Christmas with Tucker (2013) Script

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(man): I've always been amazed at how much this place changes from season to season.

For the first 13 years of my life, winter wasn't my favourite.

Oh, sure, I loved Christmas like any kid, but I remember being told in Sunday school class once that they didn't know exactly what month the birth really happened, so I always had a sense they had just placed it in December as some kind gesture to help break up those long, cold months.

Ten years ago, my attitude toward winter changed.

I guess some don't always know when as a boy they became a man, but for me, I know exactly when.

It was that December 10 years ago.

It was the end of the most defining six months of my life.

And it was also when I met my best friend.

It was a trying time. Grandma and Grandpa and I had already had Thanksgiving-- alone. It sure didn't feel like the same holiday we'd shared so many times before.

My mother and my sisters hadn't been there, because they were coming for Christmas a month later; two long trips within 30 days wasn't practical.

Hey, Grandpa. Hey.

Ah. Hello, handsome.

Everything in that old farmhouse had changed in June the day when my dad died in a farm accident.

A freak accident, everyone said.

No way to prevent it or see it coming, they said.

It affected us each in our own way.

Grandpa showed little, brought everything inside.

Grandma tried to make things as all right as she could for everyone else.

Me, I just tried to do what I thought my dad would have wanted me to do.

Frank Thorne got arrested.

Drunk driving again. Oh.

Yeah, he's going to jail this time.

(grandpa speaking quietly) You did what?

Cora, this'll work out.

I'm fine with it.

I mean, I've always been fine with it, but are you sure?

I stopped being sure of anything on June 15th.

I brought home a dog.

We got a puppy?

It's not what you think, George, so don't get excited.

It's not a puppy, and you don't get to keep him.

It's Frank Thorne's dog.

Thorne has to leave his farm for a little while. You mean, the one he keeps in front of his house? The one that barks like crazy every time my school bus goes by? That's the one.

Well, he's our neighbour, and your grandpa told him we'd help him out and take care of his dog while he's gone.

But you always said dogs and dairy cattle don't mix.

Well, somebody needed our help. We'll make it work.

Dog is in the pickup.

(bark)

Hey, boy.

(barking) Let's go, let's go.

Hi! Hi!

Come on up. Dog seems to like him.

Whoa.

(laughing)

(bark)

I have a fraction of the energy either of them have.

That a boy.

What's his name?

Darned if I know.

(barking) (laughing)

(George): Good boy.

(barking)

Maybe his mom'll let him have a dog once he gets to Minnesota. He told me the other day he wasn't sure he wanted to go to Minnesota.

(George): All right, all right.

My mom moved to Minnesota in August, closer to my sisters in college. It was as if she couldn't be around the farm without Dad here-- too much to remind her of him.

I had asked her if I could stay in Kansas a little longer, till Christmas.

I hadn't been ready to leave yet.

Reluctantly, she'd agreed.

OK, all right, you win. You can stay.

Dinner's almost ready.

Grandma made a bed for him in the mud room.

Grandpa, do you think the dog will be here for Christmas? I'm not sure.

I think Mom would like him.

Yeah.

They're saying it could turn cold at night. Feels like, uh, we could get some more snow.

I've always said you missed your true calling.

That knee of yours predicts bad weather better than anything or anybody I've ever seen on TV.

Yeah, well, I could have been one of those slick TV weathermen, you know, working five minutes a day. George, if we do get any measurable amount of snow, I'm gonna need you to help with the morning milking, so I can clear off the roads with the snowplow.

Before school? Mm-hmm.

That's early. The county pays us to have those roads cleared as soon as possible.

You can't wait till the middle of the day to get started.

Besides, getting up early is good for you.

You know, I've been doing it, hey, for 60 years, and your dad did it when he was your age.

And these snow days aren't gonna happen more than 40 or 50 times this winter.

George, do you want to feed Thorne's dog?

He must be hungry after all that running around.

Mmm. (chuckling)

(grandma chuckling)

Looks like he's all tuckered out.

I don't think he got to do much playing over at Thorne's place.

Grandma, what time will I have to get up to finish all the milking before school?

Early. I'll help you.

I used to help your dad till he got used to it.

Who'll do it when I move to Minnesota? Oh, we'll work something out.

That's not your concern.

Grandma, do you think Thorne's dog could maybe sleep in my room tonight?

You wouldn't even know he was there.

Ah... I think we could do that.

On two conditions: one, that you and your grandpa give him a bath first.

I can do that. And two, we give him a name. We can't keep calling him "Thorne's dog".

Well... you said he was all tuckered out.

I think his name should be Tucker.

Ha! Ha! Ha! I like that!

Well, there you go, Tucker.

Not only do you have a new name, you've got a new place to sleep.

It's a big day. Don't mess it up.

(growl) (bark)

(panting) (sneeze)

When you brought Tucker home...

...I couldn't help but think about when John was little.

All those years of him wanting a dog, and you being so stubborn about him not having one.

And now you bring one home.

The dog needed a place to go.

I thought it might do George some good.

George has to go to Minnesota, and... Tucker will go back to Thorne once he's out of jail. I hope it's just not one more thing for George to miss when it's gone.

Yeah, he's a good boy.

This house is gonna get pretty quiet when he's gone.

Yeah.

(sigh)

We're gonna miss him.

Yeah.

(whining)

All right, come on.

As long as you're down before Grandma gets up.

Wake up, McCray! We're almost there.

Almost where?

Uh, school.

That's where the school bus usually takes us.

Oh, I slept the whole way?

I was up milking cows at 4:30. Yeah, I was talking to you for 15 minutes before I knew you were asleep.

Oh, did you say anything interesting?

You'll never know.

So, when are you going to see Mrs. Weeks?

About what? The school play. She picked you to play Santa.

