Each December, part of our family tradition is reading the story by Pearl S. Buck called Christmas Day in the Morning. The story beautifully illustrates a strong work ethic, the everyday nature of farm work, and the giving of oneself. In 1977, BYU produced a film called “The Gift” based on the book.
It’s about a young boy who is awakened very early every morning to help his father milk the cows and shovel hay for the animals. The boy disliked the morning routine immensely, but he did what he had to do to contribute. One morning, while his mother was making breakfast, he heard his father say, “I hate to wake him so early. He’s growing so much and he needs his sleep.” His mother sympathized, but also knew that he needed to learn to work.
For the first time in his life, the boy thought, My dad loves me. My dad cares about me. Christmas was approaching, and the young man wondered what he could give his dad. Finally, he had a great idea: I will do the chores on Christmas day. Even on Christmas day the cows have to be milked and fed. He was so excited as he went to bed on Christmas Eve, he kept waking up to look at the clock. Finally, he got up at 1:45 am, got dressed, and quietly tiptoed down the stairs, exited the house and made his way to the barn.
He milked the cow, poured the milk into the tall cans, put the canvas fabric over it, got the hay for the horses, and did everything I was supposed to do. On this Christmas morning, it didn’t even seem like work as he thought about how surprised his father would be. By the time he was finished it was nearly four o’clock.
He ran back to the house, crept up the stairs and climbed back into bed. Seconds later, he heard the knock at the door, and his Father’s wake-up call: “Son, it’s time to get up. I know it’s Christmas, but we still have to do the work.”
Pretending to be sleepy, he said, “I’ll be there in a minute.” Inside, he was laughing to himself. He heard the wood creak as his father went down the stairs, he heard the door open, and he heard the footsteps across the snowy path to the barn door. Can you just imagine the feeling in the boy’s heart? He was giddy. He was overflowing with the joy of Christmas. His father walked into the barn, and there was the cow, still munching on the hay the boy had given him two hours earlier.
Confused, he folded back the canvas that covered the milk cans, lifted up the lids and found they were full. He looked to his right and saw that the horses were taken care of. Smiling, he closed the barn door, went back in the house, walked into his son’s bedroom and he said, “Son, I thank you. Nobody ever did a nicer thing.” “It’s for Christmas” the boy said.
His father continued, “You know, this is the first time I’ll ever be able to watch the girls come down the stairs on Christmas morning. I was always out in the barn. Let’s go together.” The movie concludes as a dad and his son go down and sit on the couch to watch the girls run down the stairs to see the Christmas tree.
You’ve been reading an excerpt from Farm Wisdom for City Folks.