Christmas in the life of a cattle family often brings shared joys and responsibilities.
Every year, it was the same.
We would finish our Christmas Eve dinner with my parents and grandparents in our home at the farm.
Then, as we ladies cleared the table and did the dishes, my brother, Willy, and the men headed outside for evening cattle chores.
Without fail, the water tanks always needed to be filled that evening. Just a bit more time outside.
And when the men returned to the house, the presents were miraculously under the tree. Santa sure was a sneaky fella!
The wonder never failed.
Some years, Willy’s most-treasured gifts were Breyer® horses, handcrafted wooden barns or a new truck and trailer for those toy-cattle roundups.
As he grew older, the gifts grew with him. Custom spurs. A custom saddle. The tools he needed for life on the ranch in Oklahoma.
Now, as a parent, it’s pretty special to see our own family traditions in the making.
Our Elf on the Shelf, Charlie, keeping careful watch over the kids (and causing a few middle-of-the-night panic attacks when we realize he “forgot to move” before bedtime).
Handmade, glitter-adorned ornaments on the tree, including photos of our pony, Little Man – a Christmas gift from Uncle Willy and Aunt Tracie who appeared under the Christmas tree in my parents’ living room when the boys were little.
And, so-sweet gift requests, to boot. Our 6-year-old cowboy, Nolan, has asked for nothing more than “cattle toys;” photos of the bull calves, Ranger and Kemosabe, born this spring and no longer on the property (thank goodness for cell-phone photos snapped before they departed); and supplies for the show box. I mean, really. How can Santa deny those gifts?
Without a doubt, as well, the boys will head outside with dad to do chores on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Because, regardless of the holiday, the cattle need to be fed. And the tanks may just need to be filled, as well.
From our home to yours, may your Christmas celebration bring joy and memories to carry you through the years.
And full water tanks, too.
“Show moms” share special memories
No matter the family or the age, the same traditions seem to carry through from generation to generation. I’ve asked three “show mom” friends to share their favorite Christmas memories, too.
Melissa Pickrell Davis, Gallipolis, Ohio
Mom to Maggie, 6, and Logan, 4
“My favorite Christmas memories as a farm kid were on Christmas morning. Whether we were up at the crack of dawn to see what Santa had brought or sleeping in as teenagers, one thing remained constant – the show cattle needed to be fed!
Christmas mornings in the barn can be so peaceful. I can even remember thinking about the birth of Christ… in a manger… in a barn… like mine! How humbling.
Still today, we have to make time for the cows on Christmas morning. And I love it – and I hope my kiddos enjoy it (and the Christmas message) just as much.”
Jan Unger Adcock, Chatsworth, Ill.
Mom to Tamar, 23, Taryn, 20, Dean, 18, and Del, 18
“We always head to Indiana for a night to visit my family, so my memories as a mom are of making sure all of the presents and clothes and kids get packed. Of course, we also have to line up someone for the chores!
Now that the kids are older, the boys are responsible for making sure pre-departure preparations have been made. They were talking last night at the dinner table about getting the feed mixed and labeled for their Uncle Tom, making sure water tanks are full, and checking the weather to see if tank heaters would need to be on or off.
Extra stuff to take care of before Christmas, but worth it to see my family. And no question, the cattle are worth it!”
Jennifer Carrico, Redfield, Iowa
Mom to Kassidy, 14, and Klayton, 9
“Growing up on a cattle farm, my brother and I learned early in life that the cattle had to be tended to before we opened presents on Christmas morning.
The best gift we ever received was wrapped with wrapping paper tubes around the top part of the handle and a rectangle box at the bottom. It was surely a pitchfork—one for each of us since we always would fight over the same one when it came to doing our least favorite job of cleaning out the barn. We finally opened them to find each of us had a shiny new silver show stick. Dad got a good laugh out of it. They don’t make show sticks like they used to because I still have mine. It might have a few bends in it, though.”