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Hot chocolate stains and rare moments

Progressive Forage Editor Joy Hendrix Published on 27 November 2019

We’re pleased to introduce Joy Hendrix, a new editor at Progressive Forage, who will be helping Managing Editor Lynn Jaynes with many editorial responsibilities. Lynn isn’t going anywhere, and she’ll be back in this space next month as usual (she’s just excited she’ll get a day off now and then). Feel free to reach out to Joy or Lynn with your magazine comments.

Christmas isn’t complete for me without witnessing a live nativity. Every year, the church I grew up attending produces a live nativity the Sunday before the big day. Southeastern New Mexico is cold enough at Christmastime, you have to layer both jackets you own on top of each other to stay warm, or be one of the lucky few who can still fit into the one heavy jacket you bought 10 years ago and only wear a handful of times a year.

For me, watching the nativity is a chance to reflect on the season.

The “live” part comes from the church members who volunteer to dress up as characters. The wise men wear costumes of incredible colors adorned with jewels to make their status known. A host of small children dress in solid white angel costumes with parents following after them trying to prevent them from spilling hot chocolate down the front of their white robes (although the spill is inevitable).

The shepherds are mixed in with live baa-ing sheep and everyone holds their breath while Mary mounts the donkey, because no one ever seems to be certain how broke the donkey actually is. The variety of animals that can be found for such an event in small-town New Mexico is pretty impressive. After all, animals like the camel named Runyan aren’t something you see every day in the Southwest.

My family always did what we could to help with this production, despite not having many animals that were deemed safe enough to perform with spotlights and fog machines. I did my time in the white angel costume with scratchy wings and a hot chocolate stain on the front, but my dad’s role was much more unique.

As the alfalfa farmer in the church, my dad volunteered to bring small bales of hay so the animals would eat the hay and stay quiet during the reenactment. (He doesn’t do small bales anymore, so you’ll have to find another source to donate to your local nativity.)

Near the end of each nativity every year, before the choir finishes their last hymn and after the scriptures have been read, the narrator encourages the audience to take some time in that week to turn off the Christmas tree lights, ignore the glitter and tinsel, and remember with all of their hearts and minds the most precious gift of all.

For those in this industry, I believe a moment for reflection comes more naturally in this season.

The moment may come from the sudden silence of the freshly fed cows that were previously bawling like they couldn’t remember their last meal.

The moment may come after you finish replacing the spark plugs on the tractor that has needed it for a few months, but you had to get the hay in the barn, and that tractor is the only one with a working heater.

The moment may come when you watch the sunrise above the blanket of snow covering the field you haven’t decided what to do with next year.

Take advantage of small moments for reflection knowing the next growing season is coming, and the long warm days and short humid nights will be back again. You won’t be given the holidays off, and you may have to leave the dinner table to fix a down fence, but try to see the moments only you can use to reflect.

These are the rare moments when someone in agriculture can feel peace, because the reality of this profession is: No matter the date, cows still need to be fed and there will still be pipes that need to be thawed.

If the fourth week of this month approaches and you still haven’t found that reflective moment, take your family to the local nativity and wait for the last line to cue you. At the very least, the stains on the little angel costume should make you smile.  end mark

Joy Hendrix
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