Holiday memories

Growing up on the farm on the fringe of the snow belt in Northeastern Ohio left many memories of snowy Christmas seasons. Christmas time was always special at our house because Christmas Eve also was my father’s birthday. He often said that when he was young, it didn’t seem fair that he only got a present one time a year. Back in the early 1900s, they didn’t go all out for Christmas like they do now—he would get an orange in a stocking hung by the fireplace, maybe some extra candy or a fruitcake if it was a good year. Things were different then. They were even different from today when I was little. We lived out in the country on a working farm that had been in the family nearly 200 years. It was real different.

Usually, on Christmas Eve we would get the livestock in early. We wintered about eight brood cows and up to 16 horses. Feeding time was done quickly because of the wind and cold lake effect coming off Lake Erie about 50 miles away. We would start by going up in the hay mow and throwing down some bales. Putting the hay in the mangers and the feed in the feedboxes. Then we would let out a yodel and the animals would start coming. Cows in their stanchions, each horse knew their own stall. The barn would start to warm up and we would begin putting water in the buckets for the horses. If the pump was froze up, I would take a bucket and an axe out to the pond some 100 yards away and carry water a bucket at a time.

One particular snowy Christmas Eve, Dad quit working earlier than normal. There was about eight inches of snow on the ground and it was pretty cold. We put the livestock in early and Dad asked if I wanted to play in the snow a bit. He had an idea in mind. I was game for anything he wanted to do. He saddled up Hollywood, his champion palomino quarter horse stallion, got a long rope, tied it to the handle of a scoop shovel. The idea was that he would ride Hollywood along the field at a gallop pulling the shovel. I would sit on the shovel, holding onto the handle as we glided through the snow. Great idea. Sounds like fun. But in practice it was more difficult than imagined. After a few disastrous bumps and flies, probably caused by the corn stalk stubs, I got the hang of it and it was—how did we say it back then—“swell!”

There was always a party after Christmas Eve services at our house. People would come from all around with birthday wishes for Dad. One such couple, Betty and Gene Flynn, often arrived a little later than others because they lived farther away. And every time Betty walked in the door on Christmas Eve, a fuse would blow. This happened for about five years straight (until we replaced the fuse box with breakers). Dad would get a flashlight and precariously make his way down the crude steps to the back of the cellar and replace the fuse while the guest waited for the lights to come on. Psalm 104:17 says, “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.” These memories, to the Lord’s mercy, are everlasting. I’m thankful for them. Make some this year.

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Bill Wilson