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December 22, 1997


A Christmas Eve story

  by Lisa Allen
   When my husband and I were dairy farmers in the Snoqualmie Valley, Christmas was always pretty much like any other day, with milking and feeding going on as usual, between the eating and the present-opening. Another activity that always seemed to keep us busy on Christmas was calving. There always seemed to be at least one animal that decided to have a calf on the holiday. One Christmas Eve a few years ago, a heifer named Annabelle was due to calve so I had placed her in a small pasture next to the house to keep an eye on her. After milking I went to see how she was doing but found...nothing. She had broken through the fence and disappeared into the woods beyond. A black heifer on a dark night, I thought, could be hard to find. But find her I must, as young animals often have a hard time calving.
   I headed into the woods carrying the biggest flashlight I could find. After spending some time searching with no luck, I hoped that if I was quiet enough I could hear her. It was a cold, clear night. I stood on the edge of the woods, enveloped by quiet, the frosty ground reflecting the moon. After a few minutes I heard a low moan coming from a brushy area close by. Following the sound, I found the heifer deep in labor, the calf stuck tight about a third of the way out. I summoned my husband, who came with a rope to put on the calf's front legs. Working around the trees and brush was difficult, but soon we had a calf on the ground and a very tired, but okay, heifer who would be in the milking herd for years to come. I headed back to the barn. The lights were still on and the radio was playing. As I approached I could hear the Hallelujah Chorus. It was Christmas.
   As the legend goes, at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, the animals kneel and talk. I couldn't help myself. I peeked in the barn, but saw only the cows quietly eating in their stanchions. They didn't care about the legend and it didn't matter, for they, and we, were at peace.