What? She's posting it today.

I got a sneak peak at the list.

Well, I didn't try out.

Yeah, well, that never stops Mrs. Weeks.

Better start working on your "ho, ho, ho", McCray.

(door closing) I knew it.

I could smell your cookies from halfway down the road.

(She laughs.) Well, no one can say the McCray men don't have a highly developed sense of smell.

I was way out in the machine shed when I first smelled them.

(growling) Ah, ah, ah. And I don't care how much he begs you. Don't be giving him any. He's already had about half a dozen.

(phone ringing)

Hello?

Hi, Mom.

I've got some laundry to put away.

Yeah. Yeah, I've been missing you too.

I still feel bad that I wasn't there for Thanksgiving. It was tough to be away from you. [Grandma and Grandpa tried] to make it as good as they could.

But... it still wasn't the same without everybody here, and... and Dad.

I know, honey.

I miss him a lot.

I miss him too.

[We're looking forward to being with you at Christmas.]

[And I can't wait to bring you home with me.]

[Honey?]

Are you all right? [I'm fine.]

[Just a little tired.]

It's good that I stayed here, though.

Grandma and Grandpa need me right now.

[Well, I bet they're] glad to have you helping, but I sure miss you.

Oh, and, uh, Mom, I have a dog to take care of now.

[His name's Tucker.] Grandma and Grandpa got you a dog? [Not exactly.]

He belongs to Frank Thorne, but... Frank's in jail right now, [so I'm taking care of him till he gets out.]

Oh, well, I-I'm sorry to hear that about Frank.

That's too bad.

Yeah.

He's got a nice dog, though.

The one that always barked? [Yeah, but...] he doesn't seem to bark too much here. I think he just wanted someone to talk to.

He's a great dog. I just never knew it before.

Anyway, I better make sure the chickens get watered. [OK, sweetheart.]

Well, your sisters and I love you, and we cannot wait for Christmas.

Love you too, Mom.

[Bye.]

(barking)

(growling) Lie down. On your side.

Sit up. Feet.

Hey, Tucker. (whining)

What's this?

(bark) Whoa.

Go get Grandma. Go get Grandma.

(bark) Oh, what a good boy.

What a good boy. Ha! Ha! Ha! Who's that?

Huh. Well.

Good job, Tucker.

Got it.

Jigsaw puzzle. See the picture?

It's of our farm.

Jerry Jensen took it from his crop duster, so you can see the whole thing.

It's a family tradition. We always put it together at Christmas, so I figured it was time to-- (yelp)

(whining)

(Cora): George.

Just a second, Grandma.

I found the puzzle.

Wonderful. Listen, why don't you put it on the table?

We need to go.

Go where?

Are you about done here? Yep, yep.

No, it definitely needs work.

Oh. But I... I think it can be spruced up, hmm? Mm-hmm.

Looking good, McCray.

Oh, hello, Mary Ann. How are you?

Better now that I've seen Santa. Are you in the play too?

I'm a star.

I'm not THE star. I play a star.

George is actually the star.

I got him his role.

I told Mrs. Weeks that he meant to try out for Santa but he forgot.

You what? His eyes, how they twinkle, his dimples, how merry.

Typecasting, really.

(Cora and Mary Ann laughing)

I've never seen him when he's not barking at the school bus.

(laughing)

He's much friendlier than I would have guessed.

My dad said Thorne got out of jail today.

Really?

(Santa): Ho, ho, ho! (Cora): Bye.

Oh, hey, Grandma. Let me get those.

Oh, thank you, George. Such a gentleman.

I'd better get home. Bye, Mrs. McCray. Bye, George.

Bye, Tucker. Bye. See you tomorrow.

Her dad told her that Thorne is out of jail.

Oh. Do we have to give him back?

Ho, ho, ho!

Tuck, you ever read Shakespeare? (whine)

My dad told me it's not that bad-- well, once you figure out what's going on.

But sometimes it's about as clear as you barking something.

Ha! You would have liked my dad.

And he would have liked you.

He told me he always wanted a dog but never actually got one.

Well, Dad, at least I had a dog for a little while.

I miss you, Dad.

Sometimes I try to stop being sad, but I can't.

Being with Tucker helps, but now he's going away too.

Maybe I shouldn't have even gotten to know him.

But I did.

And now if I move back to Minnesota, I might not ever see him again.

But I also miss Mom.

I just know, if I could talk to you, you'd help figure this all out.

What's it like up where you are, Dad?

Are there... dogs in heaven?

I hope so, 'cause then someday you can meet Tucker.

And we'd all be together again.

(knocking on door) George.

Frank's here for Tucker.

OK, Tuck.

(sigh) It's time to go.

Thanks for being my friend.

(Tucker whining quietly)

Phil was kind enough to give me a lift over here.

I sort of don't have a driver's licence right now.

Well, we could have driven over to your place.

No, uh, it's no problem. Needed to get some things in town too.

Anyway, thanks for looking after my dog.

Well, you're welcome. We've kinda gotten used to having Tucker around.

Come on, dog.

(whine) Come on, dog.

Come on!

(Tucker whining) (barking)

You did a good job with Tucker, George.

(Tucker barking)

Don't worry, Tuck.

I'll get you back.

You belong here.

Hey, buddy.

How are ya? Hi.

(George laughing)

Come on. Let's go.

(George laughing)

Something you need?

Um, I wanted to talk to you about Tuck--about your dog.

What about him?

Well, I noticed that most of the time-- at least when I come by-- he's out here all alone.

Um, so I was thinking I could maybe help you out and... take him off your hands.

Then you wouldn't have to worry about him.

You saying you want me to give you my dog? I'd be good to him.

We got along really well when he stayed at my house while you were... away.

