Christmas with Tuckerby Greg Kincaid
The sleeper hit of 2008, A Dog Named Christmas became a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie a year later, seen by more than twelve million people in the United States alone. Now, in Christmas with Tucker, Greg Kincaid brings back one of that book’s most endearing/i>/i>/i>/b>
The touching prequel to the bestselling novel A Dog Named Christmas
The sleeper hit of 2008, A Dog Named Christmas became a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie a year later, seen by more than twelve million people in the United States alone. Now, in Christmas with Tucker, Greg Kincaid brings back one of that book’s most endearing characters, sharing the moving story of George, a young boy dealing with the loss of his father, and the dog that comes into his life to offer him hope and a touch of courage.
It is the winter of 1962, and Kansas is hit with one of the worst blizzards in its history. It is during this cruel season that twelve-year-old George is called upon to endure more than even most grown men could withstand—the death of his father and the upkeep of the family farm that is his legacy.
When his mother and sisters leave for Minnesota, George has only his grandparents and the companionship of Tucker, an Irish setter, to help him persevere through these most difficult challenges. Can he find the strength to walk the road that leads to healing, finding his true self and ultimately becoming a man? A coming-of-age story for readers of all ages, Christmas with Tucker is a classic Christmas story about a young man’s love for his dog, his family, and his farm.
“In this prequel to A Dog Named Christmas, Kincaid spins an immensely satisfying coming-of-age tale about how 12-year-old George McCray, mourning his father’s recent death from a tractor accident, finds solace in befriending a neglected Irish setter named Tucker…Although I am well aware that Christmas titles flood bookstores each December 1, I also know that Christmas with Tucker, along with the author’s earlier novel, should rise above the literary tinsel and glitz to become a holiday classic. “
"This simple but strong story celebrates the beauty of everyday things, the power of love and humility, the singular grace that is a good dog, and the mysterious ability of that grace to transform the human heart. A perfect Christmas read." – Dean Koontz
“I don’t own a dog – but after reading this book, I have an irresistible urge to go out and get one. Christmas with Tucker is simply that poignant and lovely.” – A. J. Jacobs
"It was the bleakest of Christmas seasons that year: blizzards followed by ice paralyzed the entire county. No one would have blamed the thirteen-year-old boy for taking the easy way out, or expected the aged grandfather to single-handedly pull off a miracle. Stirred into author Greg Kincaid's wondrous crucible are an empathetic grandmother, a sorrowing mother, a shy earliteen girl, a sodden alcoholic neighbor–oh yes, and an Irish setter named Tucker, with a heart filled with love for all of them. Taken all together: a Christmas story for the ages!" – Joseph Wheeler, Editor/Compiler of the bestselling Christmas in My Heart story anthologies
- Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt
Christmas with Tucker
By Greg Kincaid
Doubleday ReligionCopyright © 2010 Greg Kincaid
All right reserved.
Most barns double as family museums. The vertical beams are riddled with the nails and hooks that hold history. Pieces of harness, rusted tools, license plates from old trucks, or a calendar from a bygone era--they all tell a story. It is the task of the curator to pick the right exhibits, to find the single pieces that sum up the entirety of a people, a place, or a time long past.
From the window of our old wooden barn, I could see my son Todd throwing the ball to our dog, a mature yellow lab he'd named Christmas. The engines of both his truck and my wife's car were warming. Todd's breath was condensing in the cold winter air. We were all preparing for another day's work. For myself, I had an unusual task, one that I had embarked on nearly fifty years ago. It was time to finish it.
I lifted Tucker's leather collar off a hook, the letters of his name faded but still visible. At six o'clock, one of our family's most important museum patrons was scheduled to visit. I wanted to put together that one exhibit that would make the past clear, not just for me but for her, too. To do so, I had to go back to a cold wintery place where I had been reluctant to travel. If I was to assume the curator's role, I had no choice.
Everyone has a winter like that one. A place and time that changes us forever. A place and time when the wind blew so cold that the memories still hurt. It was now time to walk straight through that hurt and excavate an important piece of my life. For her, I would do this work.
