tagNon-EroticA Farmer Wife's Christmas

A Farmer Wife's Christmas

byJenny _S©

During the long walk in the dim light of dawn through the snow to the woodshed, Ann picked up the old, double bite ax. She felt the long used smoothness of the wooden handle and it brought back memories of many such trips in the early morning cold to the woodshed to split kindling and gather fire wood for the large, old wood stove. This was a morning ritual that Ann knew from long practice. Since she was just a girl on her father's farm she had done this. It was a needed early morning chore. With the men working outside in the cold it was a woman's job to keep a warm stove for them to come too. And now a married women, she continued he chore on the farm she owned with her husband, Jake. But now things were different. Now Ann performed this ritual for no real purpose.

Stopping to look at the orange sun peeking over the distant hills Ann thought to herself, "Christmas Eve and no word from Jake in over a month." Jake was a member of the National Guard and had been mobilized for the insanity, "Iraqi Freedom". Why? Why send our men off to fight a war in a land where we are not wanted? Why allow our young men to die to overthrow a leader we know nothing about? Why take Jake to die in a place about which nothing was even known. The government's contention that our men had to go to die in a country so far away to protect our homeland made no sense.

These thoughts were broken by a momentary smile as Ann pondered their last moments together when she dropped him off at the Reserve Center outside North Platte in July. She could still imagine the long good bye kiss, then Jake walking in his uniform toward the gate, his heavy duffel over his strong shoulder. She waited in the pickup, watching until he was through the gate and out of sight before turning the pickup back to the highway and home. Tears ran down her cheeks. Even then a feeling of great loss and fear choked her heart. Even then she knew Jake would never come home.

Setting a cottonwood log on end on the old stump in the middle of the woodshed, Ann dropped the ax on the end of a dry wood. With a crack, the log split neatly down the center. Again and again the ax fell striking the wood with a monotonous crack until there was a scattered pile of kindling around her feet. In this way Ann freed her mind for a while with monotonous work.

Setting the ax aside, Ann stooped to stack the wood in the crook of her left elbow to carry it back to the house, knowing that the day was only beginning. After warming herself in front of the stove there were chores to do, cattle to feed, all the things that Jake would do if he were here.

The trudge back to the house, her arms loaded with wood, from the woodshed seemed longer each day. And each day a little colder. Ann longed for her husband. Longed to be held in his strong arms. More than anything else, longed to sit hand in hand in front of the Christmas tree she had bought and decorated with flickering lights and glass ornaments she had purchased. Even the presents were wrapped and sitting invitingly under the tree. Not many. One from her parents. One from Jake's brother. Several from friends and neighbors. None from or for Jake. Ann had sent those presents to him in the mail weeks before. But nothing had come back from Jake. Ann remembered the words of the song; "Christmas is a special time of year." But this Christmas seemed more a special kind of torment.

The kindling crackled in the stove as it caught the fire from yesterday's newspaper, but still the great iron stove shed no heat. Ann wondered if she would ever be warm again, not just her body, but her soul? It seemed the stove was a reflection of her loneliness. Cold, hard, battling a loneliness of its own against the cold. She felt so tired and alone. How she wished to hear Jake's laughter when he came in from his morning chores. But now there was no laughter. There was only the cold and the darkness of her spirit.

Turning, Ann picked up her heavy coat and went out into the yard then around the house to the barn. Already the milk cow was waiting patiently for the morning milking. Entering the barn, Ann scooped a bucket of grain from the bin and dumped it into the trough. Pushing open the door. The cow dutifully moved to her place and began munching the grain. Ann began milking slowly, the milk ringing against the sides of the steel bucket.

Somehow this was the chore she hated the most. This was Jake's first job in the morning and last at night. Now here she was doing the work belonging to her man. Eventually her hands caught the rhythm and her mind moved on to other things.

Carrying the heavy bucket to the calf pen she filled two feeder buckets and held them over the fence for the youngsters. Greedily they sucked at the rubber nipples until the buckets were dry. Then, hanging the buckets on the fence, Ann took the remainder of the milk to the house.

Now the kitchen felt warm. The stove generating heat through out the room. Ann warmed her hands over the iron top. Feeling almost joy as the stove battled to overcame the bitterness of the cold in her icy fingers.

The phone rang. Moving across the room Ann picked up the receiver from the wall phone. "Hello?"

"Mrs. Maddock?"

"Yes. This is Ann Maddock."

"Mrs. Maddock, this is Major Crawford from the National Guard. I have some news about your husband."

Ann nearly dropped the phone. Tears welled in her eyes. She knew what would come next. First the phone call then a military car with an officer and a Chaplain to console her in her grief. She had waited for this phone call. She had known for some time it would come. She waited expectantly and at the same time feared it would come. But still knowing it would.

Oh Jake. My lovely Jake. Ann dropped to a chair, the telephone receiver resting in her lap. Her hands covering her eyes. Silent sobs wracking her whole body. At this moment she knew all her fears were true. Spc4 Jake Maddock died a hero in some dirty, far off land that no one in the prairies of Nebraska could either know the location of or even care about. It was not fair. Ann and Jake had barely begun their life together. And now it was over, finished.

"Mrs. Maddock? Are you there?"

Picking up the receiver Ann said simply, between the tears, "Yes."

"Your husband, Jake was badly wounded near the town of Basra. But he is okay."

"Jake. You're sure? Is he alright?" Ann's breath caught at the question. Joy coursed through her like an electric shock. All the months of waiting, fearing over.

"Well. I understand he was wounded quite seriously. But he is coming home. He lands at the airbase outside Sioux City this evening. That's all I know, Ma'am."

"Oh God, Thank you, Major. Thank you." Now tears of joy streamed uncontrollably down her face. Relief from months of waiting, hoping, fearing. But now he's coming home. Wounded, but home where he belonged.

Without even thinking Ann picked up her coat and run outside to the old Ford pickup. Using a broom she brushing the snow off the windshield. Climbing in she starting the motor and forced the old truck out onto the snow covered road, then gunned the engine heading east toward I-80 and Sioux City.

The drive would be long. The road would be treacherous with snow and black ice. But in spite of the dangers, this would be the most joyous Christmas of all.

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byJenny _S© 0 comments/ 66520 views/ 0 favorites

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