Christmas on the Farm
This memory, shared by Ellissa Clark of Clark Family Dairy in Morgan, UT, is an unbelievably touching account of the true meaning of this season.
When I was 4 years old, my dad became a dairy farmer. I was in heaven! Riding horses, playing in the cotton seed, petting the calves, and swimming in the ditch became my favorite pastimes. As I grew older, my carefree life on the dairy farm took a sharp turn. I remember the day that the reality of dairy life really sunk in. It was December, and Christmas was getting closer. Of course, the cows have to be milked on Christmas morning, just like any other day, and we want our employees to be home with their families so we handle all the milking that day. The first few years that our family owned the farm, my siblings and I weren’t old enough to milk cows. Fortunately, there were older cousins and an uncle who lived near the farm who would help us milk that morning. But, in my dad’s opinion, my brother and I had officially reached the age that we could handle the Christmas morning milking on our own. This was a tough situation for my brother and me because Christmas morning has always been such a special morning spent with cousins and family. At the house where my mom grew up, Christmas morning came very early, about the same time that milking cows starts – but at her house they didn’t have cows on their minds. There were presents to open, games to play, and candy to eat. She will admit that the thought of sending her 12 and 10 year olds to the farm in the cold and snow for several hours of work made her sad. However, it didn’t seem to faze my dad at all. So on Christmas morning my mom woke us up and tried to put on her “perky mom” face. “Hey kids, it’s time to go milk the cows – hurry and go get it done. I promise we won’t open any presents, or play any games, or eat any candy until you get home.” We put on our coats and boots and headed out the door with dad – Ethan was not too upset, but I was distraught and acting very upset.
At the farm, things weren’t going too well. My brother and I were young and not very experienced with milking cows – I was crying, my brother was frustrated, and the milking was taking longer than usual. After a couple hours my dad decided to give me a break (or maybe himself a break) by sending me out to feed the horses. I had always liked the horses, so I walked across the barnyard to the horse corral to pitch some hay to them. The hay is stored in a covered area to protect it from the snow. I stood in that covered area and used a pitch fork to throw hay over the fence into the feeder on the other side. As I finished the job, I was again overcome with sadness and I threw the pitch fork down and collapsed in the hay and began to cry. I cried and cried wondering why I had to be born into a dairy farm family. Then something remarkable happened. As the morning sun came up over the mountains I realized that it was Christmas morning, and I was lying in the hay. My mind was turned to another Christmas morning, the first Christmas morning, and another child who had lain in the hay. At that moment, everything changed. I gathered myself together and returned to the barn to finish milking with my dad and brother. I learned that morning that Christmas is not about the candy, decorations, lights, or even the presents. The real reason for the season is the little babe of Bethlehem who was born in the hay.
~ Ellissa Clark – Morgan, UT