Herald JournalHerald Journal, Dec. 27, 2004

A Christmas journey

By Joe Kieser

The snow had been falling heavily for several days. On Saturday afternoon, our neighbors, Jim Baird and Tony Gueningsman, had helped us shovel some of the big banks from our long driveway. Early Sunday morning, our dad walked out the driveway and determined that the snow was too deep for any passage.

We had already missed the 5 a.m. Mass and not getting to Holy Trinity by 8 a.m. wasn’t acceptable. All we needed to do was cut the barbed wire from a couple of fences and follow the hill across Deidrick’s farm.

Dad had put the spring seat on the double box and hitched the horses to the bob-sled. A little meadow hay on the floor and we were ready to go.

Mom wrapped our seven-month- old baby brother in a feather blanket and set him into a corner of the double-box. The older siblings were dressed in Mackinaw coats, wool caps, and five buckle overshoes. The milk cans were added to the back of the sleigh.

The team needed rest several times across the field, but somehow, we made it to the main gravel road. The Jack Schimmel, family from four miles to the west, met us on the main road. Their team of horses consisted of one large black and a small white horse. The two families took turns breaking trail to Winsted.

A right at Fiecke’s corner, across Moy’s Creek to the left, and turn at the slaughter house. A right turn by Kappel’s and we were headed into Winsted. A stop at the creamery to leave off the slightly frozen milk cans, a simple blast with a steam hose to the sides of the cans, and we were on our way again.

Dad drove the team to the hitching post in front of Pete Muellener’s blacksmith shop. He was very concerned about going to a different Mass and someone being in “his pew” in church.

Even though we were in a hurry, we still had plenty of time to talk with several families. A rumor was circulating that our German services may be a thing of the past.

The inside of the church was decorated beautifully for the Christmas season. The morning sun was shining through the stained glass windows onto the crib scene.

Mom stood me up on the communion rail so I could look at the newborn baby. The trees had a different smell than the cedar tree we had in our home for Christmas.

“Our pew” was still available, and we knelt to pray before Mass. The men wore suits and the women wore long dresses, and each lady had a different hat. The choir started to sing and soon, the mass started. What a wonderful service we had this Christmas season.

At the end of mass, the priest talked to each of us as we left the church. Fasting since midnight had each of us on the hungry side.

Maybe Rouf’s Meat Market will be open on this snowy day. The door was locked, so we walked down the steps by city hall. I yelled, “The outhouse is on fire!”

Mark Roufs was watching the smoke rise from the small black building. Something smelled awfully good.

“Just pay me the next time you come in the store,” was Mark’s reply as we walked away with four rings of bologna. We each broke off a piece of bologna as we walked back to our team of horses.

The horses were stamping their feet, trying to keep warm. “Why did we ever close up our livery stable,” was Dad’s question. Even the horses had a Christmas look with their sleigh bells and frosted nostrils. We slid the end of the sleigh around by pushing one end.

The cold sunshine warmed us up a little bit as we headed north of town. Maybe going to Mass in the middle of the day wasn’t so bad after all.

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