Barnyard Christmas

“Daddy’s gone to the woods to get the Christmas tree.” Eddie whispered to me. I grinned. “Maybe he will get us a big one this year!” I cried. Eddie shooshed me. I quieted down. Over our breakfast pancakes, mom looked at us and asked “What are you two muttering about?” We just smiled innocently. We ate and rushed out the door, to play. Christmas vacation was always a fun time. Eddie, ten and I, eight, we loved to build snow forts and we spent most of the day doing just that. We lived on a large farm in Vermont. A nice snow was settled in. We sledded, made snowmen, threw large snowballs and had a fine time. We also snuck out to the barn. Eddie had an idea. I knew better than to go, but his spunk was contagious. “It’ll be fun, Ellie!” I followed him innocently. He pulled the long strand of Christmas lights out of the hay. “What in the world are you going to do with those?” I asked him. He smiled. Then he headed towards Albert. The oldest and slowest hog in the pen. “Oh no!” I exclaimed. “Oh yes!” he said. He wrapped the lights around the huge hog and plugged them in. Albert was now the shiniest and brightest pig that ever lived. He was twinkling, blinking and still not moving very much. Eddie and I cracked up. What a Christmas pig! Just in time for Christmas eve night. We went back home and tried not to laugh too much. Mom looked us a bit too closely, but she kept silent. I suppose she thought we were filled with the Christmas cheer of being out of school for two weeks. That wasn’t the half of it!

Dad came in, lugging a huge pine tree behind him. My, it was big! The biggest Christmas tree that I had ever seen. He plunked it down in the stand, threw the white cover over the floor around it, in the living room and told us all to get to it decorating. We did. I vaguely remember mom asking him about a small brown place, near the top of the tree, kind of buried into the dense pine. He totally ignored her. “That’s the finest tree we have ever had!” he exclaimed. Eddie and I agreed. Well, once decorated and lit up, it was quite magnificent. Dad headed out to the barn to feed the animals. Mom went about fixing supper and Eddie and I threw on our coats and followed dad through the snow to the barn. As dad made his way to the pig pen, we heard him gasp. That was followed by loud laughter and “Albert, what a fine pig you are, so beautiful, you should be dancing a jig!” Eddie and I burst out laughing. Dad looked at us and said “Well, you have blessed this poor pig.” We all laughed until we cried. Dad got mom and made her look at Albert and all his finery. She laughed, too. “Now, unplug and unwrap that pig, before he roasts himself.” dad said. We did.

Now, I had always wanted to take care of a baby animal, but none had come along yet, on the farm. I constantly asked my dad for baby cows, baby pigs and what not, but he said that was not what he was into. We did have baby chicks, but the hens guarded them so well, I could not get within ten feet of them. Still, I had a dream and dreams never die. On Christmas morning, Eddie and I scampered to the tree to see what Santa had brought us. I had a new bike. Eddie had new ice skates. We were more than pleased. Then, I heard a very strange noise. Among the unopened presents under the tree, there was a scuffling. Rattling. Scratching. Mom and dad had just arrived beside the tree. “What in the devil is that noise?” dad asked us. We all shrugged. Then, I saw two beady bright black shiny eyes staring at me. From under the Christmas tree. I reached out and found a brown tiny animal crawling it’s way slowly up my arm. A baby squirrel! It cuddled into my shoulder.

Of course, mom started having a cow, saying that she knew that big brown place in the tree was funny looking. Turns out, it was a squirrel nest. With one precious baby left. Mine! No one could pry me from that baby squirrel. I bottle fed it for a year. I named it Nutty. And exactly one year later, I turned it loose. Well fed and raring to go. I scatter nuts out all across the yard constantly. Yes, I still see Nutty, occasionally. She has her own family. They visit just before Christmas every year. Gathering acorns, and all that I give. I know her. She looks at me with those beady black shiny eyes and smiles. Waving her tail. Letting me know that she will always be just mine. Dad looks very carefully for Christmas trees now. Next year, Eddie and I are going to decorate the oldest cow. Don’t tell!

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