Answer's no, you can't have him.

(Tucker whining)

Good morning, McCray.

Hi. Actually, do you mind if I call you Nick, at least until Christmas?

St. Nick? Maybe you should practice your lines when you're milking the cows.

I heard somebody say that classical music actually helps cows produce more milk.

Maybe a classical theatrical piece like Santa and the Snowmen would do the same thing.

You sure talk a lot for this early in the morning.

(Tucker barking)

(barking)

I'm sorry, George.

I guess I was just hoping it wasn't true.

Thanks.

I mean, why does he even have a dog if he's just gonna keep it penned up all the time? Yeah, I know, right?

That's kind of what I said to Thorne.

You did?

Yeah, I offered to take Tucker off his hands permanently.

McCray, I'm impressed that you would do such a thing.

Well, don't be too impressed. He turned me down.

OK, well, what did you offer him?

What do you mean?

I mean, how much did you say you'd pay him?

Well, I didn't.

He's not just gonna give you the dog.

McCray, do you understand business?

You don't get something for nothing.

You make a good point.

You know, I do have a little bit of money saved up from Christmas and birthdays and stuff.

I could help. I've got some money.

I was gonna use it to put myself through law school, but I could argue this is more important.

Hey, Grandpa.

They sent us home from school early. Said a storm's coming. They're saying we could get 16 inches of snow.

Look, I want to talk to you about something.

You'll be fine. I'll show you everything you need to know.

It's just a big tractor with a blade on it. Bo, you're not talking about having him run the snowplow? Well, if we're gonna keep up with this storm, we gotta run 24/7.

Now, I'll work the double shift, but without John, I need some help.

He can do it.

I can do it, Grandma. I've ridden in the cab plenty of times with him and dad.

You know I wouldn't do this if I didn't know beyond a doubt that he can handle it.

OK, but don't you do anything if you don't feel comfortable with it. I mean that. I won't.

Absolutely. I agree with that.

Grandpa, does this job pay anything?

Um... I'm trying to earn some money to buy something special.

Well, in fact, yeah, you do the work, you get some of the pay.

It's come in handy for us at times over the years.

Is there any chance I could get paid up front?

I'm... trying to buy a...

What I'm trying to buy, it's...

I'm trying to buy it as fast as I can. Well, let's see what kind of job you do out there today.

And then we'll talk about it.

Listen while I lower the blade just one inch. What do you hear?

Sounds like gravel mixed in with the snow.

That's right. Summer months, the county pays a lot of money to put the gravel down on these roads, and they don't need the McCrays to be putting it back in the ditch.

There's a fine line; you just need to find it.

By the time we went in for lunch a few hours later, Grandpa had spoken more words to me than he had, well, since my dad died.

It was the start of a big change in our relationship.

Without us saying it, maybe we both sensed we could help begin to fill a hole for the other.

So, I see the snowplow still seems to be working. That's good news. How are the roads?

Better than they were.

He did great. What can I say?

Filling his dad's shoes. The kid's a natural.

How many calls came in so far?

Sherry Rather is pregnant, due any day.

Hadley is worried about getting her to the hospital, so he's hoping you could keep their road clear.

And that's just off Waverly Road. Do you know where that is?

Yeah, it's south of the highway and north of Lone Elm Road.

And Mrs. Slater only has two days of insulin left.

She lives just off the highway by the old dump site.

I know where that is too.

And Mrs. Reed called and wants to make sure you don't forget about her. Oh, you mean Old Lady Reed.

Careful, George. She's only a couple of years older than your grandma here.

We could have gone all day without revealing that bit of information.

Well, she seems much older.

(laughing): Oh!

I love having this boy around! Mwah!

The advance on your wages.

Thanks.

McCray! Hey!

Hey, McCray.

I think you forgot something.

Your coat? Oh, I just have a minute.

I'm helping my mom make dinner. You cook?

You don't have to sound so surprised. McCray, I'm a woman of many talents, including being a world-renowned, or at least central-Kansas-renowned, babysitter, which pays OK.

It's not for you, it's for Tucker.

Look, you really don't have to do this. I know.

George, it's freezing out here. would you just take the money?

I'll pay you back. Thanks.

I'll see you tomorrow, with Tucker.

(Tucker barking)

Hey, Tuck.

Oh, you got your stick! Your stick!

(door opening)

Hi, Mr. Thorne.

Uh, I came by because, um...

I was thinking I didn't make myself clear earlier.

I'd be interested in buying your dog.

You would, huh?

Yes, yes, I would. And I've got money.

I don't want your money.

Dog's not for sale. But why?

You just leave him out here in the cold.

I can do with him what I want.

He's my dog, and he's not for sale.

You McCrays aren't better than me.

Time for you to go.

(Tucker whining)

[Grandma said you didn't eat much at dinner. Are you sure you're feeling OK?]

I'm fine. She thinks you might be down

[because you're missing Tucker.] Maybe.

[Oh, honey.]

I wish I could be there to make things better.

I'm sorry everything has been so unsettled lately.

It's just not fair, Mom.

I know, Georgie. I'm sorry.

Dad always taught us to deal with things head-on.

[Tucker should be with me,] where he can run around and play.

All he does at Thorne's is bark. I'd bark too if I was alone all day. [Well, then] we'll try not to leave you alone too much when you get here.

We wouldn't want you waking the neighbours.

Funny, Mom.

I'm sorry about Tucker, George.

Yeah. Me too.

Morning, Grandpa. Morning.

Weather's gotten worse today.

Yeah. Wouldn't stop snowing all night. I can vouch for that.

You were out on the snowplow all night? Yeah, until about an hour ago.

You've already done all the milking.

Why didn't anybody wake me up? Well, you got a long day ahead of you, so we figured we'd let you sleep in a bit.