The sound of gravel crunched in the driveway as Todd and Mary Ann each pulled out, leaving me alone on our farm. I would have the entire day to focus on my project. It seemed that I had been way too busy the last few decades, often doing unimportant things, to take the time to do something this important. Now, the work had to be done.
With the collar in my hand, I walked toward the house.
Once inside, I collected the other pieces that would form the exhibit: an old tin cup from the kitchen windowsill; from the top shelf of a closet, a stack of letters carefully banded together and arranged chronologically, and a tattered puzzle box with hundreds of rattling pieces. I poured myself a cup of coffee, threw a few hickory logs on the fire, and settled into my old rust-colored corduroy recliner, the treasures assembled on my lap. This spot had always been a good place to think, to explore a few crevices and crannies, and, if things went well, rejoin parts of myself that had been split apart.
I picked up the tin cup and closed my eyes, waiting until I could feel the steely cold of that winter of 1962 blow across my face and hear the faint rumble of the old truck as it labored up McCray's Hill. . . .
The truck door creaked open and then slammed shut. The old man walked through the back kitchen door and took off his hat, exposing gray hair cut short. He had high, flat cheeks that were tanned in the summer from hours spent working outside, a Roman nose slightly large but proud, and a complexion that was surprisingly immune from wrinkles for his seventy-two years.
He was an inattentive shaver who apparently believed that using a razor on alternate days was good enough. His eyes were as blue as the Kansas sky and as sharp as a red-tailed hawk.
There was not a suggestion of fat on his frame, which was steeled by work too hard to imagine by today's standards. After fourteen-hour days in the barns and fields, he moved stiffly. The no-nonsense look on his face was as constant as the cuts, bruises, and scrapes on his body.
Now, he gently kissed on the cheek the tall, white-haired woman standing at the kitchen sink, and filled an old tin measuring cup with the cool rainwater drawn from their cistern. He tilted his grizzled head back, drained the cup empty, and then let out a long "Ahhh." He repeated this ritual several times a day during their nearly fifty-year marriage. It unfailingly brought a contented smile to her face.
Standing there together by the sink on that early-winter afternoon, they appeared a perfectly matched team, ready to plow through the prairie sod that sustained generations of McCrays. She was lithe, beautiful, and wore one of her ubiquitous flowered dresses, behind which radiated a calm goodness that was a wellspring of comfort to all who knew her.
In the summer months, he might fill and empty the tin cup four or five times before his thirst was quenched. Any water that remained at the bottom of the cup he would unceremoniously pitch out the kitchen window onto his wife's jewel-toned flowers, the blossoms for which she chose for one purpose alone: the nectar that best attracted her beloved hummingbirds.
But that day, one cup full of water was enough. My Grandpa Bo sat the cup down, clutched Grandma Cora's elbow, and pulled her close to him.
In a secretive way, from behind my book, I watched them from my reading spot on the living room sofa. For several months now, I had been hiding behind, or perhaps in, my books. That afternoon, I had to leave Tarzan stranded in a tree, so that I could pick up a few words of the conversation between my grandparents, two of the people I loved most in the world and whose house I'd shared every day of my thirteen years.
My grandmother's voice seemed surprised. "Not again. Oh, no. Bo, I'm so disappointed." After letting out a painful sigh, she continued, "I shouldn't be surprised, though, given his state of mind. The poor fellow practically had to raise himself with those parents of his, and he's lost more than he's gained in this life--so many jobs, his marriage, and now a friend."
There was a silence and I could not hear their words until her much louder, "You what?"
His baritone voice reassured her. "Don't be upset, Cora. This can work out."
"I'm just shocked, that's all. I never thought . . .??are you sure?"
He grunted. "I stopped being sure of anything on June 15, 1962."
When I heard that date, a sinking feeling came over me. Like December 7, 1941, it was one of a half dozen dates our family would never forget. After putting my book down, I got up and walked into the kitchen. The talk stopped when I entered the room.
They both looked at me expectantly, so I invented a question. "Grandpa, did you sell the cows?"
"Yes, I sold them, and had lunch at the Ox. Saw Hank Fisher and his wife." He hesitated and then just spat it out. "And I made a stop on the way and brought home a dog."
"A dog!" I had always wanted a puppy and I could barely believe my ears.
