Back around 1948 or ’49, my grandparents moved to Delray Beach, Fla. West of town was a small cattle ranch owned by Neil McMillin and his family. There, Johnny Buster and my grandmother worked as ranch caretakers. The ranch had horses, cows, cow pens and a small barn where they stored saddles, horses, feed, hay and other ranching stuff.
It must have been close to Christmastime when I noticed Mr. McMillin coming to the ranch without telling anybody. He would drive over to the little barn, back his vehicle up to the building and start unloading whatever was in his truck into the barn.
Mr. McMillin did this several times during that week or so. When he stopped coming, my curiosity overwhelmed me. I just had to see what he was storing in that barn besides the saddles, hay and stuff.
Now the barn was clapboard style and, you know, one of those boards was loose enough where I could pull it out and crawl through. I squinted through the darkness and, to my surprise, there were toys everywhere – trucks and games and scooters and a bicycle. It was Toys Galore inside that barn.
Well, I took some of the little trucks outside and had myself a great time playing with them. I even tried to ride the little bicycle but there was too much sand around that place. I went back every day and had fun with a different toy. Needless to say I had a lot of fun and joy with my discovery.
One early morning, I heard the familiar sound of Mr. McMillin’s vehicle coming up to the ranch. He was honking his horn and I heard him yelling my name: “Jimmy Billie, Jimmy Billie, are you awake? Jimmy Billie, come out here!”
When I heard my name called, my heart sunk. I just knew I was in trouble for messing around with all those toys. Man, I was scared, but I knew I had to face up to the situation. So I hurried over to where they were. I could see Mr. McMillin had brought his family over with him and as I approached the barn, they all started singing Jingle Bells and saying, “Merry Christmas, Jimmy!”
Then Mr. McMillin took me by the hand while the others opened the barn door. It was my Toys Galore! They all said, “Looky here, Jimmy. Look what Santa brought you!”
Thank you Jesus for taking care of me!
James E. Billie is Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.