Growing up on a dairy farm was never boring. Each season would come and go, each with its own annual job assigned to it. The spring season was for planting crops. Summertime was for hauling hay bales to the barn for winter cow consumption. Fall was for harvesting the crops planted in the spring. And in the wintertime, everything would go dormant. The cold temperatures and heavy snow made a person just want to stay in the house and hibernate. But on a dairy farm, hibernating was not an option. The cows still had to be milked twice a day, no matter what the weather. One particular Christmas Eve sticks out in my mind.
Due to a heavy ice storm a few days before Christmas, we were without electricity on Christmas Eve. My dad was pacing the floor wondering how he was going to milk the 100 head of cows. It had been many years since he milked cows by hand and certainly not as many as he had then, so that choice was out of the question. I was 6 years old and I still remember feeling dad’s stress. He would lie down and try to rest but hearing the cows mooing in the barn lot would wake him up. He’d get up and sit in the easy chair staring at the beautiful pine Christmas tree in the living room. Finally, about 11:30 on the night of Christmas Eve, the electricity came screaming on. The lights nearly blinded us after being in darkness for almost 48 hours. But my dad quickly got his boots on, his coveralls and hat and headed for the door.
I was a daddy’s girl. I followed my dad nearly everywhere he went. I knew exactly where he was going and I wasn’t about to be left behind. Quickly getting dressed in my cow milking attire, I was out the door catching up. The air was crisp. New snow had fallen, the sky was clear, and the stars were brightly shining. Each step you took created an echoing crunch that seemed to be heard around the whole farm. The cows heard us coming and mooed with delight.
When we were nearly done with milking the cows, the strangest thing happened. It was Christmas Eve, the night Santa was to come. I wondered what every other child wonders on Christmas Eve. Would Santa Claus come to my house? And then I heard it. The bells! I heard the bells on Santa’s sleigh! I was sure of it. My dad, the best dad ever, looked at me, and knew exactly what I was thinking. He said, “Did you hear that?” I acknowledged that I had heard the bells though I was so excited, I was unable to speak. He said, “Let’s go look.”
We walked to the door of the old milk barn and looked outside. Looking up, he quickly pointed out the brightest star in the clear sky and said “Look!” I remember gasping in disbelief. Was it really Santa’s sleigh bells that I heard? My dad just smiled and said, “We’ll see when we get back to the house.”
The anticipation was overwhelming. Was I really that close to seeing Santa Claus? Had he really been there?
We finished all of the chores around 1:30 in the morning on Christmas Day. My dad and I walked hand in hand from the milk barn to the house. When we walked in, my mom’s eyes were shimmering like diamonds. I knew something spectacular must have happened. I immediately walked in to see the Christmas tree. And I stopped and stared in amazement. It was true! I did hear Santa’s sleigh bells! Beautiful packages surrounded the Christmas tree.
A few years later, I realized I had heard the cow bells on Christmas Eve, but what a sweet Christmas childhood memory.