Do you think she really believed you?” Jed whispered to his friend.
“I wouldn’t bet on it. You mother is a crook if I ever saw one,” Han replied, his voice filled with admiration. He laid his arm around Jed’s shoulder, who was about to flare up, hugged him and added, “She really knows how things are running and how to make the best of it. She’s wonderful, Jed, something to be proud of. I wish I can be like her one day.”
The blond boy looked up to his friend and a bright smile returned to his face, as they followed the grown-ups into the inviting warmth of the house side by side.
They never talked about the unfortunate snow folks again. The supper was way too good to spoil it with unpleasant talk, and later that night a blizzard set in and covered everything with a deep blanket of snow. Only in spring a lonely tin bucket and a couple of withered vegetables told the tale of two pretty good boys and a snowman who desperately needed a woman.