Monday, November 28, 2011

Gift of the Old One

This is a heartwarming tale that is often passed among goat owners around the holidays:

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 that topped the hill behind
the farm, and through the years it 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 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
topmost 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 trunk 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 "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.