Terri Farley
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December 1

I love Christmas at the ranch!

After spending last night tossing in my sheets, worried over having zero money to buy gifts, I woke up to the aroma of Gram's baking. That cheered me up a little bit.

Gram had already made jam thumbprint cookies (with homemade jam from the blackberries down by La Charla River), chocolate macaroons and amazing cinnamon shortbread cookies called Jan Hagel (I think that's Dutch).

Gram poured a tall glass of milk for me and told me I could have cookies for breakfast. And that cheered me up a little more.

I got dressed for riding (Ace needs the work-out! He's started trying to pick the lock on his corral again) and was starting to snatch a fifth cookie when Gram gasped. She was looking out the window and she said, "Lands! I see a tree full of angels!"

I hurried over to see. She was almost right.

Even though Dad was already outside working the sillies out of Blue Wings, the cottonwood tree between the house and the barn was filled with white birds. They were probably pigeons or doves or something, but the sun hitting the frost on the tree made them look magical. Or like little angels.

I ran back upstairs for my camera. Of course it was unlikely that the birds would still be there when I got outside, but if they'd already put up with Blue's stamping and snorting, maybe they'd wait for me.

I didn't count on Brynna getting out there first.

It had snowed last night, but it was bright and not too windy, so Brynna had bundled up Cody in a red hooded snow suit and carried him outside to watch Dad.

There they all were. Dad leaned down from the saddle while Cody reached up with both hands to be taken for a ride, and Brynna was grinning at them both.

I was about to shoot their portrait when Cougar, my cat, came from the direction of the bunkhouse. Blaze was right behind him. They were both making big leaps, then pawing out of the snow drift, ready for the next one.

It was slow progress, but fun to watch. Blaze wasn't barking, but all the movement must have scared the birds, because they took flight. That was enough to pull Cody's attention away from Dad and Blue. Cody reached both hands up toward the sky and I snapped the shot. It was perfect.

Now it's night and I'm staying up late to use Brynna's computer. The fire in the fireplace is burned out, but every now and then there's a little pop from hot sap in a chunk of wood that's turned into gray-orange embers.

I spent the rest of the day finding scraps of weathered gray wood. Later, after I print the picture, I'll hammer that wood into a picture frame and I think I'll give it to our whole family and I'm absolutely positive they'll like it better than anything I could have bought on a shopping spree.

A family portrait with angels -- you can't get that at Crane Crossing Mall! Sam