Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Tale

Christmas on the Farm, 1963

I will never forget Christmas on the farm in 1963. It had been a miserable wet year and all our corn was under water at harvest, including my 20 acre FFA Project that was voted most likely to win the chapter corn yield contest.

Agriculture was really taking it on the chin that year and I received a record low 10 cents per pound for my county fair market hogs! The likelihood of farming and college seemed to be slipping away!

Dad did not have enough corn to feed the livestock so the local feed mill gave him all the corn cobs they had all winter and that is what we used to keep the cows alive! Ground corn cobs and molasses, all winter long!

There was not much for Christmas, either, so dad’s school teaching non-married sisters proved themselves as special aunts! I still remember the slide rule and chemistry books and materials I got as I was into science and radio.

I met my Elmer as they say in the world of Amateur Radio, dad’s brother-in-law Paul Hummer, W8FKJ. Our family got together at his house. Christmas Eve and I met him for the first time in my life. I had been teaching myself the Morse code and got to pound it out for him while he listened, then he sent me code and I copied it down.

We had a great time but soon it was time to head back to the farm. The code rang in my brain all night long and I was not able to sleep much. Even the Christmas Show on WRVA, Richmond, Virginia was not able to put me to sleep on the crystal radio I had built and listened to under the covers each night when I was supposed to be sleeping instead.

It had not been too long under those covers when I heard a distinct sound of sleigh bells. The automobile and tractor had taken the place of the horse and carriage and assorted farm equipment by these times so what could it be? Then I heard a loud clamoring on the rooftop and my heart stuck in my throat.

All those years I had believed in Santa but years of scientific study and schooling and peer pressure made me KNOW it was impossible. Nothing was under the tree when we went to bed and we did not expect much because we knew there was not much money to go around.

I snuck out to the living room and there were toys and gifts and presents and fruit and candy everywhere!!! How was this possible? How could this be??? Just then I heard more clamoring and ran back to my bedroom just in time to see a streak of lights shaped like a long team and sleigh shoot off into the sky!

Quite shaken, I hid under the covers to daybreak. I had planned to give dad a present by sneaking out and feeding for him Christmas morning. I got to the barn and you know what I found?

The cows had that special look like something magical had happened. Everything was so peaceful and perfect. Words cannot describe the magic of a Christmas like 1963. But I took care of that later in the day.

Can you imagine what my present was? A Chemistry set! It did not take me long to whip up the most aromatic batch of hydrogen sulfide you ever smelled in your life! That rotten egg gas got into the furnace air flow and the family was out of the warm Christmas home standing out in the cold before you can say Madam Curie!

Everything was back to normal. The magic of Christmas was quickly a dream, just like it had been 24 hours before.



  1. Merry Christmas Ed! Somewhere I have a crystal set. It needs a new cat whisker. We have two cats I am sure they would not miss a whisker...

  2. Do a search on crystal sets Budde. Change the words around. I almost bought a fancy crystal set this time last year, thinking of putting a wire up from tree to barn but LuAnn hates wires.

    That is amazing old technology, no doubt. Those are vivid memories now in my older age, LOL.