From Pipi’s Pasture: Memories of early December
As I look through the dining room windows this morning, I’m thinking that what I’m seeing could be a scene on a Christmas card. Just across the fence, in Pipi’s Pasture, the cows are eating hay which, only a short while ago, we spread out on the snow. Just through the window is the crab apple tree that’s close enough to the house so that some of its branches nearly touch the window panes. Some small crab apples and dried-up leaves still cling to the branches.
Some kind of black-colored birds fly to the tree and hop around on the branches, knocking off fresh snow and pulling at the crab apples with their beaks. More birds arrive, and they begin to bicker over the apples. In the background I can hear a magpie chattering away — not a usual bird around Pipi’s Pasture.
Just last evening, husband Lyle called my attention to a four-point buck deer that was eating leaves and grass under the crab apple tree. As we watched, a big fawn joined him.
It has all the makings of a Christmas card scene, indeed, and it has me thinking about what would have been going on this time of the year when my siblings and I were growing up on the ranch.
Top priority would have been getting ready for the community Christmas program at the Morapos School. In fact, it would have probably have started right before Thanksgiving. We kids would have been assigned a poem to recite and parts in one or two plays, and would have started practicing Christmas songs. Thought we still did school work, a good part of the school days was spent practicing for the program.
There was a feeling of magic in the air in those days. One of the families brought in a Christmas tree shortly after Thanksgiving, and we got out a box of decorations and lights. None of us had a tree up yet (at our house we didn’t decorate a tree until a day or so before Christmas) so it was a treat to work at our lessons with a wonderful-smelling tree in the room.
Then, we made the stage for the program. We found the box of curtains, and after the school mothers mended mouse holes and washed and ironed the curtains, they were strung up to make a stage and two off-stage areas. The curtains were rigged to open and close. What fun! It was similar to making a tent/house out of chairs and blankets.
We drew names for a Christmas exchange, too, and made cards and little gifts for our parents. The school mothers filled bags with candy and nuts to be given out after the Christmas program, and Mom always sewed us new taffeta dresses for the occasion.
In the meantime, at home, we pored over the Montgomery Ward and Sears Christmas catalogs that had arrived in the mail around Thanksgiving. We enjoyed dreaming about it would be like to actually touch the toys and games.
It was early December in our ranch neighborhood.
This column’s first recipe is good for a quick supper — or anytime for that matter. The recipe comes from Marcey Dyer, of Pierce, who has shared several delicious recipes with me. To save time, use leftover cooked rice when making this skillet dish.