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The Great Depression
(1929-1945)

Christmas
Hardscrabble Christmas III



Hardscrabble Christmas III
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   high interest, readability grades 3 to 5
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   2.45

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    afoot, armload, hardscrabble, here-place, jenkins, juniper, lightened, man-treats, rushing, scraggly, scratchy, subzero, tended, thing-where, warmth, early
     content words:    Christmas Eve, Tom Sothern, Dust Bowl, Miles City, Martin Keller, Their Christmas, Tell Meagan


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Hardscrabble Christmas III
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     Early on Christmas Eve, a blizzard had begun to howl across the prairie. The wind drove subzero cold into every crack. A coal fire kept the log house warm while snow hurled itself against the outside. Lamps glowed in the front parlor. Thin, scratchy carols came from a radio in the corner. The older children helped the younger ones play card games.
 
2     A scraggly juniper tree stood in the corner. Papa had done his best, but on the northern plains, nature tended to be more tough than beautiful. It was a hardscrabble tree, Meagan thought. It had tried its hardest and barely made it. That's what life was like these days. She'd helped the younger children make paper chains. They'd all strung popcorn into garlands. Decked with these and its own dark red berries, the tree was almost pretty.
 
3     Meagan looked into Mama's worn, worried face. Meagan knew they were thinking the same thing—where was her brother Martin right now? Mama saw her watching. She patted Meagan's cheek. "Let's get the little ones to bed now. They'll be up early." The evening ended with the protests of the younger set as they headed off to bed.
 
4     At the edge of sleep, Meagan thought she heard the thump of the cow shed door a few yards from her window. Just then the blizzard sent a blast of wind against the house. "Must have been the wind, not the shed door," she thought sleepily, glad for the warmth of the bed she shared with her sisters. Hours later, the icy wind ushered in Christmas morning.
 
5     Bang! Meagan woke to the sound of someone rushing in the front door. Harvey's voice shouted, "Pop! Ma! You'd better come quick!"
 
6     What on earth--? Meagan wondered. Flinging on a coat, she stumbled down stairs. She rushed out behind Harvey, Mama, and Papa. "What is it, Son?" Papa asked.
 
7     "Come on!" Harvey said. "You'll see." He opened the shed door. The cattle rustled uneasily in their stalls. Harvey held up the lantern. In the rear of the shed, a young girl lay on the straw. Meagan saw that her belly was very round. A young man knelt beside her. Both looked very young and scared. The girl doubled over, gasping. She was about to have a baby!
 
8     Mama moved to the young woman's side. "Don't be afraid, my dear," she said quietly, touching the girl's shoulder. The girl cried out, her groans louder this time. In the background, Blackie the milk cow mooed anxiously.

Paragraphs 9 to 20:
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