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» Articles » Garden Stories » Christmas Eve at Bob's Inn

Christmas Eve at Bob's Inn

by Douglas L. Bishop on 12/15/2008 18:28

I was deep in the woods; it was late in the night
The path I had chosen had not proven right
I had left from the town by the last light of day
With the sun setting down I’d set out on my way

On this eve of a Christmas, no travelers about
I had taken a shortcut to lessen my route
I had walked down the road where the forest begins
And I’d cut through the woods as the darkness fell in

But sometimes the quickest is not quite the best
And the easiest road sometimes proves the worst test
The price of my shortcut became a high cost
For the more that I wandered the more I got lost

I stared at the sky but the stars barely glowed
I gazed through the night at the now vanished road
I looked to the left and searched to the right
And away in the distance there appeared a faint light

It was barely a flicker, barely a beam
But I blinked my eyes hard and it wasn’t a dream
So I gave out a shout of thankful delight
As I jumped to my feet and made off for that light

The closer I came, the brighter it grew
This light in the forest that gave not a clue
It must be the lights of some millionaire’s home
A rich man’s retreat that he’s built for his own

Through the last valley and up the last hill
I flew to this beacon that burned brighter still
How much like a lighthouse that guides ships at sea
But the sea was the forest and the lost ship was me

I sailed from the forest and into the yard
My eyes growing wider, my pulse beating hard
Straight to the source of the light that I sought
Then as fast as I’d run was as fast as I stopped

For the dwelling I saw there that gave off this glow
Was not any mansion or millionaire’s show
It wasn’t a palace, or castle, or dome
But a tiny log cabin, just a common man’s home

The smoke from the chimney curled up to the sky
And perfumed the air from the wood fire inside
The two tiny windows glowed into the night
How could such a small dwelling make such a bright light?

I walked up the pathway that led to the door
And I paused for a second not knowing what for
Then I drew back to knock just to page those within
But my eye was distracted and I paused once again

For above the oak door of that log cabin shack
Was a small weathered sign that someone had tacked
Just a rough wooden board with but two words carved in
Only two words and those words were “Bob’s Inn”

Now here was a puzzle laid out and full blown
A small woodsy cabin, some mountaineer’s home
Yet he called it an inn where travelers could stay
But no roads led to it and none led away

So who was the fool?  Was it him; was it me?
He had nestled an inn in the forest so deep
That no traveler could find it or come here to stay
‘Cept some stranger like me who had wandered astray

Then I laughed at myself and I scored one for Bob
And I measured this fix and considered it solved
And I knew that I’d stay here no matter the cost
‘Cause Bob knew where he was and I knew I was lost

So I brushed myself off and I tapped on that door
And I listened for footfalls to step ‘cross the floor
But all that I heard was the wood fire within
So I listened some more, then I tapped once again

Then slowly, so slowly, the door opened wide
And the warmth and the light rushed out from inside
I almost was blinded because of that glow
But I regained my sight and I gazed at that show

Standing right there before me in front of my nose
Was a tattered old tomcat in gentleman’s clothes
He stood on his hind legs upright at the door
And the height of this tomcat was six feet or more

He wore an old sweater of neat woven stripe
With corduroy trousers, the casual type
His glasses for reading were perched on his nose
A vest o’er his sweater completed his clothes

Now, a smart man would turn heel and run off in fright
But a smart man would not have been lost in the night
So I spoke up right quickly and told him my blues
I was lost anyway so what else could I lose?

I said,  “I hate to disturb you this Christmas eve night
But I’ve found that I’m lost and I noticed your light
If I could but stay here ‘til next light of day
You could give me directions and I’d be on my way.”

He looked at me kindly and eased all my fear
And whatever his thoughts were I wanted to hear
I studied his eyes while he studied mine
And the puzzle unrolled like a long ball of twine

His tired old kind eyes seemed to glow like the light
That had found me and led me through dark of that night
They were warm as the fireside and bright as the day
Then that cat smiled and spoke; here’s what he had to say

He said,  “My name’s Robert Ruffin, but just call me Bob
And don’t feel you’ve disturbed me, that’s part of my job
You’re welcome to stay here, please do come in
My house is your home; you’re a guest at Bob’s Inn.”