"It's not exactly what you think, George, so don't get excited."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"He's not a puppy and you don't get to keep him. Frank Thorne has himself in a bad spot again. He has to leave his farm for a while. He was your dad's friend and our neighbor, so I guess it's up to us to help him out. I'd appreciate your help."
"You mean that mean-looking red dog that he keeps tied up in front of the house? The one that barks like a devil every time my school bus goes by?"
"That's the one."
My idea of a good dog was a friendly puppy. I let my feelings be known in a simple and direct way. "I don't think I want to take care of Thorne's dog."
Bo McCray had the same simple, direct communication style. "You'll do it anyway."
I looked to my grandmother for support, and she stared hard at me in a way that signaled this issue was not up for discussion. "Alright, then, where is he?" I asked.
With a tinge of annoyance, Grandpa set his battered tin cup down on the countertop. "In the truck," he answered, pointing toward the back door. "And if he has a name, Thorne didn't mention it."
The old truck was typically parked in the implement barn, but this afternoon it was left in the gravel driveway close to our farmhouse, so I walked out the back door, without another word. I stopped and stared at the truck for a moment, not sure what to expect and having no idea of the value of the cargo in the hold.
,as i let the kitchen door slam behind me, it occurred to me that, like an elephant or a giraffe, a dog was foreign to the McCray farm. The adult words, spoken frequently by my father and grandfather, too, came rushing back to me. Dairy cattle and dogs don't mix, George. Quit asking for a puppy.
For years I grumbled about it, as any kid would, but like hot days in February, I accepted that dogs were not part of the McCray landscape.
Now, this no-name dog was sitting in the truck and I didn't know what to make of it. Part of me was excited, but there were other unsettling feelings, too. At that point in my life, I needed the world to be arranged according to rules that I could count on, even when those rules were unpopular.
In my life, the one rule that children counted on most had been broken: parents don't leave their children. That rule I considered inviolate. For me, there was an obvious corollary, too: a boy doesn't lose his dad in a tractor accident on a hot summer afternoon. My father, John Mangum McCray, was here one morning as he had always been, ate breakfast, went outside to work, and by that afternoon, was gone forever.
Now this dairy cattle and dogs don't mix rule was being broken, too. Deep down, I was sure that I would never be allowed to have a dog, though I resented it, it was still one of the rules that I counted on to keep my crumbling universe in order. It was somehow frightening to see this rule broken. Which rule was going to be broken next? What had I done wrong to be the only kid in my school who lost a parent? I felt as if I were being punished but I didn't understand why. Somehow, my father's death spoke some dark truth about me. Surely, good kids don't lose their dads--only the unworthy and the undeserving are so fated. What had I done?
There was more swirling around in my mind, too. I put my hand on the stock gate release and hesitated before pulling the latch. Surprises had lost their appeal. I just didn't know what to do or how to feel about this most recent unplanned event. The latch release needed oil and it creaked as I opened the rear stock gate. I made a note to myself to squirt some oil on the hinge.
Standing in the truck bed, hesitant but with his tail wagging, was a beauty of a dog. I had never seen Thorne's dog up close. Though he seemed thin and needed cleaning up, he had long red hair and looked to be an Irish setter. I opened the door fully and reassured him. "It's okay, boy. I won't hurt you. Come on, jump on down."
He took very little coaxing. He ran at me full speed and jumped. Surprised, I scrambled backward and fell onto my backside. Instinctively, I raised my arms over my head to protect my face from an attack.
This assault was not, however, of a violent nature. In fact, it was more a matter of his smothering me with affectionate kisses and trying to nuzzle me to my feet. The dog put his cool, wet nose to my face as if we were the closest of friends, cruelly separated but now reunited. I laughed and pushed him away gently, "Enough!"
It was no use; he was back on me demanding attention. I got up and took a few steps, hoping to gain some separation, but he chased after me, nipping playfully at my feet. He seemed to take great pleasure in knocking me to the ground so he could jump back on me and pummel me with canine attention.
Trying a different tactic, I just froze. He backed a few feet away from me and started barking, demanding that I play with him. I started to run away, hoping he would chase after me, but he was so excited that he just set out circling the house at full speed. His big, floppy, red ears going up and down as he bounded by me, I wondered if doggie Christmas had arrived early for this pooch.
