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Tiffany Kessler shares Papa Ben Hadley's Christmas story

My grandfather Ben Hadley has been gone for almost 20 years. During the last part of his life he did something his family will be grateful for, generations to come. He jotted down his memoirs in several old spiral bound notebooks. "Papa Ben" was born in 1914 in Cundiff, KY (the Melson Ridge community of Adair County). His story is like that of many other folks from the time period - one of ten children born into a hard working farm family.

The following is a Christmas memory from when he was a young boy around five years begins with a couple new arrivals in the fall of the year (around 1920).
- Tiffany
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By Ben Hadley

One day dad came in from plowing his old mare, puts her in the stable and feeds her corn. He came to the house to get his dinner and when he goes back to get her, she hadn't had time to eat, she had found her a little colt. Back to the house dad came telling what a pretty colt old Sallie had found, said "I told her that she could have the rest of the day off." [A well-deserved day off for the mare considering a good colt, when sold to the "man in town that buys livestock", paid for each of the children a new pair of shoes that year]

I said, "Where did she find a little colt?"

"Just might have been out there in that back stable somewhere," he answered.

Mom was pregnant with my younger brother at the time. She told me her and my dad was looking for me a little brother or sister.

I asked "Where are you looking for it?"

I was five when he was born. "Oh," she said "we have been looking upstairs, in all the closets but we'll find it any day now."

There was a crack in the stairway door. In the mornings when we woke up and saw the light, up we would jump out of bed and run downstairs. That morning we saw the light and down the steps we came. When we opened the door there was old women sitting all around in the room. Mom in bed, dad sitting over there reared back like a peacock.

Mother said "Come over here, we have something to show you."

When she lay the cover back, there was little brother. Across the room we went back up the steps and back in bed. I asked my older brother "What was all those old women doing down there?"

He answered "Guess they come to help mom and dad find that little baby."

By this time fall was over and Christmas time was next. We were counting the days. How many more would it be before Christmas? After it finally rolled around we were in bed early. Next morning about 2 a.m. down the steps we come. Dad said "You kids get back up to bed it's only two o'clock."

When day light finally came, each kid knew where we had hung our stocking. Each one of us had two sticks of red and white peppermint candy, two chocolate candies with white cream filling, one orange and one apple each. The girls usually got a rag doll apiece.

We ate the chocolate candy first, then the peppermint sticks, and some the apple. There was that orange. We would be rolling it around in our hand, ahh! how good it smelled. Mom would holler in there "You kids get in here now and eat ya some breakfast. All that candy might make you sick if you don't."

So my sister and I made a trade. We would cut one orange in half and eat it today, then we would eat the other orange the next day. This way they would last longer. All the peelings were saved from our two oranges, hid up in the cupboard until dried, then we would eat them. Until today, when I cut an orange and smell it, I think of Christmas. -BEN HADLEY as told by his granddaughter, TIffany Hadley Kessler.

This story was posted on 2013-12-06 08:05:43
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A favorite Ben Hadley family photo

2013-12-06 - South Adair County, KY. - Photo from collection of Tiffany Hadley Kessler . World War II era photo: Mamie Hadley, center with some of her sons, from left, Clurel, Bart, Ben (in uniform), and Woodrow. - Tiffany Hadley Kessler
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