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Irons in the fire: An unremarkably remarkable Christmas

Paul Marchant for Progressive Forage Published on 27 November 2019

A couple of years ago, we were anticipating a rather bland Christmas. I believe it was the first year after the youngest of the kids had left the house after his graduation from high school, so I guess that officially made my wife and me empty nesters.

That was OK since we ourselves had graduated to the lofty position of grandparents. None of the grandkids, however, were going to be at our place for Christmas. One of my two youngest sons was planning on coming home from college for a day or two but, other than that, nobody else would be there for the holidays.

It just so happened that Christmas fell on a Sunday that year. That suited me because usually, when Christmas was on Sunday, church services were abbreviated to a short program with Christmas music so families could spend time together at home. I like Christmas music and short church services, so it was possible I’d stay awake for the entire program. Since we were only going to be gone for an hour or so that morning, I decided I’d treat myself and postpone the morning chores until after church.

That bitter cold Christmas morning, as we pulled out of the driveway, I glanced down the road to the haystack a hundred yards north of the house. I could see that a couple cows had discovered what I had been avoiding for several days: the broken wires on the west side of the stackyard fence.

My wife had already questioned the wisdom of my decision to delay the morning chores, and the cows-in-the-hay situation did nothing to elevate my standing in her mind. “We’ll be fine,” I told her as my son and I jumped out of the pickup and hoo-rahed the cows out of the stackyard, set the dog after them and semi-cobbled up the fence. I was pretty sure we’d get back before any more damage could be done.

To nobody’s surprise, I was wrong. About an hour later, as we rounded the corner for home after a superlative Christmas program at the church, we could see the two Jezebel cows had invited 50 or more of their friends to the Christmas alfalfa buffet. I whistled at the dogs and, with the aid of some weekday language, we managed to get the ravenous bovines out of the stackyard before they caused too much damage (aside from the bruising inflicted upon my ego by the I-told-you-so from my wife).

After a quick change of clothes, I assured my wife we’d be done with the chores and the feeding and be back in the house for Christmas dinner in two hours. Of course, the once minor repairs required by the fence were now major repairs, and the time it took to accomplish said repairs used up more than half of my allotted two hours. The chances of my ability to be anything close to punctual took another hit when I discovered the diesel in the tractor’s fuel line had gelled. By the time we got that particular condition remedied, my two hours were an hour past due. We eventually got the feeding done – only to discover the horses had been without water all day because, well, water freezes when it gets really cold.

And so it continued, one minor wreck after another until, about five minutes before dark, my son and I staggered through the back door, sorely in need of Christmas dinner. And you know what? It was indeed a fine Christmas dinner. I don’t remember for sure what it was we ate for dinner, though I know it was supremely delicious. My wife, after years of experience with my “half-hour chores,” has become especially adept at adapting.

I don’t know if my son thinks on that Christmas as fondly as I do. He may have filed it away in the memory bank with the dozens of other too-long days caused by Dad’s procrastination or neglect of attention to details. Someday though, the memory will come in handy because the most rewarding part of that most unremarkable, cold Christmas day was the feeling of peace we were granted at the close of a prayer of thankfulness that evening for a life of do-overs, granted by the One whose holy birth we honored on that day.

Merry Christmas.  end mark

Paul Marchant is a cowboy and part-time freelance writer based in southern Idaho. Follow him on Twitter or email Paul

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