| Dec 21, 2006

Feature Article - December 21

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Christmas content 2006

The Eavesdropper:a tale from LanarkCounty

By Bill MacPherson


Here in LanarkCounty, folklore has it that on Christmas Eve at midnight, the cattle in the barns throughout the County, will kneel and bow their heads in respectful prayer to the birth of the Christ Child in a manger so many years ago. It is also said that for one brief evening of the year, they will be able to speak and understood by man.

But superstition has it also that ill will fall to those who dare to listen to these conversations.

A couple of years ago, Jimmy McAlister decided to test this folklore and see or hear if indeed these things happened on Christmas Eve. Jimmy has a small farm, just north of Cox’s Corners on the Buttermilk Hill Road, he and his wife, Nora, milk a few cows , ship a bit of cream , manage to keep the bills paid and the wolf away from the front door.


That Christmas Eve, as midnight approached, Jimmy snuck down to the barn and climbed into the hayloft by the outside ladder, taking his time as it was slippy with ice. He settled into the hay near the chute into the barn and waited. As sure as rain is wet, when the stroke of midnight approached, he could hear the rustling and movement by the cattle below. Were the cows kneeling in respectful prayer? But it was too dark to see.

He quietly leaned into the hay chute for a closer peek, straining his eyes in the darkness of the byre.

And then a voice he had never heard before “T’is a shame about Farmer McAlister”

Another strange voice replied “ Pray, tell us what is the shame”

The first voice answered “He will not be with us on Christmas Day”

Now Jimmy was so upset with this prediction that he rushed to the outside ladder, fearing the worst , he was intending to spend the next day safely in bed in his house, but in his haste, he forgot about the ice on the rungs. He slipped and broke his ankle and sure enough spent Christmas Day on crutches in the house. As for the cows in the byre, the neighbours being the good friends that they were, fed and milked his cows and were with them on Christmas Day.

And that is why, in LanarkCounty at least, we farmers make it a point not to eavesdrop on the cows on Christmas Eve.

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