|A Christmas Gift|
by Ralph Rice
Pellets of icy snow whip around the barnyard, scattered by the wind,
and begin piling on the frozen ground in small drifts against the buildings. The
sound alone of the wind howling across the empty pastures is enough to make me
turn up my collar. With the cold nipping at my ears, I hurry to the barn.Ralph Rice's column "Reflections" appears regularly in
Rural Heritage. This column appeared in the
Stepping into the warm barn I greet my animal charges. They all
looked up as they chew their cuds or munch from their mangers, and the horses
nicker softly. The chores have been done for awhile now, and all the animals are
content, full, and ready to bed down for the night. All but one.
In the corner stall a heifer rests uncomfortably as her calf's
birthday approaches. She has been restless since chore time. She lies down and
strains a bit, then rises and shuffles in the stall. I sit and wait for the
birthing to begin.
Back at the house my wife and family share cookies and conversation
on this Christmas Eve. The children play and laugh excitedly, enjoying each
other's company and the magic Christmas brings. All of us are thankful for full
bellies and full lives.
The heifer draws my attention as she again lies down. Now I see two
small white hooves and the pink of a little nose. The heifer strains and the
baby's head comes free. A couple more pushes from momma and a new wiggling bull
calf lies on the strawthe miracle of birth again shared with this grateful
The mother diligently works to clean her calf. I attend to his navel
and give him an over-all inspection. Suddenly I am aware of the stillness that
surrounds me, as the other animals pay a silent tribute to the newborn son. All
is quiet but for the licking of the mother cow. The placenta passes and the
birth process is complete.
Encouraged by his mother's nuzzling the little fellow is soon up and
having his first meal. His little tail wags in appreciation as his belly fills
with warm milk. With the knowledge that the new baby works on both ends, I bid
the animals goodnight.
On my way up the path toward our house the cold once again grips my
body, yet warmth radiates from my smile. "It's a boy," I tell my
family, feeling a little like an innkeeper in the crowded house. In a flurry of
hastily thrown on coats and mittens our gleeful crew hastens out to see the
proud mother and her Christmas gifta now-sleeping baby in a bed of golden