Title ~ Red Dirt Christmas
Author ~ N.R. Walker
Published ~ 11th December 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary Christmas M/M Romance
Travis had been here at Sutton Station for just over a year. We were technically engaged, not that we’d told anyone. He was happy just knowin’ I’d said yes, and I had some head-clearin’ stuff to work through. Knowing I was good enough for Trav was one thing, but knowing if I was good enough to be a husband and father was somethin’ else entirely.
Life at Sutton Station had never been better. Business was strong, Trudy and Bacon’s little baby, Gracie, was a few weeks old now and as cute as a button, Ma’s health was good, and my relationship with Laura and Sam was in a pretty good place. And Travis? Well, life with him was still all kinds of perfect.
But, to Travis’s dismay, Christmas at the Station was just another day. Another day of getting up before the sun, feeding animals, fixin’ what needed fixin’, and checking water troughs all while tryin’ to keep out of the blistering heat.
And this year weren’t much different. Only that it was Travis’s first Sutton Station Christmas. The fact we didn’t go all out with decorations and celebrations baffled him, and if I was bein’ truthful, it disappointed him too.
Which was why I had to make it a special kind of Christmas…
“Red Dirt Christmas”, a short story by N. R. Walker, is not just a good story; it’s the perfect stocking stuffer. It’s just 30 pages or so of some of the best writing you’ll ever read, a seamless moment in time between the seasons covered in the four books of “The Red Dirt Heart”, the amazing epic by Ms. Walker, a powerful, beautiful epic that redefined gay literature for me.
If you haven’t read “The Red Dirt Heart”, you must. You owe it to yourself. Not to mention that, although you will still be moved by “Red Dirt Christmas”, the impact of this short story will be significantly diminished if you don’t know the history of the two young men the story’s about.
Charlie Sutton is the young owner of one of the biggest stations (ranches) in the world, two million acres that he needs a helicopter to survey, a station in the middle of nowhere, the red dirt desert of Australia’s Northern Territory. Travis Craig is the gorgeous, brilliant young agronomist who came as an intern to study the Sutton Station, and stayed when he fell in love with both the land and Charlie.
You really have to know what they went through, professionally, personally and physically, to stay together, bring the land to heel, and expand and modernize one of the most remarkable livestock operations on the planet. You really have to know the courage they both exhibited to love each other openly, in a less-than-hospitable environment (Australia and Northern Ireland are the only parts of the former British Empire that still don’t allow same-sex marriage), to put down a stake in the land that was Charlie’s stubborn and intolerant father’s, and to show the old guard how it should be done. Through it all, their love was a beacon that illuminated the future, sustained them, united them as a couple, and linked them to the wonderful people who make up their far-flung and diverse family and community.
If you knew about all that, you’d understand why Travis’ first Christmas at the Station would be such a watershed moment for both young men. Travis, who was raised in Texas, is just a bit homesick, but not enough to ever leave Charlie’s side, because Charlie and Sutton Station are now his home, and if he were somewhere else, he’d be hopelessly homesick for the red dirt and Charlie. These remarkable young men are making half-hearted preparations for Christmas. The station is too busy and the livestock too dependent to take a day off, even for Christmas. And Charlie’s family was not exactly close – they barely tolerated each other – so Christmas was not, typically, a major family celebration. To make Christmas feel a bit more real, Travis pulls out the old holiday decorations from Charlie’s youth and does the best he can to decorate a tree (in a cut-down five-gallon barrel) in the Lounge of the homestead (the “living room”, for Americans).
The boys have agreed not to do gifts this year. Neither has the time to shop, and it’s a six-hour round trip, by road, to the nearest town. Their own presence, together, on Christmas, surrounded by the devoted hands, retainers and friends who love both men, so dearly, will have to be enough.
But Charlie has a surprise in store for Christmas, a present the likes of which Travis could never possibly imagine, and he’s going to spring it on him Christmas morning. I won’t tell you what it is, but it’s surpassingly beautiful, as is Trav’s deeply personal and wondrous gift for Charlie. Neither gift is bought, but so deeply thoughtful and loving, that no money could buy a gift as valuable as this pair gives each other, directly from their hearts.
“Red Dirt Christmas”, a short surprise addition to an epic we all believed was over, is the gift from the heart of N. R. Walker to the rest of us. A gift that moves our own hearts, warms us with its familiarity, brings a tear at visiting old and cherished friends, and witnessing their love anew.
I can’t imagine a better Christmas gift. Thank you, Ms. Walker, for your generous gift. We will treasure it forever.
RED DIRT SERIES