Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas for Shepherds

"Back in the cities, they have different ways,
Football and eggnog and Christmas parades
I'll take my blankets, I'll take the reins,
It's Christmas for cowboys on the wide open plains."

                                                                    -- John Denver

A week from today, my youngest daughter will awaken us early on Christmas morning.  I think she's taken over my role as the member of our family most excited about Christmas!  She even wants me to teach her how to make coffee this year, so she can bring me a cup in bed (which, as the theory goes, will get me out of bed sooner).  After opening our gifts to each other and eating our traditional cinnamon roll breakfast, we'll all head outside to do our home chores.  We'll feed the horse and mule, let the few sheep we keep at home out of their night pen, feed the hog and check on the chickens.

Since we keep most of our sheep on rented pasture about 6 miles from home, our Christmas Day chores involve some driving.  Usually, I do these chores by myself, but on Christmas, the girls go with me.  Sami's happy to have us all out of the house, I think - she gets to clean up a bit before the next round of Christmas festivities (all food-related).  I relish the time tending our sheep with my daughters.

We usually try to move the sheep onto fresh grass a day or two before Christmas, which makes our Christmas Day chores easy.  We feed the guard dogs, check the condition of the ewes, and walk our fences.  Our border collies join us - there's not much for them to do, but they'd mope if we left them home.  If the day is cold and wet (like we hope it is this year), we look forward to getting back to the house and warming up in front of the wood stove.

In many respects, Christmas is like any other day for a shepherd - the sheep still need my attention.  Christmas Day is special in my family - not only for it's cultural and religious significance, but also for the reminder that we get to work with each other.  We get to work outside, and we get to work with livestock.

Shepherds' chores, in many ways, haven't changed much through the centuries.  I still worry about my sheep.  Like my predecessors, I make sure they've got plenty to eat and that they're protected from predators.  As I watch my daughters working with me, especially on Christmas morning, I grateful that another generation is learning how to tend sheep.  I couldn't ask for a better Christmas gift.

Merry Christmas!

The goofy Macon girls - Christmas Day 2014

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