Cagle and Canada Families - A Visit From Santa in the Cove
Written by: Marie Young
I am presently working on the Cagle and Canada lines of my mothers family. Many histories have been published and I've found many documentations, however with looking over family bibles and other recorded documents I find many of the histories to contain wrong information. I hope to have a thoroughly compiled history in the near future.
The following story is written as close to the actual event as possible as I recall it being told to me many times throughout the years by my Great Uncle William Robert (Bob) Canada. Every year at Christmas my siblings and myself were told this story by Uncle Bob and later to our own children. It became a ritual with us and it was heard with great anticipation as he told it from the heart of a young boy with a new instilled belief in the love of the Christmas season.
William Robert (Bob) Canada was the son of J.W. Canada and Bell Tidwell. He was born June 23,1911. Bell is buried at the Cagle Cemetery at Natural Bridge. The cemetery sits high up above the Cagle Cove. My mother lived in the Cove for a number of years as did many of the Cagles and Canada's. Bell died after giving birth to a younger sibling to Bob. When the baby was only a few days of age Bell lifted a heavy iron pot from the fireplace. Being delivered so soon she bled to death. The baby also died although I will save that for later. The baby is buried beside her at Cagle Cemetery.
Not long after Bell passed on J.W. met another lady and remarried. I believe he married Annie Reynolds. J.W. left Uncle Bob and his younger siblings, Noah and Myrtle Daisy who at the time lived in the Cove near their sister and her husband, George (George Washington Cagle) and Jane (Liza Jane Canada) George and Jane were my grandparents. Uncle Bob was between ten and twelve years of age at the time and the winter was proving to be an especially hard one. Myrtle had always been a sickly little thing. (Aunt Myrtle lived with us for many years prior to her death) The old house was merely a shack with a roof and dirt floors, the walls with cracks large enough for the snow to blow in. That summer in particular had been a bad crop year and the food supply was almost nil.
Now Bob being only a child but now the man of the house had long since stopped believing in the dreams of Santa. Many of you reading this story may well remember him and someday I'd like to tell of the man he grew to be. On the night of Christmas Eve, as the fire began to burn down, the meager meal finished, Bob sat on the dirt covered floor of his home with his young brother and sister restlessly laying nearby on their beds of blankets. They slept near the fire and Myrtle being sickly and frail he worried most for her. As he sat by the dimming fire he began to pray, " Dear Lord, I know Santa won't be coming to visit but I'm doing my best to take care of Myrtle and Noah. Momma always taught us that you will take care of us and see to our needs. Thank you Lord for making me strong but I too am hungry and cold. Please give me strength to keep going." Tears were always streaming down Bobs face by this time as he told his tale.
As he tries to kindle the fire he hears a noise outside and goes to see what it might be. There is a knock on the door and he hesitates to open it for it is late in the night and no one should be out wandering in the Cove with the snow blowing all around. He thinks it might be George so he slowly opens the door and there stands a man big as the night. He is so tall he seems to reach the sky and wearing a coat with fur so thick he can barely see his face. He steps back and the man says "Son, I am not here to cause you no harm." Bob steps back as the man enters the house with a huge burlap sack slung on his back. The man gently lays it to the floor and says now hold the door for there's more. The man steps out and drags in a wood box that had been tied to a rope and dragged to the Cove by this giant of a man. He tells Bob to start unloading the bag to the table and not to wake the little ones. While his back is to the man he hears his voice again saying - A Merry Christmas Son. As he turns to face him the man is gone through the door and Bob runs to thank him and ask who he is. There is no one in sight! I still get goose bumps recalling Uncle Bob's voice saying not a footprint or anything. I went to the yard and there wasn't a sign of him he would say. The snow was really falling and there wasn't a print or track to be found.
It was Santa he exclaimed with tears in his eyes. Or perhaps the Christmas angel! Inside the bag was fresh cured pork and bread. The box was filled with fruits and candy. What a joyful morning it would be for three little children nestled alone in the woods on Christmas morning in a place we still call the Cagle Cove.
Every year at Christmas time we heard this tale and he told it with faith and love so dear. Uncle Bob was a man of many personalities. He could be hard and sometimes seem mean but he was also a man with heart. He had the heart of a child at Christmas time and he would tell us how that night so many years before the Lord heard him pray.
For as long as I can recall from my childhood Bob lived at Eldridge just off highway 13. He wouldn't leave the house at all the week of Christmas. Santa would be along anytime he would say. He was a true believer in the spirit of Santa still at the age of 81 and would get fighting mad if you said there was no such thing as Santa. Each year the Eldridge fire department would come down that long drive sometimes in the fire truck and sometimes just in the main truck but Santa was always along for the ride dressed in his red suit shouting holiday wishes and bearing gifts of fruits and nuts and candy.
The last year of Uncle Bob's life at Christmas time he was in the hospital here in Jasper. Santa came and was greeted by my mother and my nephew. If you've never seen a man in a red suit cry believe me you will learn the lesson of love and goodwill towards men very quickly. Uncle Bob passed away January 4, 1993, in Jasper Alabama. He is buried at Oak Grove Church of Christ cemetery along side his dearly departed wife Ethel and just directly behind his sister Jane and her husband George.
Mother says Grandpa told her the old man who came to the little shack in the woods that night was John Straud Cagle. John lived at what was known as Slab Holler and this is a good many miles across the woods to the cove. How a man could have made it so far on a night of frigid tempertures and blinding snow? Slab Holler was located across the field from where Bob's old home place still stands. My Mother and brother now reside at Bob's old place and my family will continue to tell the little ones of the night Santa visited their Uncle Bob at the Cove.