So I stepped ‘cross that threshold and into his place
As I came to the end of this Christmas eve chase
In front of his fireplace I pulled up a chair
And I basked in the glow of that cheery warm air

I pulled off my road shoes and toasted my toes
I thawed out my fingers and warmed up my nose
In the kitchen, ol’ Bob, like a good host would do
Perked a big pot of coffee and heated some stew

Then he served up that snack and it fit me just fine
And he sat himself down in a chair next to mine
He slipped off his shoes and he stretched out his paws
And we both watched the flames as they danced on the logs

The wind screamed outside like the howl of a dog
But I felt safe and warm by the glow of those logs
As I cradled my coffee, the cup warmed my hands
Bob gave a deep sigh and he spoke once again

“Now I know you must wonder,” I heard him begin
“Why this lost little cabin is labeled an inn
When it’s so far away from the road and the town
That you’d have to be lost for this house to be found

“Well, a few years ago on another dark night
Another lost stranger was drawn to this light
Just another poor soul who had misplaced his way
I remember it well, for I was that stray

“I had been a fat cat ‘fore I’d strayed to the woods
I had lived in the town where the livin’ was good
I was king of the alleys and champ of the prowl
And so many a she-cat I kept on the howl

“But it wasn’t enough and I started to roam
I gave up the town life and I forsook my home
I set out a trampin’ by night and by day
I took to the road and the road led away

“My once lovely fur became weathered and worn
My whiskers and ears became chewed up and torn
Then late one cold night as I shivered and cried
In the depths of the forest I saw that faint light.”

“So I followed that light ‘til it grew to a glow
And that glow brought me here to this same cabin door
With my last drop of hope and my last ounce of pride
I scratched at the door and the door opened wide

“There a kindly young couple stood bathed in the light
So I spoke up right boldly and told them my plight
How I’d been on my journey for long nights and days
How I once was called Bob ‘til I’d been called astray

“Then I made them an offer before they could speak
And I asked if they’d just take me in for a week
In exchange for some food and a warm place to stay
I could help with the chores and could keep mice away

“I was tired of this wandering and being alone
And I didn’t ask much, just one week in this home
If I failed at the work, then I’d be on my way
If I did a good job, I’d sure like to stay

“While I studied them, they were studying me
As I waited to see what the verdict would be
His eyes questioned her and her eyes questioned him
Then they looked at me warmly as both said, “Bob’s in!” 

“For years now I’ve lived here and grown proud and fat
It’s a mighty fine life for a former stray cat
But it took lots of searching and roaming around
And it took being lost for this home to be found

“But every bright day follows darkness of night
And it’s just when it’s darkest you can best see the light
Every gray cloud has a halo behind
But if you don’t look then you never will find

“Though I came here a pauper, I live here a king
And in all of my searching I’ve learned this one thing
That if I’d given up or if I’d given in
I would not be here now and there’d be no Bob’s Inn.”

Well, the fire was a poppin’ at Bob Ruffin’s Inn
I drank up my coffee and Bob poured again
In that soft easy chair as I sank down so deep
I considered Bob’s story as I fell asleep

Drifting deep in my dreams there in Bob Ruffin’s home
I had visions of others who had been called to roam
And I wished that their luck was what mine had been
That they all could have stopped for one night at Bob’s Inn

Then early and quickly I woke up again
And this time the light from without shown within
For the sun was arise and its fire was aglow
And it sparkled like jewels ‘cross a new fallen snow

Then I peered in the kitchen and I held back a laugh
For Bob the innkeeper was now Bob the chef
He had pulled on his apron and tied up the bow
And that son-of-a-saucepan was rollin’ out dough

He was makin’ up biscuits; the flour was flyin’
The coffee was perkin’ and ham was fryin’
Bouncin’ Bob Ruffin was singing a song
My! That dandy old tom was a sight to gaze on

Then he noticed my waking and smiled a “good day”
And he served up some breakfast ‘fore I went on my way
By the first breaking light of that bright Christmas morn
Thoughtful Bob talked again and I listened once more

He rejoiced in the luck that had found him that home
Spoke of peace that he felt since he no longer roamed
He gave thanks for the folks who had taken him in
Who would soon be awake there at Bob Ruffin’s Inn

As he spoke and I listened, one more thing I learned
That it’s good to be grateful for things that you’ve earned
For the children grow up and the grownups grow old
And the things we should tell them too often aren’t told

Well, we learn what we learn if we first learn to look
These are lessons I learned from Bob Ruffin’s book
To never give up and to never give in
And to always give thanks for the things that you win

So I stepped from Bob’s Inn to be off on my way
And I walked through the sun on that grand Christmas day
And I made a new vow on that new fallen snow
To remember Bob Ruffin wherever I’d go

On some beautiful day when my tramping’s all through
When I’ve paid all my debts and collected my dues
I’ll march up to Heaven to get my reward
I’ll dance with the angels and dine with the Lord

Oh, I hope I’m found worthy of such a fine treat
That I’ll pass through the gates guarded there by St. Pete
Then I’ll be home at last and find welcome within
Like the welcome I found Christmas Eve at Bob’s Inn!

“And I say unto you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Luke 11: 9-10 Holy Bible King James Version

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