What's all this about? Milk trucks can't get through, and the cooler here is full up.

Are we not keeping the roads clear enough?

Oh, we're doing fine. It's just, in some areas, the snowplows have fallen behind.

They don't have the personnel to run around the clock like we do.

And since the dairy won't accept milk that isn't fresh, what we can't use ourselves we just have to throw away.

Well, that seems like a waste of perfectly good milk.

Which is why we're bottling it up for you to give to folks.

With more and more phone lines down and the roads blocked, folks can't get their basics, people can't get to the store.

And we got milk to give away.

Here, I'll help you load up.

Pull in to every house, knock on their doors, and make sure everybody's getting along all right, hmm?

(Tucker barking inside)

Hey, boy. It's me.

(Tucker barking)

How you doing? (Tucker barking)

Hey, boy.

Mr. Thorne, you in there?

(Tucker whining)

Hi. How are ya?

I know, I know. I missed you too.

Mr. Thorne?

Hello?

Mr. Thorne?

It's George McCray.

Mr. Thorne?

You in here?

(Thorne coughing)

What do you want, boy?

Uh...

I have milk if you need any.

I don't need milk.

I'm sick. I need medicine.

I don't have any medicine.

No, I suppose not.

I'll tell you what.

If you drive that snowplow over to Tommy Turner's place on Blackberry Hill, and you tell him that Frank Thorne's in a tight spot and needs two bottles of his best, uh... medicine, and you bring it back to me, maybe we can talk about my dog being for sale, huh? You'd sell him to me?

Uh-huh.

That's... my dad.

You didn't know we were friends once?

(Thorne chuckles.) I guess you wouldn't expect that, would ya?

Your father wasn't always so perfect.

So, what do you say, kid? You want the dog?

OK. That a boy.

Go on now.

(Tucker whining)

Don't worry, Tuck. I'm gonna get you out of here.

Come on.

Come on. (Tucker whining)

Come on.

Come on, boy.

(Tucker whining)


You're John McCray's son, aren't you?

I'm George McCray. My grandfather asked me to check in to make sure you're all right. I've got some milk if you need some.

I'll take some milk if you're giving it away.

I was aware that my wanting Tucker had put me in the middle of something I maybe shouldn't have been in the middle of.

I knew Tom Turner's medicine probably didn't come with a stamp of approval from the American Medical Association, but being in Turner's presence made it all more real.

You're Mr. Turner, right?

Yeah, what of it?

Uh, Mr. Thorne's been sick.

He said if I came by this way, I should ask you for some medicine.

Two bottles.

So, Frank's out of medicine and can't get into town for more, huh?

(chuckling)

You wait right here.

You tell Thorne to take two big glasses every night, and you let him know I'll be sending him my doctor's bill.

This business is between me and Thorne, boy.

No one else needs to know. You understand?

Yes, sir. Now go on. Get out of here.

I remember thinking I didn't like Tom Turner much.

I also remember thinking: I bet the dentist sure didn't like cleaning his teeth.

(Tucker barking)

Hey, buddy.

Tuck, I'm sorry, but I shouldn't be giving this to Thorne.

I can't.

Great. You got it.

Uh, wait.

What?

What about Tucker? You said that I could buy him if I got--

No, I said we'd talk about it.

Maybe I changed my mind.

You can't change your mind!

You said, if I got you-- I don't care what I said.

You'll get paid, just not with my dog.

Mr. Thorne!

(whining) (door closing)

When I woke up the next morning, one thing had become crystal clear to me: no matter how bad I felt about what I'd done, Thorne and I made a deal.

I got him his medicine; I would get Tucker.

Mr. Thorne!

Mr. Thorne?

We need to talk.

I'm here to take Tucker.

Mr. Thorne.

Mr. Thorne, wake up!

Grandma, I'm at Thorne's house. He's on the ground, he won't wake up.

Is he breathing?

Yes, but he doesn't look good, and the house is cold.

I'll call an ambulance. You just stay there.

It'll be OK.

OK.

It's gonna be OK.

Where's Tucker?

Tucker?

Tucker.

Tucker?

Tuck? Where are you, boy?

Where are you, boy? (Tucker whining)

Come on. Come on.

Come on. Come on.

OK. I gotcha.

Oh, you're cold. We gotta get you warmed up.

(Tucker whining) I got you, boy.

(plow starting)

Don't get too comfortable.

You being on this couch isn't the start of some new trend, you know.

But considering what you've been through today, it's OK for right now. It's almost like he knows he's lucky to be alive. Him and Thorne both.

I guess alcohol poisoning's pretty serious. Yeah, well, if you hadn't gone by there, there's a good chance that neither Thorne nor Tucker would have made it through the day.

Two quarters, a dime, three nickels, and seven pennies. I told you I'd pay you back. What a break.

You got Tucker, and you didn't even have to buy him. Yeah.

Looks like you still got your appetite.

Hot chocolate, and Christmas sugar cookies.

Thanks.

You make these yourself?

Well, I guess I'll have to take my chances.

So, you got the hang of running this beast?

Yep.

Thanks.

He likes it. I wouldn't put too much stock into that.

I haven't seen him turn down food yet.

These are pretty good.

So, when are your mom and sisters getting here? The 23rd.

And then you'll go back to Minnesota with them after New Year's? I guess so.

Will you visit in the summers?

Uh, maybe.

I don't know.

I'd like to.

Well, it's nice that your family will be here in time to see you in your starring role as Santa.

Hm. You have been learning your lines?

Well, I was thinking that with all the missed days of school that the play might be... you know, cancelled.

I wouldn't count on it. In Mrs. Weeks' words, "The show must go on".

Yeah, I don't think she made that up.

(laughing)

And you don't want to pick up the gravel, just the snow.

