You know you’re in for an emotional read with any Hallmark-inspired story. Greg Kincaid continues the tradition with his new book, Christmas with Tucker, prompted by the bestselling, A Dog Named Christmas, which became a 2009 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, capturing over 12 million US viewers.
Sixty-something George McCray is expecting a Christmas visit from his mother at his Crossing Trails, Kansas dairy farm. She now suffers from memory loss. To facilitate her recollection, he’s culled key McCray family memorabilia, including a dog named Tucker’s collar, his grandfather’s tin cup, and the last puzzle his father, John, gave to Grandma Cora.
Those items come to life, as George recounts the winter of 1962 while waiting for his mother’s arrival. It was then, at thirteen years old, George transitioned from a boy to a young man.
In June, George’s father died in a tractor accident on the farm, shaking the McCray family to its core. George lived with his parents, sisters Hannah and Trisha and Grandpa Bo and Grandma Cora McCray.
Late summer saw George’s mother and college-age sisters venturing back to Minnesota to be near her parents. Everyone, including George, thought it best he remain on the farm until Christmas, help run the McCray dairy farm; and adjust to life without his father.
Kincaid draws you deep into George’s young world; and describes the impact a four-year-old Irish setter has on his life.
Neighbor Frank Thorne asks the McCray family to care for his unnamed dog while he serves time for drunken, disorderly conduct at the local jail. Learn how Tucker earns his name while staying with the McCray’s.
Initially, George is reluctant to befriend the canine, which he regularly sees from afar before boarding his school bus each morning; tethered to a circular chain. It isn’t long before the two become inseparable, sharing a warm bed together during bitter cold Kansas nights. Tucker’s loyally there for George, as he often contemplates the loss of his father and life’s unfairness.
Middle America, simpler times prevail. Grandma Cora leisurely works at the puzzle table. She constructs challenging jigsaws that, until his death, her son, John provided. Grandpa Bo drinks daily from the tin cup that’s been in the McCray family for generations. He also makes a leather collar; displaying “Tucker McCray,” once, through a turn of events, George gains ownership of the Irish setter.
Experience the realities of farm life. George arises daily at 4:30 am to help Grandpa Bo milk the cows before going to school. It’s a generational chore he inherited after his father’s untimely death.
Sense too, cattle’s affinity to walk on frozen pond water, often resulting in death when the ice breaks and they’re unable to escape. Kincaid describes George’s harrowing attempt to save the animals while enduring near frostbite and bleeding, bare feet.
Cherokee County, Kansas experiences one of its worst winter storms days before Christmas. With snow-blocked roads, many residents are left to fend for themselves. Grandpa Bo decides it’s time to teach George how to operate the mammoth machine, named a maintainer (today’s grader), to help clear the roads. “My grandfather was giving me a new book of adult rules so I could shed the childish primer that had so let me down that year. I learned to become suspicious of rules rooted in entitlement and my needs, and to instead respect rules mortared by truth and concern for others.”
Christmas spirit alludes George, given his father’s death and ambivalent feelings about returning to Minnesota to live with his mother: “Christmas, it seemed to me wouldn’t be any good this year. How could it be when you were thirteen years old and knew, just knew you were not going to get what you wanted?”
Christmas with Tucker culminates with a town-wide celebration of the season, not unlike It’s A Wonderful Life. Invest time during the holidays and read Kincaid’s short, 180-page narrative, sure to enhance your Christmastime.
Author Greg Kincaid lives on a farm in Kansas; and is a pet-adoption advocate. To find adoptable pets near you, visit http://www.petfinder.com.