Chapter 7: A Funny thing happened on the way to Christmas

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"There was never really a choice, was there?"

"Not once the power went off... and stayed off." I pull a long face and roll my eyes. How clear is the vision of that day?

This was the year we were invited to join our family at my brother's home for Christmas lunch. The planning had begun well in advance of this most special day of the year.

"Well in advance was right," I mutter. It's no mean feat to change your routine milking to try to accommodate something as special as Christmas... either home or away.

"Our usual early-morning start was delayed by what? A couple of hours?"

"Mm-m-m," Kanute answers. He folds his arms-still in denial about the way our most careful dreams and schemes fell apart at the seams. "We were so damned sure we had it ALL worked out."

Plan A was to begin with a normally timed milking on Christmas Eve before the cows faced a lengthy stretch between milkings on Christmas day, when a later morning start, maybe as late as 8.30 am was planned, followed by the usual chores in double-quick order. (Some, like the feeding out of the hay for their daytime distraction was done the night before. Then, wonder of wonders, spruce up time and off to our festive lunch. Our only regret was that we needed to be home before dark to successfully bring the cows home for the latest ever milking.

The first part of Plan A began to unravel with a power break-at our all-electric dairy! No-o-o! Not today... please, please NO! This is impossible. It can't be happening. We looked at each other in deepest despair. When would the power come back on?

A desperate phone call to the duty officer for our electricity supply confirmed what we dreaded to hear. It was hopeless-he had 'no idea when supply would be resumed'. "On this day of the year..." he said reluctantly, and somewhat sheepishly, "the downtime is totally unpredictable. It's anyone's guess how long it'll take to round up the guys to check the lines... and then find where the problem is. Sorry, but can't even make a guesstimate."

Contingency plans were desperately thought up and examined, and most discarded. Through phone calls to the family, we kept up a positive and optimistic attitude and belief that we would be only a little late. "No problems," said my brother cheerfully, "... just drive safely."

With no milking possible during our enforced 'waiting' time, we hastily reversed the order of our chores-like giving greedy calves their buckets of milk; chooks fed and water topped up; extra meals readied for dogs and cats. Whew! So far, so good.

Back in the dairy, Kanute hopefully flicked a switch. In the deafening silence, his eyes reluctantly met mine. "Still no power." He sighed heavily.

"Maybe having our bath now would cheer us up a bit?" I knew this would be risky business, probably inviting all manner of disasters of the messy kind-but it was possible we might get lucky at last...?

"I suppose so..." His tone and the expression on his face were extremely doubtful, but he began ticking off the potential for our dairy clothing to keep us clean. "Our 'beanies' will cover our hair OK; overalls, big 'dairy' apron and rubber boots for the rest... maybe we COULD wash up bright and shiny again after milking."

I pushed myself to sound more enthusiastic. At least it felt better to be actually doing something positive instead of moping around feeling sorry for ourselves. As expected, the bath was good, relieving much of the strain that had been uncomfortably worsening in bodies and souls. We both cheered up as best clothes were laid out on our bed, Christmas presents packed into the car, and drinks put back into the refrigerator to continue chilling until the last possible moment. When this flurry of activity was done, we headed back over to the dairy, muttering prayers and pleas for a happy outcome.

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