(click)

Tucker, that's the radio. Cora: [Hello?]

(bark)

Yeah, you like that, huh, boy?

Push it again.

(click) OK, speak.

(bark) George?

OK, push the button, boy.

(click) [Speak.]

(bark)

Tucker, is that you?

(barking)

Tell George I'm making a pot roast for him tonight.

Hey, Grandma. I was just showing Tucker how to drive the snowplow, and I guess he wanted to learn how to use the radio too. (bark)

(laughing) Well, sounds like he's a good student and a quick study.

(barking) Tucker, listen, I have to go out for a while, so I won't be here if you call.

Push the button, boy. Bark.

(click) (barking)

He says we'll see you when we get home.

OK. (laughing)

Good boy, Tucker. Good boy.

I bet I could teach you to drive this if I had enough cookies.

OK, I'm officially on my lunch break, but we don't have time to play.

We're gonna do something good and surprise Grandma.

Ever look for a Christmas tree before?

Didn't think so.

But it's an art. (Tucker barking)

At least, that's what Grandma says.

She likes something full-- you know, lots of branches.

Not too skinny or scrawny.

And tall but... not too tall.

You gotta leave a little room for the angel that goes on top.

And it's gotta be a Scotch Pine.

(Tucker barking) Now, Grandpa, he could go for anything-- a Douglas fir, some kind of spruce, even a cedar.

But Grandma... Grandma loves her Scotch Pine.

Oh, I think we have a winner.

Oh, it's perfect.

I love it!

Thank you, George.

Tucker picked it out. Well, he did a great job.

You both did. (door closing)

Bo, look at the tree George cut for us.

I think it's as nice as any tree we've ever had.

Looks like he's taken over all my jobs around here.

Pretty soon I won't be needed at all.

Hey, it, uh, looks like Thorne's gonna be all right.

He's coming home from the hospital tomorrow.

That's good. Yeah.

It was touch-and-go for a while. Turns out whatever homebrew he was drinking was contaminated. Almost killed him.

Who knows under what conditions that stuff gets made.

Yeah, well, he's not talking about where he got it, but...

I think we got a pretty good idea.

Well, how's he getting home?

That I don't know.

Oh, I do.

Nice of you to pick me up.

You seem to be moving OK.

Yeah. I feel better.

You got lucky, Frank. If George hadn't been there, things could have been worse.

So they tell me.

Much obliged to you for that.

We'll be keeping Tucker with us.

George, you give Thorne a hand if he needs it.

Need any help? No, I'm fine.

Looks like Cora's here.

(door opening and closing) (Tucker barking)

Oh, I thought I heard somebody drive up.

Grandma, this place looks... different.

Welcome home, Frank.

Not sure I'm in the right house.

(Cora laughs.)

Oh, it's the right house, all right.

I bet it feels good to be home.

I figured after a couple of days of hospital food, you might be ready for a home-cooked meal, so I hope you don't mind, I'm using your stove.

Yeah, I'm sure he's real upset about that, huh, Frank?

(laughing)

Mrs. McCray...

You're very kind.

Just being neighbourly.

But I'm glad you're feeling better.

You've always been good to me.

John and I did a lot of things together, but even when I got him in trouble and we stopped hanging around each other, you always showed me kindness.

Even when I wasn't very nice to any of you.

I'm gonna change my ways.

And I know that's easy to say, but you mark my words this time.

I'm glad to hear you say that, Frank.

And we'll be here for you.

(laughing and sniffling) There hasn't been Christmas in this house in a long time.

Oh.

The idea of angels has always appealed to me, and Grandma Cora was the closest thing to an angel I ever knew.

I know Thorne felt the same way.

And Grandma's kindness made me feel even worse for what I had done.

It all made me realize I didn't want to keep holding it inside.

It was time to tell Grandpa.

Grandpa... that was a really nice thing that Grandma did.

Yes, it was, George.

That's your grandmother.

Do you think Mr. Thorne will really be able to change?

Well, I hope so. I really do.

There's a good lesson for you in all his problems.

Nobody starts down that road thinking they're gonna be the one who can't stop.

Could he really have died?

Yeah.

Yeah, Thorne's responsible for his actions, but the person that gave him that stuff, well, they should have some consequences too.

(George sighs.)

About that... the person who gave it to him-- I don't think it's any secret who that is. Thorne hadn't said, but I got a good idea.

Well, it could be that there's more to it than what we've--

(thunderclap) Whoa. Looks like the weatherman was right. Yeah, they said there was a winter thunderstorm on its way, and it looks like it's here now.

You've probably never seen one, at least since you were a little guy.

Winter thunderstorm? You mean like rain?

Well, it starts with rain, then turns to ice, more snow on top.

You think a snowstorm is bad?

Nothing compared to the ice.

It's gonna warm up, and this snow can turn to rain.

Oh. I guess it's a good thing we were headed to get supplies.

Yep, 'cause once things start freezing, there's nobody going nowhere, including us and the snowplow.

(Santa ringing bells) (Santa): Ho, ho, ho!

You can stay here in the truck with Tucker if you want.

I'll just be a minute.

(bark)

Go get it. Now come here, come here. Come on, come on.

(thunderclap)

It's getting closer, Tuck.

All right, here, one more, one more. Ready?

(bark)

Afternoon, McCray. Mr. Turner.

I'm gonna give you the benefit of the doubt and presume that you're smart enough not to tell anyone about any delivers you might have made on my behalf to Frank Thorne, huh? No, I haven't told anyone about anything. You see, there's the right answer. I just want to make sure we keep it that way. (barking)

You like this mutt, don't you?

Well, here's something for you to think about.

If even one person were to get wind that Frank Thorne got that rotten batch of booze from me, well, your dog has played its last game of fetch.

