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The Christmas With No Pictures

The Christmas With No Pictures
I didn't take pictures the year the hog market collapsed.

Every year as the kids and I are putting up the Christmas tree I find myself talking to God. You might call it saying a prayer, but I tend to call them conversations (one sided, of course – I am crazy but not that crazy!) I use the time to be thankful beyond words that we have farmed for another year together as a family! It ALWAYS hits me hardest and makes me most thankful when I am decorating the tree.

Meet the Campbells: Jennifer Campbell is now a regular contributor to the Indiana Prairie Farmer website. This story tells you all you need to know about this all-American, all-Hoosier farm family. Pictured form left, Emi Lou, Casey, Cole, Jennifer and Chris.

We have always had a live tree except for one year – 1998. The hog market didn't just crash, it disappeared. If you were to ask me, I recall we were paying packers to take our hogs!  They bottomed out for us at $12 per cwt and the cost to produce for us was $29 per cwt, thanks to cheap corn at the time – at least for feeding – but we also raise more than we feed. So while it was cheap feed, we weren't making money selling corn either.

That year, we had an artificial tree. Chris' parents had bought a new artificial tree several years earlier and still had their old one in their basement which they were more than willing to loan us. This seems like a trivial thing to remember about such a rough year, but it is always what makes it real, and reminds me to be thankful. It puts things in perspective – we were lucky.

We also had a 23-month- old daughter. I have looked and looked, but I can't find one picture from that Christmas.  I know she had presents, we got up Christmas morning and did our thing, we celebrated with Chris' family and my family but I can't find one picture that I took that year – I don't remember it being an intentional omission – I just must have not taken any.

I couldn't tell you what Casey got that Christmas but I know she opened presents from Santa and I know that Chris got me something. Again, I don't remember. But every year I remember what Chris got and so does he: work boots.

Hog farmers go through work boots like nobody's business. Chris goes through 2-3 pair of good Red Wings a year, and that year he was still wearing a pair from the year before. I kept insisting he buy himself a new pair and he refused, so I bought them. It may have been one of the first times I outright made a corporate decision on my own and carried it out!  But, I also remember being a little nervous about that decision, so instead of admitting I bought the boots I had Chris' parents leave them on the porch swing, and I pretended I had no idea where they came from.

Every year he tells me that that is his favorite Christmas present ever – and the years that I buy him nothing, because that doesn't cost him anything!

I am thankful at Thanksgiving for the life I lead, the people I am surrounded by, our health, the country I live in. But it is the weekend after Thanksgiving as we are putting up our tree that I am reminded to give thanks that we have made it another year involved in agriculture!

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