A Chaparral Christmas Gift
by O. Henry [1862-1910]
Page 1 of 5
The original cause of the trouble was about twenty years in
growing. At the end of that time it was worth it.
Had you lived anywhere within fifty miles of Sundown Ranch
you would have heard of it. It possessed a quantity of jet-black
hair, a pair of extremely frank, deep-brown eyes and a laugh that
rippled across the prairie like the sound of a hidden brook. The
name of it was Rosita McMullen; and she was the daughter of old
man McMullen of the Sundown Sheep Ranch.
There came riding on red roan steeds--or, to be more
explicity, on a paint and a flea-bitten sorrel--two wooers. One
was Madison Lane, and the other was the Frio Kid. But at that
time they did not call him the Frio Kid, for he had not earned
the honours of special nomenclature. His name was simply Johnny
It must not be supposed that these two were the sum of the
agreeable Rosita's admirers. The bronchos of a dozen others
champed their bits at the long hitching rack of the Sundown
Ranch. Many were the sheeps'-eyes that were cast in those
savannas that did not belong to the flocks of Dan McMullen. But
of all the cavaliers, Madison Lane and Johnny McRoy galloped far
ahead, wherefore they are to be chronicled.
Madison Lane, a young cattleman from the Nueces country, won
the race. He and Rosita were married one Christmas day. Armed,
hilarious, vociferous, magnanimous, the cowmen and the sheepmen,
laying aside their hereditary hatred, joined forces to celebrate
Sundown Ranch was sonorous with the cracking of jokes and
sixshooters, the shine of buckles and bright eyes, the outspoken
congratulations of the herders of kine.
But while the wedding feast was at its liveliest there
descended upon it Johnny McRoy, bitten by jealousy, like one
"I'll give you a Christmas present," he yelled, shrilly, at
the door, with his .45 in his hand. Even then he had some
reputation as an offhand shot.
His first bullet cut a neat underbit in Madison Lane's right
ear. The barrel of his gun moved an inch. The next shot would
have been the bride's had not Carson, a sheepman, possessed a
mind with triggers somewhat well oiled and in repair. The guns of
the wedding party had been hung, in their belts, upon nails in
the wall when they sat at table, as a concession to good taste.
But Carson, with great promptness, hurled his plate of roast
venison and frijoles at McRoy, spoiling his aim. The second
bullet, then, only shattered the white petals of a Spanish dagger
flower suspended two feet above Rosita's head.