Christmas memories of a farm boy
By : Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist
It was about 60 years ago that a Christmas became memorable for this retired extension beef specialist. Christmas Eve day on the Platte Valley farm was cloudy and cool. Evening chores were to be completed earlier than usual so that the family could attend Christmas Eve services at the small Presbyterian church in town.
The hay rack was loaded with small square bales of alfalfa hay and my brother and I took the wires off of the bales and kicked the hay off the wagon as Dad drove along the creek bank feeding grounds. It was one 75 pound bale to every three cows. How my Dad knew back then that 2.5% of the body weight per day for 950 – 1000 pound cows was the proper amount, I’ll never know. After the chores were completed, it was time to get cleaned up and ready to go to town.
Every Christmas Eve, the routine was about the same. We were all dressed and getting in the pickup (yes all four would ride in the cab of a 1950 GMC green pickup with a red stock rack). Always at the last minute, one of the parents would suggest that someone had better check to make certain the corn-cob burning stove was “put out” to avoid the disaster of the house burning down. I never understood why it took both Mom and Dad to check on that stove and why it took so long to check it while my brother and I sat in the seat of the pickup. Nevertheless, they eventually emerged from the house and got in the pickup and away we went the 8 and half miles to town.
Christmas Eve was a celebration at the church. First there was the traditional oyster stew supper that was enjoyed by everyone. Everyone that year enjoyed their stew except for my Dad. Someone had retaliated to one of Dad’s previous pranks by dosing my father’s bowl with a couple of table spoons of cayenne pepper. After the meal had been served in the social hall/basement of the church, everyone went up to sanctuary for the candlelight service. I must confess that I don’t remember the message of the sermon, but for an 8 year-old boy on Christmas Eve, it seemed like it lasted forever. After the service, everyone was invited to go back downstairs for a surprise. Santa was there handing out brown paper bags to the children. Each bag contained an apple, an orange, some salted-in-the-shell peanuts, and couple of pieces of ribbon candy. It is amazing that I can remember what was in the sack but not what was said in the sermon! I was impressed that Santa would take time out of his busy schedule to stop by our little church to hand out the goodies.
Now it is time to go home. As we left the church we were a bit surprised to find a couple of inches of new snow on the ground. It was coming down heavily. As we drove home the large snowflakes continued to fall straight down as there was no wind. It was beautiful. Enough moonlight seeped through the clouds to give that mantel of white a bit of a glow. The scenes reminded me of pictures on some of the Christmas cards we had received. Now my mind turned toward the notion that Santa may have already visited our house. If he had been there, we would be allowed to open presents before going to bed.
I had written to Santa asking for a certain baseball glove that I saw in the local hardware/sporting goods store and had admired repeatedly. As this age, I still dreamed of playing centerfield for the New York Yankees. Arriving back home and rushing into the house, what joy I felt when the lights were turned back on and the previously bare Christmas tree now had a multitude of presents underneath the lowest branches. Yes, we could open our presents before going to bed. There were new overshoes, socks, and blue jeans. And then there was a square package about a foot wide and a foot tall that had my name on it. As I opened it, I could smell the leather and was thrilled to remove the “Alvin Dark” signature baseball glove from its box. I couldn’t wait until daylight to play catch with someone. I took the glove to bed with me. I had not given much thought to who would play baseball with me in 6 inches of snow and 25 degrees.
The next day was clear and bright and again we made the trip to the little town to have dinner with aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. Baseball would have to wait for warmer days. As always we came back home in time to do the chores and put out the bales of hay for the cows. It had been a super Christmas. Little did I know at the time, what a memory it would provide for another 60 years.
I hope everyone reading this has that kind of memorable Christmas this year!