Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe

By: Irene Brand & Anita Higman


This book is dedicated to Anita Higman, my coworker in this anthology, and to Rachel Meisel, Summerside Press editor. It was a pleasure to share this experience with you.

—Irene Brand

This book is dedicated to the wonderful folks in Noel, Missouri, who made the time I spent there doing research as pleasant and lovely as the surrounding countryside.

—Anita Higman


My sincere appreciation to members of the Owsley County Historical Society: Delcie Hall, Wallace Edwards, Ella Addison, Bertha Noble, Vicki Campbell, Audrea Farmer. Special thanks to Delcie for being our guide on a long tour of the Buffalo Creek area, especially the Faith Hill community; Wallace, who supplied dozens of pictures of Booneville and vicinity in the 1940s; and Ella and Bertha, who went out of their way to find research information in the Historical Society’s library. I would also like to thank Judy Couch of Mistletoe, who talked with us about her father, who was once the postmaster. The abandoned Mistletoe church, which is in her front yard, was an important subject of conversation, especially when she warned us to beware of the copperhead snakes, which are summer residents in the church. I’m grateful also to many other local residents who were kind to us. Special thanks to my husband, Rod, who shared the research with me, who read my final draft for typos, and who entertained himself while I spent long hours at my computer.

—Irene Brand

Much gratitude goes to my editor, Rachel Meisel,

to agent Chip MacGregor,

to author Irene Brand,

and to publicist Jeane Wynn.

Thanks to each of you for your encouragement,

your help, and your friendship.

You are a wonder to behold!

—Anita Higman

Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe:

An Appalachian Christmas


Chapter One

Its driver whistling merrily, the antiquated bus climbed a hill into the small Kentucky town on a sunny September morning. With brakes squeaking and the engine groaning like a sick person gasping for a final breath, the bus eventually ground to a halt before a two-story building. Opening the door, the driver shouted, “Booneville. All passengers get off.”

Julia Mayfield gathered her bags, lifted her nephew, Bobby, into her arms, and exited the bus. In a voice hoarse with frustration and fatigue, she asked the driver, “Is there any other public transportation available here?”

The driver pointed to a gasoline station across the street. “You might hire a taxi over there.”

Julia thanked the driver and walked toward the small building he’d indicated. She hadn’t wanted to take this trip. Now that the war had ended, she had plans for the future that didn’t include honoring her sister’s dying request.

Shifting Bobby to her left hip, Julia walked into the gasoline station. The only occupant of the building was bending over the engine of a car. When he became aware of Julia’s presence, the black-bearded man straightened, took off his cap, and spit a mouthful of tobacco into an oil drum. “Howdy, ma’am. My name’s Alex. What can I do for you?”

“I need transportation to Mistletoe. The bus driver thought you could help me.”

Alex shook his head. “’Fraid not, ma’am.”

“You have a sign in your window, ‘Taxi for hire.’”

“That’s a fact, ma’am,” he agreed. “I’ve got one taxi. A man rented it this morning and took off for Louisville. He won’t be back till day after tomorrow.”

“I can’t wait that long,” Julia persisted. “Is there another taxi stand?”

“Nope. Autos are scarcer than hen’s teeth around here.”

Confronted with another delay in her plans, Julia sat cautiously on a rickety chair and let her nephew stand beside her. Grasping at straws, she asked, “Is it too far for me to walk?”

If she hadn’t been so tired and discouraged, Julia might have laughed as the man’s mouth dropped open and his faded brown eyes widened in amazement.

“Walk! Why, lady, hit’s nigh on to eighteen miles from Booneville to Mistletoe.”

Bobby looked up at her, and his blue eyes glistened with tears. “I hungry.”

Julia lifted him to her lap. “I know you are, sweetie.” She took some cookies wrapped in waxed paper from her purse. “Nibble on these until I decide what to do.”

Perhaps sensing her distress, Alex said kindly, “Wish I could help, ma’am. Looks to me like you’re between a rock and a hard place.”

“Yes. That states my situation exactly,” she replied in a cynical tone.

Alex’s faded eyes squinted in thought. “Just a minute,” he shouted. “I might find you a ride after all.”

He rushed outside into narrow Mulberry Street and waved down a dilapidated Ford pickup. Judging from his gestures, Julia assumed Alex was talking to the driver about her. Placing Bobby on the chair, she stood and anxiously watched the exchange between the two men. The driver parked his pickup and came into the service station with Alex.

“Ma’am, you’re in luck. This is Tom Morriston. He carries the mail to Mistletoe. He’ll give you a lift.”

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