COLUMNISTS

December is for remembering

Jerry Apps
December is for slowing down and remembering a bit about yesterday and what the month of December meant.

For me, December is a month of memories. Christmas tops the list with its preparation, anticipation, and hope. But there are many other memories as well.

December is the month when winter claims its place among the four seasons of the year, often showing us that it is the most important of all the seasons—with its cold and snow, and short, and often dark, dreary days.

As a kid, I looked forward to the change. Now the farm work turned from field work to never ending barn chores as the cows were now kept in the barn nearly all the time. They were let out each morning, and sometimes in the afternoon to drink at the stock tank in the barnyard. A special wood burning tank heater kept the stock tank water from freezing.

At our one-room country school, an eighth grader was in charge of keeping the woodstove in back of the school room going. The rusty old stove struggled to keep the school room warm enough for learning.

It was a time for snow forts and snowball fights. Riding our sleds down the hill back of the school and playing snow games where during warmer seasons we played softball.

One special memory was of my Grandfather Witt, who lived on a farm a mile or so from ours. One winter, he made me a pair of skis out of birch wood. He turned up the front of the skis by holding the wood over a steaming kettle.

The skis were six feet long, about four inches wide and had strips of harness leather across their middle where my boots would fit. They had no grooves in the bottom. This meant I might be skiing downhill straight ahead, or I may be going sidewise. Always an adventure with Grandpa’s skis.

And not to forget the beauty of poinsettias—Christmas always means poinsettias.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: December is for slowing down and remembering a bit about yesterday and what the month of December meant.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to www.jerryapps.com.