GIFT OF THE OLD ONE
By Eunice Day, Washington ME
The young couple had made their usual hurried, pre-Christmas visit to
the little farm where dwelt their elderly parents with their small herd of
goats. The farm had been named Lone Pine Farm because of the huge pine
which topped the hill behind the farm, and through the years had become a
talisman to the old man and his wife, and a landmark in the countryside.
The old folks no longer showed their goats, for the years had taken
their toll, but they sold a little milk, and a few kids each year, and the
goats were their reason for joy in the morning and contentment at day's
Crossly, as they prepared to leave, the young couple confronted the
old folks. "Why do you not at least dispose of "The Old One". She is no
longer of use to you. It's been years since you've had either kids or milk
from her. You should cut corners and save where you can. Why do you keep
her anyway?" The old man looked down as his worn boot scuffed at the barn
floor and his arm stole defensively about the Old One's neck as he drew
her to him and rubbed her gently behind the ears. He replied softly, "We
keep her because of love. Only because of love."
Baffled and irritated, the young folks wished the old man and his
wife a Merry Christmas and headed back toward the city as darkness stole
through the valley.
So it was, that because of the leave-taking, no one noticed the
insulation smouldering on the frayed wires in the old barn. None saw the
first spark fall. None but the "Old One".
In a matter of minutes, the whole barn was ablaze and the hungry
flames were licking at the loft full of hay. With a cry of horror and
despair, the old man shouted to his wife to call for help as he raced to
the barn to save their beloved goats. But the flames were roaring now, and
the blazing heat drove him back. He sank sobbing to the ground, helpless
before the fire's fury.
By the time the fire department arrived, only smoking, glowing ruins
were left, and the old man and his wife. They thanked those who had come
to their aid, and the old man turned to his wife, resting her white head
upon his shoulders as he clumsily dried her tears with a frayed red
bandana. Brokenly he whispered, "We have lost much, but God has spared our
home on this eve of Christmas. Let us, therefore, climb the hill to the
old pine where we have sought comfort in times of despair. We will look
down upon our home and give thanks to God that it has been spared."
And so, he took her by the hand and helped her up the snowy hill as
he brushed aside his own tears with the back of his hand. As they stepped
over the little knoll at the crest of the hill, they looked up and gasped
in amazement at the incredible beauty before them. Seemingly, every
glorious, brilliant star in the heavens was caught up in the glittering,
snow-frosted branches of their beloved pine, and it was aglow with
heavenly candles. And poised on its top most bough, a crystal crescent
moon glistened like spun glass. Never had a mere mortal created a
Christmas tree such as this. Suddenly, the old man gave a cry of wonder
and incredible joy as he pulled his wife forward. There, beneath the tree,
was their Christmas gift.
Bedded down about the "Old One" close to the truck of the tree, was
the entire herd, safe. At the first hint of smoke, she had pushed the door
ajar with her muzzle and had led the goats through it. Slowly and with
great dignity, never looking back, she had led them up the hill, stepping
daintily through the snow. The kids were frightened and dashed about. The
skittish yearlings looked back at the crackling, hungry flames, and tucked
their tails under them as they licked their lips and hopped like rabbits.
The milkers pressed uneasily against the &q
uot;Old One" as she moved calmly up
the hill and to safety beneath the pine. And now, she lay among them and
gazed at the faces of those she loved. Her body was brittle with years,
but the golden eyes were filled with devotion as she offered her
gift-Because of love.
Only Because of love.