With Christmas just a few days away, we’re settling into our winter routine. The cows are sorted into their wintertime pastures, the snow moving equipment is on standby and the horses are fuzzy with winter hair. The Womack boys have a sled tied to the four-wheeler, noisily making their way across the ice and sagebrush. With Joshua perched atop a pile of manure freshly raked from the barn and heaped in the sled, they’re multi-tasking.
While some Wyomingites may be busy dreaming of a white Christmas, I’m perfectly okay with Christmas sunshine. You definitely won’t find me wishing for a Christmas rain like the one we had in 2010. Whatever weather Wyoming brings our way, the Cowboy State is no doubt a great place to spend the holiday.
Like many ranching families across Wyoming, our Christmas day will begin with a family trip out to check water and feed the cows. We’ll throw our ice skates in the back seat of the pickup and stop for a little fun along the way. The ice is particularly good on our ice skating pond (also known as the stock tank overflow) this year. The boys and I tried it out just yesterday and found we have more room to skate and it’s a little smoother than last year. One still must dodge the clumps of grass and an occasional piece of driftwood. If Joshua ever gets to skate on groomed ice, he’ll probably be an instant Olympian. This is his second year on ice skates and he somehow manages to laugh while recovering from his numerous spills.
This is also Bryce’s second year ice-skating, but he had a bit of an advantage. When he was younger we lived closer to smooth concrete surfaces and he and I decided to teach ourselves to rollerblade when he was about seven. That, too, was a painful, yet memorable, experience.
While we were skating yesterday the boys asked where I learned to skate. I never really learned to skate, but managed the art of standing up while wearing ice skates. To Joshua, who spends most of his ice skating time lying flat on his back on the ice, standing equates to pure talent. Throw in a stop and a turn and he can’t believe our audience is limited to a few curious cows peering over the bank.
When I was in school, each fall students at Sundance Elementary School looked forward to a visit from the local fire department. Their appearance at our school meant temperatures had dipped low enough to create our annual ice skating rink. They’d spray the large smooth area with water from a fire hose and benches would be placed at the rink’s edge. Come recess time, we’d all race out to the playground to strap on our skates. I recall the skating rink being filled primarily with girls while the boys raced down a nearby hill on inner tubes from the local tire shop. As spring rolled around we’d make our way indoors looking more like we’d been to the swimming pool than the ice-skating rink and the teachers would call an end to our slippery fun.
Fast forward 20 years, and I know the Womack boys won’t remember what was in their stockings on Christmas morning 2011. They will, however, remember the trip to the ice skating pond, a short break from feeding cows. I hope they remember it fondly enough that they bring their own children and grandchildren here for a similar Christmas tradition. Just in case, I think I’ll save our growing collection of ice skates in various sizes and maintain a steady supply of hot cocoa in the kitchen cupboard.
May your Christmas 2011 be laced with memories and your 2012 filled with countless blessings.
Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at Womack@Wyoming.com or at 307-351-0730.