Is that clear? Yeah.

Huh? Yes.

So, what are we gonna do?

Well, there's nothing we can do if it gets as bad as they say it's gonna get. What about Mrs. Slater and all the others who depend on us to get them their medicine? Well, I don't like it any better than you do.

These kinds of storms are extremely rare, but, uh... once they hit us, we're paralyzed.

Morning, George.

(She clears her throat.) Sorry.

My alarm didn't go off.

I think it might be broken. It wouldn't even light up.

The freezing rain got even worse last night, and the whole Tri-County area is out of power.

Lines are down everywhere.

Your grandpa's gone out, fired up the generation to give us a little power.

(door opening) Whoa.

Nasty out there.

Don't you be going out there today. It's like walking on a sheet of ice.

Too easy to fall and break something. Well, then, what are you doing out there? Well, if I fall, I'm gonna land on my head. You said many times, it's too hard to break.

(laughing) I don't like you out there in this.

You fall, break your hip, I'm not taking care of ya.

Look, George, if you let me fall out there, you're gonna be doing some cooking yourself.

See if that fits your shoe.

(Bo coughing)

I don't like the sound of that.

What is it? It hooks on your boot, keeps you from slipping. Ah, ah, ah.

Not in the house, not unless you want to redo all my floors.

Well, looks like it'll fit. Well, good, 'cause after you've finished eating, we're gonna walk over to Hank Fisher's.

You got me to thinking last night. I got an idea.

The cookies were George's idea.

He said you couldn't resist helping us if we brought 'em.

Boy knows how to bargain.

(whining)

Dog knows how to get what he wants too.

Here you go, Tucker.

Never knew this dog had so much personality.

Seems as though he's blossoming since you took him. Old Tuck wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for George. He done a good job-- (coughing)

That doesn't sound too good. I don't think an old duffer like you ought to be out walking a mile and a half in this kind of weather.

I'm only a couple of years older than you.

You wouldn't find me walking to your place today either.

He used to be tough.

Too many chocolate chip cookies.

Oh, by golly.

I still got 'em.

I think these just might do the trick.

Grandpa had gotten the idea from our shoe clamps.

He remembered Hank buying some old logging chains at a farm auction a while back, and had a hunch he'd never done anything with those chains.

Like usual, Grandpa was right. Now, cut some of these rods into small-scale studs, probably work just like your shoes do.

Big test'll come when you drop the blade. Hopefully the welds'll hold.

I believe they will if we only grade going downhill. Takes a little longer, but it beats staying inside doing nothing.

So, how fast can you have this?

Tomorrow, midmorning, maybe.

Bring some of those cookies.

So, uh, when did Hank say the chains would be ready?

Didn't he just sit down in that chair about 30 seconds ago? He did.

I wish I could get to sleep that fast.

Is it getting any easier to sleep as time goes by?

Yeah.

I miss being able to talk to him, though.

So do I.

But the work has made me more tired, and... that'll keep me asleep.

But not like that.

He hasn't been feeling so good. Of course, that's one of the benefits of getting older--you can fall asleep anywhere in a few seconds. The downside is, though, that you wake up in the middle of the night wondering if it's too early to get up.

Well, once I'm asleep, I have no problems getting up too early.

(laughing)

I hope Mom, Trisha, and Hannah can make it here for Christmas.

Oh, let's not get ahead of ourselves, George. A lot can happen with the weather in a couple of days. They'll make it.

It's gonna be a hard Christmas.

There are still gonna be a lot of hard days, George.

But we'll get through 'em.

That was a nice thing you did for Thorne yesterday.

Frank's had a tough life.

He didn't have much help growing up.

But he and dad were friends? When they were young, they were together all the time.

Very close.

Then Frank kind of veered off in another direction in high school.

Your dad still tried to be his friend-- the only real friend Frank had, I might say.

But Frank went his own way.

Your dad was a very good man.

And you so remind me of him.

(Tucker growling) Oh.

(laughing) And yes, Tucker, you're lucky to have him looking after you.

I swear, this dog understands everything we say.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Don't you?

Somehow I didn't think Grandma would think so highly of me if she knew what I'd done.

(Bo coughing) (kettle whistling)

You can go back to bed. Can I?

George has already done the milking.

What? Mm, yeah. He knew you weren't feeling well, so he decided to beat you to it.

Morning, Grandpa.

Well, you be sure and make him an extra special good breakfast.

A boy like that deserves it.

That he does.

Well, I might just rest up a bit in my chair.

(Hank laughing) Well, it seems to be working.

I'll say, indeed it does.

But you be careful out there. Don't you take any chances.

I won't.

I found it amazing how one bad decision could seep into everything else around it and make even good things seem not so good.

I can see how a person could gain weight doing this job.

Everybody's grateful for what you're doing.

And nothing shows grateful like a homemade cookie.

I can't believe you're moving around on that ice.

I mean, I fell twice just getting out here. It seems to be working pretty well. It was Grandpa's idea.

All the McCrays are stepping up. Runs in the family.

Have you ever done something you wish you didn't?

Yes.

That time I told Mr. Fairly that my cousins in Iowa had more math homework than we did. That was kind of stupid, 'cause he suddenly felt like he had to pile more work on us after that.

No, but something quite a bit worse than that.

What are you getting at, McCray?

[George. George,] are you there? Hey, Grandma. We're here.

George, do you know where Doc Johnson lives? Yeah.

Good. I need you to go over there right now and pick him up and bring him here.

OK. Is something wrong?

He just needs to come and take a look at your grandpa.

[I've already radioed him. He's expecting you.]

OK. Right now, George.

You understand?

I'm on my way. [Good.]

He's got a severe infection in his lungs. It's not pneumonia yet, but it could be if we aren't careful.

