PATRICIA SMITH: Sherman Still Provides Peaceful Feel
Christmas Eve at the barn is always special.
One of my fondest memories is of a Christmas Eve years ago in upstate New York.
It had snowed the week leading up to Christmas. The snow drifts were well above the tops of our ranch house windows.
The wind was howling and whipping around the house, as it always seemed to do there.
The snow was whirling in tornado-like circles on the shoveled path of pavement between the house and barn.
I put on my snow-suit, my stylish barn hat with ear-flaps and knee-high galoshes and headed over to the barn for the evening check. The wind chill factor made it feel about 20 below as I trudged the 75 feet to the barn.
The green wreaths on the stall windows were almost covered with snow. The windows were frosted with miniature snowflake-like designs so the horses could barely see out. Icicles resembling sabers hung from the barn roof.
I grabbed the barn shovel and dug out the area around the barn door, chipping away at the ice that had accumulated in the track of the door.
Inside, the red stockings were hanging on the front of the stalls ready to be filled with carrots and apples on Christmas morning. The horses were all snug-as-bugs in their rugs.
Everybody looked up when I walked down the aisle, anticipating their night-time hay.
My palomino, Sherman, stuck his head out the U-shaped grate of his honey-colored wood stall door and proceeded to bang his foot against the bottom of the door, demanding food. Sherman (as in the tank) was never the subtle type. The other two whinnied and waited patiently.
After I mucked out their stalls, I gave them their hay, and then just stood and listened to that best of sounds -- horses munching away.
I turned out the lights so only the moonlight shone through the stall windows. The noise of the wind was blotted out by the sound of horses munching.
It was so peaceful in the barn, I decided to stay and savor the moment.
I went into Sherman's stall and sat on the shavings in a corner while he kept one eye on me to make sure I didn't take away his hay.
He would have butted me with his head, gently but firmly, had I dared to enter his eating space.
It was one of those moments when all the senses come together in a rush: The sweet smell of hay and horses, the natural warmth from their bodies filling the barn, the slow rhythm of horses munching on hay and the sight of them content to be in their stalls and out of the cold.
I still head to the barn every Christmas Eve to give the horses their hay, and it's still a special time. It's just not quite the same.
Maybe it's because it's so quiet at the barn without the ever-demanding Sherman banging his foot against the stall or cribbing on the edge of the stall-grate.
Maybe it was all that noise that made the quiet times seem so peaceful.
For the past few Christmas Eves, I go outside the barn to visit Sherman in his last resting place near his favorite paddock.
That is where that old peaceful-feeling resides now. I just close my eyes and I see Sherman happily munching away, all snug-as-a-bug in his rug, with those big brown eyes watching over me.
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