After two quick loops around the house, he decided to return his focus on running circles around me like an Indian war party, substituting yelps and excited high-pitched barks for war cries. I decided to take the offense and dove on top of him, knocking him down. Before he could recover, I jumped up and ran off. He rolled over, and we began a long game of tag, now both of us circling around the yard at a furious pace.
We wrestled, ran, and played for nearly an hour until finally the sun began to set. The dog seemed to have endless energy, so eventually I just collapsed on the ground and covered my face with my arms. He rested his head on my chest while I tried to catch my breath.
The back porch door slammed as Grandpa walked out and calmly petted the dog as he rested by my side. He shaped a homemade collar and leash by making a slipknot in an old length of rope and looped it around his neck. "Come on, boy," he said reassuringly.
The dog followed my grandpa obediently. He was a totally different creature now--alert, quiet, and respectful--like he was working and not playing. Grandpa walked him around the yard for a few minutes. Then he led the dog toward me as if to reintroduce us.
They stopped a few feet away from me and, as he was apt to do, Grandpa summed up the dog and my life in a few sentences. "He's a bit older for a puppy, but he has great potential. You can practice with this dog for a month or so. Maybe, after Christmas, when you go to Minnesota, your mom will let you get a dog of your own."
"I'm not sure if I want to go to Minnesota."
"Your mother misses you. She needs you."
Excerpted from Christmas with Tucker by Greg Kincaid Copyright © 2010 by Greg Kincaid. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday Religion, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
GREG KINCAID lives on a farm in eastern Kansas with his wife, two cats, and two dogs, including Rudy, adopted from a local shelter. When not writing, he is a practicing lawyer and pet-adoption advocate.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This prequel to A DOG NAMED CHRISTMAS is a must read for all dog lovers, and dog rescuers. In this story we learn about George and a life affirming season that he spent with his grandparents and an 'borrowed' dog named, Tucker. This coming of age story takes place in 1962, when George was 13, and his father had just recently been killed in a farming accident. It was also a winter of one of the largest snow storms, followed by an ice storm in Kansas' history. George took on many adult rolls to keep the milk cows going when electricity and phone service went down---hand milking and watering the cows became a huge deal. Not only that, George's grandfather was the sole person responsible for clearing the county's roads of snow and ice. George became a truly necessary worker, with some creative ideas of his own. Through all these events, Tucker played an important roll for George in his learning trials and encouraging successes. This book is a terrific read for dog lovers,family lovers, and everyone who has learned that it is the trials of our lives that teach us the most in life, and our faithful animal friends are often amongst are greatest treasures!!
Read this book over the holidays. It was a truly heart warming story. Once started I could not put it down. Recommend this without any hesitation.
Great book to read on the holidays. I haven't finished it yet, and so far there is no rising action or exiting parts. I have started to think of putting the book down, but i should proboly give it a chance, just in case. If you dislike, or like, this book you should get "A Simple Christmas Wish". Hit yes if this was helpful. Sincerely, Axolotl lover579
My two favorite Christmas books ever are both by Greg Kincaid: "A Dog Named Christmas" and "Christmas with Tucker". I could recommend these to any friend, family member, etc. I love both these books dearly and will probably re-read them every few Decembers. "Christmas with Tucker" takes us back to young George McCray's childhood, back to when he was learning to love a special dog when the rest of his life just wasn't going right. (This book is a prequel to "A Dog Named Christmas", though I recommend reading it before "Christmas with Tucker" so that you will know the story of George and his son Todd first.) To be simply said... it's a quaint out-in-the-country, down-home, family story that warms your heart -- even though the story contains mounds and mountains of snow, ice, and sleet. It's the perfect book for the cold December nights leading up to Christmas. Any dog lover would greatly enjoy these books from Greg Kincaid. My only wish is that the story didn't stop here. I can only hope the author has plans for new books.
Excellent reading, esp if you have ever loved a dog.
What a great story! get ready to have ur heartstrings tugged at.
Very enjoyable read. Loved this book
Easy read for a winters night.
