In one of the numerous valleys of the Ouachita
Mountains, the little community of Pine Ridge was a
picture of complete peace and contentment.  It was a
clear, still evening that Christmastide night, and the
entire countryside lay wrapped in a clean, white
blanket of snow, which had fallen rather heavily all day
long.  Here and there along the deserted streets could
be seen an occasional home where the lights of a
Christmas tree in the front window still twinkled in the
dark of the night.  And on the outskirts, three old
fellows were trudging along through the snow, on the
road that led from Pine Ridge out into the countryside.  
It was Lum, Abner, and Grandpappy Spears, and from
their conversation, it seemed that they were on a real
Christmas mission.
   It was Abner who broke the silence with a question
that had been forming in his mind for the last fifteen
minutes or so.  "Yer shore we're headed right, now, air
ye, Grandpap?" he finally blurted out.
   "Huh? Oh...oh, yeah," Grandpap replied, his mind
being on something else.  "l know this is the way,
Abner...Doc Miller rode his horse over here; ye kin see
his tracks thar in the snow."
   "Well, hit must be the ole Gaddis place, then," Lum
put in.  It was the first time he had spoken for some
distance, also.
   "Yeah, that's jest about whar hit's at, all right," Abner
agreed. Then the thought struck him: "But thar ain't
nothin' but the barn left over thar, though... that house
burnt down two or three year ago."
   "Well, Doc said hit wuz due east from that road whar
we turned off," Grandpap insisted.
   "Due east?" repeated Lum, as if that term jostled
something in his memory.  But Abner continued
thinking about their current predicament.
   "Which way IS east?!" he demanded.  "I ain't paid no
attention ta the Dl-rections."
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   "Wait a minute...whereabouts is the East Star?" Lum
   "Thar hit is, right ahead of us," Grandpap pointed
out. Sure enough, the star was directly in front of the
trio, and somehow it had never seemed to shine so
brightly.  The sight seemed to reassure the three
elderly gents.  "We're goin' right, men; don't worry
'bout that," Grandpap said cheerfully.
   "Yeah, we kin jest foller the East Star," Lum decided.
   "Yep..." Abner agreed, "that ort ta lead us to it, all
   The group trudged along in silence for another
small distance, each absorbed in his own thoughts.  
Then it was Lum who decided to interrupt the quiet,
which in that part of the countryside was broken only
by the crunching of their footsteps in the snow.
   "How'd ye find out about these folks, Grandpap?" he
asked in a conversational manner.
   "Well, Doc Miller 'n' his womern et dinner over at
our place," Grandpap began.  "We wuz settin' thar
visitin' after we'd done eatin', an' the phone rung an'
tole Doc ta git right over here."
   For once, Abner didn't misunderstand, even though
he DID ask, "Well?  Who done the callin'?"
   "Oh, some feller named Joe sumpin'-or-another... I
fergit jest what he did call his name.. .he'd went over
ta some neighbor's house ta call."  Grandpap tried to
remember just what the man HAD said.  "He said they'd
been inta the county seat ta pay their taxes, an' thar
waren't no room at the hotel, so they jest come on out
ta this ole barn ta spend the night."
   "Well, this ain't fittin' weather ta have ta be stayin'
out in a barn," remarked Abner, hunching his
shoulders against the frigid air.
   Abner's observation seemed to remind Lum of
something else. "They said they was sorta expectin'