Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Christmas Pony




The Christmas Pony
(There is an audio version at the bottom of this post)
Start the audio and read along... or you can watch the falling snow while you listen.

              Viola skipped toward the barn. She held her hands up as though holding the reins of a pony while moving in a loping motion. Her brother Aaron called, “Viola, get off of your pony and do your chores.”
Viola dismounted her imaginary pony and tied it to the hitching-rack next to a real buggy horse. Snow fell quietly, covering her family’s Amish farm with a fresh, white blanket. Chores needed to be done on Christmas Eve morning just like any other day. Viola got to work mixing up powdered milk for calves that bawled loudly for breakfast. Two younger sisters came to help. Mary was eight, two years younger than Viola, and Katherine was one year younger than Mary. Katherine asked her oldest sister, “Viola, why don’t we have a real pony?”
“Because they cost a lot of money. Dad says that he has been watching for a cheap one at the horse sale, but he doesn't want to buy a mean one, just because it’s cheap.” Her answer seemed to satisfy her little sister. Her own heart still ached, wishing for real pony.
When the baby cows were finally all fed and quiet, Viola untied and climbed aboard her pretend pony and clucked. She skipped off between the barn and chicken house dashing through new fallen snow. Her rubber boots sloshed with a rhythm similar to that of a pony. She rode her imaginary horse out to a field entrance, her little chore-dress flapping in time with her apron. The little Amish girl pulled open a large metal gate and let a herd of cows out to graze on cornstalks. Huge black-and-white Holsteins lumbered through falling snow, nibbling on brown corn-stubble that stuck up through drifts.
Viola tightened her black headscarf which matched her heavy coat. She lifted her arms, feigning the motion of turning a pony and loped back to where her little sisters were. Mary and Katherine were gathering firewood from a massive stack that leaned against the buggy shed. Viola dismounted her pretend pony and tied it beside the real buggy horse again. She didn't notice a huge milk-truck had pulled into their lane and backed near the milk-house. Falling snow had muffled all sounds, including those of the milk-house generator and a large white truck.
Milkman Tom called through the falling snow, “Viola, come here.” The little Amish girl walked from the hitching-rack toward Tom. The milkman came to haul away milk every third day, year around. Viola always enjoyed talking to him while he drained the milk tank. He spoke with a smile, “I suppose you want a pony for Christmas?” Viola gave him a blank stare for a moment, and then explained, “We don’t have that kind of Christmas.” She looked at Tom and saw that he was puzzled. She tried to explain better, “We usually exchange a few small gifts at Christmas, not things like ponies.”
“Oh, I see. I've noticed that you have been riding an imaginary pony lately.” Viola blushed. Tom asked, “Don’t you children have a pony?”
“No, but my dad has been watching at every horse sale. He knows that I want one really bad. He said that he’s not willing to buy just any pony because some of them are mean.” Tom smiled and Viola thought that she saw a tear in the corner of his eye. He finished his work and climbed into his big truck. Viola helped her little sisters, who were loading firewood onto a sled. Viola pulled and her little sisters pushed their load toward the house.  Milkman Tom waved to them as he drove out of their lane. All three little Amish girls waved and began to unload their sled. They pushed firewood through a chute that dumped into their basement. The girls went inside and took off their chore coats and boots, heading downstairs into the warm basement to stack firewood. This was all part of what they did for chores twice every day.


The scent of cinnamon rolls filled their kitchen as the family gathered for breakfast. Their home was warmed by firewood the girls had brought inside and that their older brother Aaron had loaded in the wood-burning furnace. They were all in a cheerful mood because it was Christmas Eve day. Tomorrow, between morning and evening chores, they would spend a relaxing afternoon together as a family. During breakfast, Mother made a statement, “Girls, I believe we will make cookies today.” Viola and her sisters smiled at each other. Aaron and Dad made plans to clean out the horse stalls. The little boys were too young to help, but when breakfast was over they pretended to clean out horse stalls in one corner of the living room.
Viola, Mary, and Katherine helped their mother mix up cookie dough. They enjoyed rolling out large slabs of dough on the table and using a round cookie-cutter to make dozens of Christmas cookies. Viola gathered some of the left-over pieces of dough and made a horse shaped cookie. Her mother smiled and said, “Let’s put your little horse on the cookie sheet, too. Tomorrow, it will be your Christmas pony.”

* * *

It was easy for little girls to jump out of bed on Christmas morning, even though their bedroom was cold. The girls ran downstairs to finish dressing near the warm stove. The whole family put on heavy coats, gloves, and boots. They stepped out into the crisp morning air to hurry through chores. Viola headed to the hitching-rack to untie her imaginary pony but stopped in her tracks. There stood a real live pony. The whole family exclaimed their surprise, jabbering with each other about where the mystery pony may have come from. Viola didn't speak. She stood perfectly still, as though one wrong move might make the vision disappear. “Daddy, did you get us a pony?” Viola finally got the courage to ask.
“No, I don’t know anything more about this pony than the rest of you.” The small, light-brown pony had big, dark eyes. Viola and the pony stood looking at each other until Aaron said, “Look, there is a note tied to the pony’s halter.” He read the note, slowly, because it was still dark out.

        Merry Christmas,

My name is Ginger. Last Christmas I was a gift to a little girl who was very sick. She loved me a lot and I gave her rides, even though she was not feeling well. The little girl kept getting more weak all the time. She always wanted to touch my soft muzzle, even when she couldn't ride me anymore. My little girl is no longer suffering. I have been very lonely, standing in my pasture with no one to play with. Please take me for rides and pet my muzzle.

Viola reached out her hand and touched Ginger’s soft nose. The pony’s dark eyes glistened. Viola said, “If the little girl isn't sick anymore, why doesn't she play with her pony?”
Mother answered softly, “I believe the little girl is in heaven now.”




Thomas Nye reading the Christmas Pony
click play to listen
video

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