The Farm Chronicles: The Christmas Break

My senior year in college seemed like a particularly long one, especially winter quarter. The weather was chilling to the bone. My roommate Jimmy and I had signed up for an agronomy class at 8:00 in the morning. Ohio State’s campus was huge and it was over a mile trek to the old classroom in that damp cold. Professor Hines was nothing like his brother, who taught economics. No, this Hines was about as boring as watching corn grow. We kept falling asleep. Soon Jimmy and I were skipping the morning class and just attending the lab later in the day. Even that was taxing, but we befriended a Teacher’s Assistant, Jean, who helped us out a lot. She was from Colorado, kind of a mountain hiker, nature girl.

Jimmy and I weren’t doing so well in agronomy, barely passing the tests—well, to be honest, we were kidding ourselves. We were flunking. Except that our lab work was exceptional. Jean brought it to life for us and we were acing the labs. As it turned out, Christmas break was fast approaching and Jimmy and I were talking about our plans. We asked Jean if she was going home to Colorado. She said that she had no money to go home and was just going to stay at the University. Jimmy and I looked at each other and we said almost at the same time, “Why don’t you spend Christmas break with us?” I don’t think Jean had ever been asked such a thing by a boy, let alone two. We weren’t trying to date her, we were just being sincere that she shouldn’t spend Christmas without family. She thought it over a couple of days and said “yes.”

She came up just after Christmas and split her time between Jimmy’s place in Cleveland and our farm in Portage County. My folks had gifts for her and a special time planned where some of our other classmates in the area joined us. Dad hitched the horses up to the bobsled and the sleigh. We went on a tour of the hundred-acre farm, drinking apple cider as the horses pulled us through the paths in the woods. We ended up at the pond, which was frozen over in the sub-zero weather. We swept the snow off, started a little bonfire off to the side, and skated on the pond—taking breaks to warm ourselves by the fire. Horses, sleigh and bobsled, snowflakes falling, skating in the pond, we were like a Norman Rockwell painting. We ended up around the kitchen table telling stories about where we grew up, and laughing about the day.

Back at school, Jimmy and I went to see Jean on our last lab class. She asked us into her little office where she showed us the bad news. There were all these names and numbers on a sheet of paper, probably about 300 in the class. Ohio State’s a big school. Line after line of names and numbers. Then a couple of lines skipped, Jimmy’s and my name and numbers, then a couple more lines skipped and a bunch of other names below ours. She said that Professor Hines drew the line for passing just above our names. Our hearts sank. But with a wry Colorado smile, she said she talked him into moving the line below ours, so we would pass. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with them that rejoice and mourn with them that mourn.” It could have gone either way, but we got a Christmas Break thanks to Jean. We rejoiced!


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Bill Wilson