The Christmas With No Pictures

I didn't take pictures the year the hog market collapsed.

Published on: Dec 10, 2013

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.

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.

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.
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.

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!