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Interesting to Amazing Making a Manger by Tom, son of Ann and Sam

When I was in school, all the boys took wood shop in 9th grade. Projects were small: bookends, birdhouses, footstools, towel racks and the like. In fifth grade, other students started asking me what my older brother was building in the wood shop. As he and I never spoke at home or school, I didn’t know and didn’t dare ask. We only interacted when necessary helping dad farm. One day in spring a classmate told me that my dad was out in the school parking lot with a tractor and large implement trailer. Since class was starting, I could only dash to the window for a peek, and sure enough there he was. At the next recess, I ran down but only to see my dad driving off in the distance with a large object on the trailer that looked like something made out of gigantic popsicle sticks. When I got home that night, out in the barnyard was a large hay feeder, about the size of a camping trailer, for our dairy cattle. What my brother built exceeded the usual woodshop project size by a factor of a 100 or so, at least!

This manger was a helpful addition to mom and dad’s dairy. “TV show” cows appear to give endless amounts of milk year around on an occasional handful of grass. “Real” cows, however, will eat 25 to 50 or more pounds daily of hay, depending on what else their diet consists of and if they are grazing or not. Cows give milk in gradually declining amounts for only around ten months after having a calf and then go “dry” until calving again. But they continue to need good nutrition because they are “eating for two”!!

My brother’s manger was a vast improvement over the previous ways we fed extra hay to the cows. Before, we either put the bales on the ground or on a wagon. These methods were not as efficient as some hay would get trampled under hoofs. As the manger had slats, the cows pulled out only mouthfuls.

The manger served well for many years but eventually succumbed to 1,200+ lb. animals pushing on it, being placed on soil that was at times muddy and four seasons of weather — especially since it was made from plain wood to avoid any toxins. The last time I traveled the 500 miles to visit the family farm I looked for it, but there was no trace. The Midwest woodlands have been slowly reclaiming the barnyard. I suppose I could find traces of this manger with a machete and shovel, “Indiana Jones” style, but I’ll pass unless I learn that something like Baldur’s Ring or the Invincible Ruby is underneath! The once busy barnyard, with up to 30 dairy cows, is now quiet. The galvanized water trough, which used to be filled almost non-stop some days (a lactating cow will drink 30-50 gallons a day, depending on her weight, the weather, etc.) is rusted out and grown over.

There is another manger many think about this time of year. It was placed in the “Little Town of Bethlehem” (approx. pop. 400 then). Bethlehem — was that just a more or less random name, nothing of significance? Until recently (thanks to J. Cahn) “random” is what I thought. But “Beit” in Hebrew means “Place of” and “house.” “Lechem” is Hebrew for “bread.” So together, Bethlehem means “House of Bread.” Does Jesus ever mention or do anything with bread — yes, He does!! Twice He fed large crowds of 4000 and 5000 heads of households along with their families; starting with five and seven loaves. After the people ate, the disciples gathered up 27 baskets of leftover bread and fish. Now that’s amazing! Dad and I never fed the cows 12 bales of hay and then picked back up, after the cows had eaten their fill, 20 or more wagonloads!!

Jesus said “For the bread of God is He who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world” and, from the Book of Luke, “This (bread) is my body given for you, do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus wants bread to remind us of Him. This season may we remember His manger. It was humble, no doubt, to look at but it was the structure that held the “Bread of Life,” Jesus, the greatest king of all.

Webb Weekly

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