I gave him some antibiotics, and I want you to make sure that he takes these as prescribed.

You did the right thing by calling me, Mrs. McCray. This would not have waited for the roads to open up-- despite what a good job you're doing.

Thank you, Doctor. I really appreciate it.

Well, if my taxi service is ready, I'll make my way back home.

Sure. He's doing a great job out here. Oh, I know it.

I don't know what we would have done without him.

(Tucker whining)

Hey, George.

Among everything else you've been doing, now you've added ambulance driver?

I'm sure you know this, but, uh...

I am very, very proud of you.

But... I think if you knew the truth, you wouldn't be.

There's something you don't know.

When I told him the truth, it's the most disappointment I'd ever seen in Grandpa's eyes.

...only if I got him some medicine.

And it was the most disappointed I'd ever felt in myself.

I was wrong.

You don't deserve Tucker.

Bo, that's a bit harsh. I don't think it is.

When you finish your work at the end of the day, you go by Thorne's house and you drop Tucker off with him.

OK?

OK.

I didn't have any choice.

Maybe not, but... it's still sad for him.

I really messed things up.


Whoa. Ugh!

(barking)

(whining)

(barking)

(groaning weakly)

Tucker... (coughing)

(bark)

Tucker, push the button.

(barking)

Hit the radio button.

(barking)

Hit the radio button.

Good. Good. Hit it again.

Now bark. Speak.

(barking)

Cora: [All right, you two, OK. You've got]

[my attention. I'm glad you're having fun out there.]

(Tucker barking) Yes, hello, Tucker.

Where's George? I want to speak to George.

(Tucker barking) Well, all right, then.

I'll speak to you. Tell me, where's George?

(Tucker barking)

[OK, joke's over now.]

(Tucker barking) [This isn't funny, George.]

Come on, now. Get down to business. Where are you? What's up?

(Tucker barking)

[Grandma...]

George? [Grandma...]

(Tucker barking) George, where are you?

[Where are you, George?]

(whining)

Would someone out there please talk to me?

(Tucker whining) Tucker...

[George!] (Tucker whining)

Go get help. Go home.

Get Grandma.

Go get Grandma. (barking)

Oh, Frank. Thank God you're home.

Is something wrong, Mrs. McCray.

[Well, I'm afraid something may have happened to George.]

He's out in the snowplow, I'm not sure exactly where, but I do know he was headed out toward Old Orchard Road. I've radioed the county, but they don't have anyone else in the area, and our phones are out, but I knew, since we're on the same line, I'd be able to get through to you.

I'm going right now. Don't you worry. I'll find him.

Thank you, Frank.


Here, dog!

Here, dog!

Come on, boy. (barking)


(whining)

(Hank): Cora. George is awake.

George, George, just stay down now.

You gave us quite a scare.

No, doc says he'll be fine.

He's OK.

Hank... we gotta get the snowplow going.

P-People are counting on us out there.

We're way ahead of you, son. Frank Thorne took it out just after he got you back here.

He's taking Sherry Rather to the hospital, where she's about to deliver twins. Then it's my shift.

You have a concussion.

So, the two of you, just plan to... take it easy for a while. Bo, we got it covered this once.

About time all the people you helped over the years had a chance to give you a hand. There's a whole crew of guys out there with chainsaws clearing trees and branches off the roads right now.

Your granddad's got a lot of friends.

The good Lord was looking out for you.

Him and Tucker.

Where is Tucker? He's with Frank.

Look, we're more than thankful that you're safe, George, but that doesn't change the fact of what happened before.

The dog belongs to Thorne.

I didn't get a chance to say goodbye.

Mom! Hi.

I missed you so much.

I missed you too.

Oh, look at you.

You've gotten older. You haven't.

How's your head? Kinda sore.

I bet. Tucker saved my life.

I heard.

Come here.

Well, I'm glad to see that knock on your head didn't destroy your appetite.

How many weeks has it been since you've eaten?

Well, it hadn't been weeks, but he did sleep most of the last 36 hours.

I'm guessing I'd be hungry too. (sisters laughing)

We are glad you're feeling better too.

Oh, I am indeed, and especially now that you all are here.

George, when you're finished eating, if you're feeling up to it, uh, I think we got something we need to do.

George, I know how much you wanted Tucker, and what he meant to you-- what he means to you-- and I'm sorry he had to go back to Thorne, but if there's anything I want you to grow up to be, it's a man of character, and what you did was wrong.

I know, Grandpa, and I'm sorry I let you down.

I know we've never talked much about your dad, but he made his dad very proud, and I know he'd feel the same about you, just like I do.

Where are we going?

To see Tom Turner.

You want to threaten me, Turner? You go ahead. Now, you ever threaten a McCray again, or anyone else, for that matter, you're dealing with me. Do we understand each other?

I was just glad Grandpa never used that tone of voice on me.

I knew he was tough, but not that tough.

That was one of the best Christmas Eves I can remember.

For sure it felt like something was missing, but it was also like doing a jigsaw puzzle when you can just start to see the finished picture forming out of a bunch of jagged pieces. Grace?

We had all dealt with the loss of my dad differently over the past six months, and we had all done our best to move forward in our own way.

Dear Lord, we thank you for bringing this family...

But we had also all been afraid being together at Christmas without my dad might make us feel worse again, afraid that numbing pain we'd all just gotten through was gonna come back.

But being together had the exact opposite effect.

We all felt like we were part of something bigger again.

...and for that, dear Lord, we thank you.

(all): Amen.

And so, I go to pet the dog...

We were reminded that we were a family that could never be torn apart by any loss as long as we were there for each other...

...and he said, "It's my dog". (laughing)

...to carry on.

(laughing)

Funny boy.

