Holiday memories: Christmas in the barn
In December, memories come out along with the ornaments, wreath and the carols on the radio. Seeing neighborhood decorations brings up the image of your dad hanging lights on the evergreen tree in the front yard. Watching kids line up in front of the department store Santa Claus reminds you of your daughter's first nervous visit to the man in red. Funny, sentimental, even bittersweet memories—Christmas brings them all back.
We asked area residents to share their favorite Christmases. We think you'll enjoy hearing their stories.
Donna Duerst, the 4-H youth development educator at the University of Wisconsin-Extension in Rock County remembers the year her horse turned into something of a ham:
“Christmas in the barn. Gentle animals dozing peacefully in their stalls. The air filled with the sweet smell of hay and the special warmth of the season. A real silent night, right? Well, it might have happened that way, but it didn't!
“When I was in my mid-teens our church decided to have an advent service in our small horse barn. The first thing we did was stack hay bales on the side opposite the stalls for seating. Then we assessed the animal situation. All we had at the time were two horses. We had four box stalls to fill, so we borrowed another horse from a neighboring 4-H friend and some sheep from another neighbor.
“Seating on hay bales…check. Animals in all the stalls…check. Coldest night of the year…what? We couldn't do anything about the weather so we bundled into our warmest coats and welcomed our church family to our barn. My old horse promptly turned his back on the visitors and waited for them to leave, while my 4-H show horse decided everyone was there just to see him. He hung his head over the stall half-door, eyes wide, searching for attention.
“The service began, the congregation huddled together on the hay bales and the pastor facing them with his back to the stalls. His head was covered with the hood of his thick down coat. I didn't think anything of the scene until he backed up to my show horse's stall door. I silently beseeched the horse to behave, but I knew it was just a matter of time.
“Sure enough, my horse began to pick at the pastor's hood with his rubbery and elastic lips. At first it was just his lips, but then I heard the unmistakable sucking sound of a large set of teeth separating in a large horse's mouth. Before I could intervene, my horse had the hood between his teeth and began to raise his head to the ceiling.
“The pastor didn't notice anything was amiss until the hood tightened around his face and he was lifted to his toes. I was in the midst of a moral dilemma, struggling between interrupting the service to help the pastor and stifling a storm of giggles. My dilemma was solved when my horse grew tired of the game and released the surprised pastor of his own accord.
“Christmas in the barn: the congregation shivering on bales as cold as ice cubes, the pastor's eyes bugging out as my horse slowly lifted him off the ground by the hood, me attempting to refrain from outright laughter…so much for a silent night!”