Remember friends, family for holidays

“Christmas, for my sisters and me, meant an old sock (the biggest one we could find, stretched even bigger) hung by the fireplace. It was with wild hope we tacked those stockings there.

We knew we were poor. We knew we needed a new work horse or a new plow or a new milk cow more than anything that our young hearts would certainly dream for come Christmas morning. Come any morning.

But when Santa dropped some hard tack candy, an orange or an apple in that stocking, maybe a hand-made wooden toy on a good year, it somehow seemed magical. Magical enough to keep us going until the next Christmas rolled around.”

- Joseph Landrum, from The House, The Barn, The Old Tool Shed


Looking back to Christmas days gone by, I am astonished at how much things have changed in a relatively short time.

At the turn of the century, kids may have wished and dreamed for a magical toy, but much of the joy was in the dreaming.

In the book Little Britches, Ralph Moody says that his sister Grace told him back in 1906, “we were too poor for Santa Claus to come that year because the beans got frozen.”

The family had just moved to a ranch in Colorado, and to say that times were tough seems an incredible understatement.

He writes: “Whether Father and Mother helped Santa or not, we had a fine Christmas.

“And I never saw anything that looked as though Santa were getting any help – except the packages that came from our folks back in New England.

“Christmas Eve, Mother told us we couldn’t get up till daylight, but when the sun first peeked over Loretta Heights we were all dressed and waiting inside the bunkhouse door.

“Father and Mother were still in bed when we went tearing into the house. There was a big Christmas tree in the corner of their room – all decorated with strings of popcorn and whole cranberries – and there was a big stack of presents under it, but Father said he never even heard the sleigh bells when Santa Claus came.”

Thrilling gifts. The Moody children all got new shoes and caps with ear flaps, and stockings and heavy winter underwear for their work and play in the wintry wild west.

The young boy was thrilled to receive a new jackknife with two blades, and a new geography book.

And the children were all appreciative of the whole ham that their mother fixed for a Christmas day feast, a rare treat.

Imagine the children of today being thrilled with the gifts the Moody children received that Christmas morning long ago.

We certainly can’t blame this perspective entirely on them, as society blasts out a steady diet of “you want this, you simply HAVE to have that!”

Hitting home. As I write this, it was two years ago today that we experienced a house fire. Nothing will change one’s perspective like the devastation of a fire.

It was, most definitely, a life-changing, life-altering experience. Much of what we lost can never be replaced, and many sentimental items would be asked for if miracles could land under a Christmas tree.

We have been blessed by the friendship and caring of many wonderful people, many Farm and Dairy friends who have reached out to us – through the illness of my children, a house fire, the loss of a dear family dog – in such kind, caring, generous ways.

It is that spirit of friendship that touches us, that bonds us together no matter what the season.

In the spirit of Christmas, I wish you all the happiest of holidays, from my home to yours.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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