(talking and laughing)

(knocking on door)

Frank. (George): Tucker!

(barking)

Frank, come on in.

Hi, Frank. Merry Christmas. Jill.

Merry Christmas to you.

I don't want to bother you... You're not bothering us.

Heavens! You've just arrived in time for leftovers.

Oh, no. You've got a house full of people.

I'm sure the leftovers will get eaten around here.

There's plenty. Besides, I made extra.

Really, I don't want to interrupt.

I just wanted to come by and give George something.

Something for me?

I want you to have Tucker.

You what?

Well...

I got a new job, and it's gonna require me to do a lot of travelling for long stretches, and, well, you'd be doing me a favour if you'd take Tucker for me.

Just when I thought a day couldn't get any better, it got better.

Yeah. I mean...

I love Tucker.

That's very gracious of you, Frank.

Well, you've done so much for me.

And George has been a part of that.

Thank you, Frank.

I know we don't know each other very well, but...

John always considered you a friend, and he didn't just mean when you were young.

Thank you. I appreciate you saying that.

You don't beat yourself up, huh?

We all make mistakes now and then.

Your daddy and me, uh, started down a road and got into some things, but he saw where we were headed, and he stopped, but I didn't, and I resented him for being better than me.

But now I understand I was just hating myself for who I'd become.

But not anymore.

This family has shown me what kindness can do, and because of you, I've got a chance to change things in my life now.

That's why I want you to have Tucker.

(Frank and Cora chuckling)

George, why don't you give Frank his present?

Grandma and I picked it out.

Go ahead, open it up.

We saw that the other frame was broken, so...

Thank you.

This means a lot to me.

It means a lot to us too-- you know, to have a picture of Dad and his friend in your house.

And since we're all in this gift-giving mood here on Christmas Eve, one more for you.

He made it himself.

So, I guess someone was in on the surprise.

Yeah, when Frank told me yesterday what he wanted to do, I thought it was mighty fine of him to do it. Bo asked me what I thought about the name Tucker, and, uh, I told him I thought it was the right name.

Aw! (laughing)


Oh, Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas.

What are you doing up?

Oh, well, I thought I'd give you a hand milking.

I'd done it a time or two, you know. I was married to a dairy farmer.

And he would be very impressed to see his grownup boy taking over for him.

Mom, can I talk to you about Minnesota?

Yeah, sure. Of course.

What would you say if I said that...

I was thinking maybe... that instead of moving to Minnesota, I should stay here with Grandma and Grandpa?

I guess you've been thinking about all this.

I think they need me here.

And maybe you need to be here, where you can feel closer to your dad.

Yeah.

I like it here.

But... I also miss you.

When your dad had his accident...

...I had to get away from here.

Everywhere I looked, all I could see was him.

The reminders were... too painful.

But something you said, it got me thinking.

We need to deal with things head-on, and now that I'm back, I realized I...

I can't run away, and we're not supposed to run away; we're... we're supposed to get through it with the ones we love.

So that's why I'm thinking... about moving back here.

What?

This is where I belong too.

I feel closer to him here, just like you do.

And I like that now.

Wow.

But... what about Trisha and Hannah?

Oh, they're in college; they're supposed to be on their own. They don't need me in Minnesota.

Not that you need me;

I... I know that you're growing up too.

Well, I might be growing up, but I'm not sure I'm all the way there yet.

And I know I'd like you here.

Hi, Mary Ann. Hello. Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas.

Thank you so much for calling me, Mrs. McCray.

I wouldn't have wanted to miss this.

Oh, well, since it was you who started this, I figured it was the least I could do.

Uh, OK, I'd like everybody's attention, please.

Now, as you all know, because of all the snow and ice days, the school's Christmas play had to be cancelled this year.

Well, I went to a lot of trouble to make a beautiful suit, and I'll be darned if I'm gonna let it go to waste, so we have a visitor this Christmas morning.

Ho, ho, ho! (clapping)

Merry Christmas!

Ho, ho, ho!

Hi, Tucker!

And yes, even with all we'd gone through, it was a very merry Christmas indeed.

Looking good, McCray-- or Nick.

And I hope some of you children aren't disappointed when you find coal in your stockings this year. The real Santa would never say that.

(Bo): She's right.

(laughing)

Hey. Merry Christmas, Grandpa.

Merry Christmas, George.

You are spoiled this year.

(camera click)

(camera click)

(laughing)

And as I look back on that time, of course I'm aware there was pain.

But thankfully, I mostly remember the joy.

Tucker's been my friend now for 10 years.

He's still the best Christmas present I've ever had.

I think of Frank Thorne often and see him on occasion.

He comes to visit Tucker when we're all in the area.

I'm very happy to report my dad's old friend is doing well.

I must say, this Christmas season is shaping up to be pretty special too.

First, college graduation, and then moving back here to officially take over the McCray farm-- two rather substantial events.

But maybe not the biggest events of the year.

Yep, that's Mary Ann, my old bus-riding partner.

And yes, we got engaged last night.

You did good, McCray.

Tucker seems to be fine with my choice too. That was important to me.

Look what I found in my bedroom.

Ohhh! Yeah.

Which one of you lost this? Huh?

Turns out Hannah's family is ready for a dog.

I suspect, for the kids, the puppy trumps the ring.

Look at this one. Look what I have.

Trisha couldn't come up with any reason her family shouldn't have a little Tucker too.

(whining) Darling.

They are so sweet. They're so sleepy.

(others laughing)

Hey, everybody, look at the camera.

Aww.

We'll see how Tucker does with his cousins. Who knows?

Maybe we need a puppy around here too, to keep Tuck young. I'll let you know Tucker's decision next year.

Until then, from our family to yours, merry Christmas.

(bark)

Closed Captioning by SETTE inc.