A year ago I wrote a sentimental tribute to my daughters during the Christmas season.
Thinking perhaps my son might have felt slighted, I suggested maybe this year I would say something nice about him.
"If it's going to be sentimental or gooshy," he said, "just run the one about my sisters again."
My son is a genuine cowman who honestly does have hayseed in his ears on occasion and is perfectly comfortable tending his cows on the breaks of the Umatilla River or visiting remote pasture sites in the fall. During an interview for his wife's blog, he allowed he is "kind of a by myself sort of guy," although his 3-year old son spent a month living with him in a fifth wheel during calving season last year and is a frequent passenger no matter what the destination. They also have an 18-month old who may soon be in the back seat as well.
This is also a young man who for three years running gave his wife a new set of tires for Valentine's Day. When she wondered about the symbolism of the gift, he appeared shocked. "Those tires cost $976.43," he told her. "How many guys spend that kind of money on a Valentines gift for their wife? Also," he went on, "they are 10 ply, top of the line - expensive, tough, durable, and reliable. I care about your safety and welfare."
Last year, deciding that the tires weren't hitting the mark and having already presented her with a new set on Halloween, he instead surprised her by naming a registered Red Angus heifer in her honor. He proudly clipped the page from the Lorenzen sale catalog which identified Murdock Lindsay 7502T along with the heifer's birthdate, birth weight, weaning weight, backfat, and marbling ability, as well as other production information. Just the sort of thing that makes a girl feel special...although fortunately he had the good sense to use the animal's statistics rather than his wife's.
He circled the catalog entry with a red heart and sent flowers to her classroom at Rocky Heights. When she appeared mildly overwhelmed...or underwhelmed as the case might be...he responded with "I'm just a caring guy."
His wife tried to put the gift into perspective, suggesting something like "now who wouldn't want to be one of the 80 heifers for sale."
She was a bit relieved about the tires because it was right during "free beef days" at Les Schwab's and the last thing they needed was more beef for their freezer. They have plenty of that already. Anytime we visit, we are offered multiple packages of hamburger. Unfortunately, they apparently don't raise the kind of cattle from which one would get steaks.
My son is in the hay and straw business which requires him to spend four or five months a year wandering the backroads of northeast Oregon and southeastern Washington. It is something that comes naturally to him. He spent the better part of his teenage years traversing the same roads with his friend Eric Cochran in old pickup trucks they resurrected from the scrap pile.
Eric's dad once suggested both of them ought to become county agents because they know every farm in the county.
This fall, my grandson Mason discovered Whitey, his favorite cow, was open (wasn't going to calve) and he made the difficult decision to sell her. This wasn't an easy decision because every day during feeding, Mason wasn't happy until he was able to spot Whitey somewhere on the horizon. Anyway, as the cows were being loaded for the sale, his dad suddenly discovered there just wasn't enough room in the trailer for Whitey. Much to the relief of his son, he had to leave Whitey behind. Amazing how something like that happens.
Twelve months ago when I talked about my daughters, it was in the context of a cherished Hallmark card and a Christmas tradition that marked the welcoming of the day amidst the snow and the wonder of winter.
On many occasions I have watched quietly as my son dishes out extra alfalfa to his cows on Christmas morning and spreads a little extra straw to provide a place for them to lay down if there is mud or snow.
Sometimes he performs the ritual in bone-chilling temperatures with the wind howling up the canyon or, this year, most likely while fighting six-foot snow drifts.
It isn't so much what we say in life or even how we show our sensitivity. It's only that we do.
Best wishes for a magic holiday season.