I led the freshly shod and saddled little buckskin mare around the front of the pickup and back to the trailer. I smiled to myself as she jumped up into the trailer, and I casually slammed the door shut. The sounds of an old trailer door and a new set of irons set firmly on all fours of a good-footed horse as she clops across pavement are a couple of my favorite sounds – a dissonant melody that comforts my soul.

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Freelance Writer
Paul Marchant is a rancher and freelance writer in southern Idaho. Follow Paul Marchant on X (@pm...

I was parked out by the big red corral gate just north of the house. As I latched the trailer door and sauntered back to the driver’s side door of the pickup, I noticed my wife trotting down the steps with her phone to her ear as she waved her hand at me, summoning me to hold up for a minute. As is too often my default mode, I found myself being a little annoyed. The day was well under way, and I needed to get up on the hill and push some bottom-hugging cows off the creek and back up to some green feed in the high country. But as I noticed the pained look in her eyes, my attitude softened, and I walked around to meet her.

I instantly knew she was talking to our youngest daughter. We’d been expecting a report from her regarding her Marine veteran husband’s latest medical tests. A few weeks earlier, he’d been admitted to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Some abnormalities had appeared in his bloodwork, and there was some concern that the cancer we’d hoped he’d conquered from a couple short years ago had returned.

Despite what we’d all hoped and prayed for, the news was not good. The tests revealed that cancer had returned, was attacking his bones and was already at stage 4. My daughter, the mother of two young children, was distraught as her world seemed to be crashing in all around her. As is our natural mortal tendency, her mind automatically and understandably raced to the worst-case scenarios, and in her despair, her immediate reaction was to reach out to home.

My wife and I quickly devised a makeshift plan for her to make the 450-mile trip to southern Utah to help calm the turbulent emotional seas and bring what peace she could to the little family. As she tied up what ends she could around the house, I continued on with my prior arrangements and headed to the mountain with my horse and dogs.


Though my heart and mind were heavy with this new burden that now seemed to envelop me and my entire family like a thick winter fog, I felt fortunate to be able to have something to keep my mind occupied. I seemed to be more aware of the comforting and familiar sights, sounds and feel of my home. The smack of horseshoes on rocks; the sharp scent of sagebrush as it cracked against my legs; the bawl of a fat, shaggy calf for its mother across the draw; the panting of the dogs and the soft, yet poignant sound of the last bright-yellow autumn leaves as they drifted down in the breeze from the tops of the quakies – all things that on any other day may have been slight annoyances or gone unnoticed altogether – on this day somehow gave me an odd, reassuring peace.

At that moment, I didn’t know or even think that everything would be all right. Quite the contrary, in fact. I couldn’t keep my mind from taking me down roads I didn’t want to go, paths whose destinations promised only foreboding sadness. Yet, I knew I had to take those trails so I could prepare for whatever lay in store, whether it be relief or sorrow.

On that day, and certainly in the days since, I’ve become keenly aware of how immeasurably blessed I am to have a home that offers me such understated, powerful, comforting peace. And while I momentarily struggled with my “privilege guilt,” I’ve since come to realize the reassuring gift of home is not reserved for those very few of us who steward God’s lands, flocks and herds. I’ve come to realize that home is more than the physical place I may choose to be or lay my head at night. I’m thankful for the ability to offer my children and grandchildren the opportunity to return home, no matter the distance between us or where in the world they may be, and the gift of home to them does not demand that they travel even one step.

The most genuine gift of home is not a place or structure or town or farm. It’s a gift freely offered to every single one of us, and it was first manifest in the form of an innocent little baby, born in a barn, to a pair of frightened, destitute travelers far from the humble comforts of their own home. And because of the arrival of that baby and His subsequent incomprehensible love and sacrifice, we need only to turn to Him to receive the truest, most sincere, comforting gift of home. May we all offer it when we can and find it when we seek it.

Merry Christmas.