"Christmas with Tucker" is a cute story, and a nice read during the holidays. At only 158 pages it is a fast read and easy to fit in between the Christmas preparations. This is a warm, fuzzy book that will bring a smile to your face.
I really enjoyed this book. There was so much put on George's shoulders, and he handled it so well! It is a very heartwarming story by an author that I thoroughly enjoy. You won't be disappointed, unless you are a Scrooge!
The book was okay. If you were an 6th grader. But I like happy endings too.
This is a wonderful book !! You felt like you were there in Kansas through all the problems !! Tucker is an AWESOME dog !!!
Highly recommend. A truly heartwarming book. 100% worth reading.
Christmas to Tucker is the prequel to A Dog Named Christmas and very strongly continues in the simple, heartwarming, family values kind of vein. The setting is a rural farming community in 1960s Kansas during one of the worst winter snow and ice storms in history. The McCray family is struggling with the holiday season already having recently lost John, son to Bo and Cora and father to George. The McCrays have a large dairy farm to keep running in addition to being the county road maintainers. As the work and stress pile up young George has to figure out how to navigate without his father to guide him. When a neighbor gets hauled off to jail his dog, Tucker, comes to live with the McCrays and helps George in all sorts of ways. This is a lovely look at how hard work, respect, and lots of love can show a troubled kid how to stay on the right path. The book is full of big hearted characters, tough decisions, and a loyal dog. It will definitely leave you feeling like the world is a better place. The story isn't tricky or surprising, but sometimes a feel good story is all you need. I listened to this book on audio and, like A Dog Named Christmas, it is narrated by Mark Bramhall. He has the most beautiful, deep voice, perfect for this kind of story. I really enjoyed listening to this book!
In the 1960's the owner of an Irish Setter named Tucker, Frank Thorne, lived in a cabin that was a mess and Frank probably didn't care how anything appeared since he loved his booze so much that his mind wasn't on the right issues in his life. As a result, Tucker suffered living outdoors and was neglected far too much; not because Frank didn't like him but there were much more important issues in life such as drinking ones self into oblivion! Clean up the house? Not necessary. On a nearby Kansas farm lived the McCray's, Grandma Cora and Grandpa Bo. They had a dairy farm where they had to milk the dairy cows twice daily no matter the weather or personal needs. The cows paid for the farm so they came first. Grandpa Bo also was the road maintainer for the area. We know that vehicle as a snowplow but in those days there was no government to operate such vehicles so individuals were placed in a position to do that much important chore in all kinds of weather, mostly during the winter. Their grandson, George McCray, was staying at their farm. George's father had died and he got away to the farm while his mother moved to Minnesota to get a new life started for her family. George was to stay at the farm to help out until Christmas when his mother would come for the holiday and then take George back home. George had mixed feelings seeing the massive work his aging grandparents performed daily. The attachment between George and Tucker grew and Frank Thorne realized that maybe George could take Tucker for walks once in a while saving him that time of care for his pet. George loved this but was very sad when he had to take Tucker back and tie him up again. A terrible snowstorm kicked its nasty effects on the area very early this year. Grandpa Bo got the maintainer going and worked on the roads, sometimes around the clock. Eventually his health suffered and he pushed so hard that he got worse. George, while only thirteen decided he could try to run the maintainer for his grandpa. Bo, despite his sickness, did not want George to try this but eventually when Bo couldn't move, George took over and after a very difficult self-learning process cleared the roads and helped grandma milk the cows. There is no need to go any farther into this great human story. I think I have piqued your interest and you will want to read this story that will give you tears and chills and a warm heart. I did not read the authors book, "A Dog Named Christmas" but I did see the television movie that my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed. Tucker and the human participants in this book pick up in the same mode of human interest and love.
This is a simple but elegant story that grips you from the get-go. George, an ordinary young teenager, dealing with extraordinary life events will endear himself to you as you read his story. An Irish setter named Tucker, along with his grandparents and the family farm, aids George's journey of surviving and growing up on a farm in the 1960s. When I finished reading Christmas with Tucker, I had a warm glow of contentment and a sense of satisfaction that the world was a better place. Then I began to make a list of friends and relatives who appreciate the finer things in life and with Christmas just around the corner, needing a gift. This is also a perfect choice for families that enjoy reading aloud together.