Rudolph at large
By Bobby Neal Winters
Those of you who follow this space may remember a report I relayed last year at this time regarding some difficulties Santa Claus had encountered during a promotional tour which took a rest stop along a deserted stretch of road between Jesse, Oklahoma and US Highway 377. Eight shots were heard along that deserted stretch of road and venison jerky was being sold out of the trunk of a car at a basketball game in Stonewall. There was also a report of a man wearing a red hat turning up in a Pentecostal Church with peppermint schnapps on his breath and his being taken off to jail.
Many of you have undoubtedly been of the opinion, since Christmas did come off last year and the presents from Santa were delivered on schedule, that I had made the whole account up. While that might be an easy thing to believe in these days of rampant dishonesty, the truth is much more complicated.
It turns out that North Pole Headquarters is well prepared for situations such as this. This is not the first time Santa has had to be sprung from jail, and there is a special squad of elves that have been trained for just such an occasion. Usually, however, they just have to go to Vegas and spread enough money around. The crew at the Pontotoc County Courthouse is made of much purer material however, and it took some community service for Santa this time. If you saw an old man with a beard picking up trash on the side of the road, that might have been him.
As for the reindeer, while their losses were substantial, they are of a military caste and took them as being a part of their duty. New Dashers, Dancers, etc. succeeded into their hereditary positions as a matter of course.
Duty is one thing, but, after a period of careful investigation, vengeance will be taken. It will be quick, but it won’t necessarily be pretty. You don’t mess with someone whose boss can get into your house at will.
You may also recall that, at the time the piece was written, Rudolph, the most famous reindeer of them all, had not yet been located, and that my old friend Bubba was searching for him.
If you are familiar with Bubba’s hunting skills, then you should be comfortably certain that, as long as Bubba is hunting for him on purpose, Rudolph is perfectly safe. Any venison Bubba ever obtained—other than in exchange for cash from someone else’s trunk—has been a victim of his own front bumper.
“I hunted for him all last winter and into the spring,” Bubba said when I talked to him on the phone the other day. “I never seen hide nor hair of him.”
“Maybe he flew home on his own,” I offered.
“I’d thought that myself,” he said, sounding serious, “but I heard some things that makes me think different.”
Bubba always has some sort of theory or other to offer, so my better judgment told me to just let that pass, but I was unable to resist.
“What’s that?” I asked.
Continuing in his somber tone, he answered, “Some of my friends spend a lot of time in the woods hunting and fishing, and they’ve been seeing things they can’t explain. One of them was out walking in the woods as saw some deer sign.”
“Well, that’s to be expected,” I said. “It is deer season after all.”
“But this glowed in the dark,” he said.
“Glowed in the dark?” I asked. “That’s pretty hard to believe. Did you see it yourself?”
“No, but my friend used it to fertilize his tomatoes and when they were ripe, they looked just like red Christmas ornaments,” Bubba replied. “He showed me one of them, and they were the prettiest little things.”
I didn’t believe him, but I didn’t feel like calling him a liar since he’d seen the Christmas ornaments and all.
“You said ‘things they can’t explain,’” I said. “What else have they seen?”
“Well,” Bubba drawled, “a friend of mine was out deer hunting on Thanksgiving and thought he saw a red lightening bug one morning. His eyes adjusted to the light saw a yearling deer where the lightening bug had been. He blinked and when he opened his eyes the yearling was gone. Then he heard rustling in the tree tops.”
“So,” I said, trying to sound as disinterested as possible, “what do you think is going on?”
“Well, you know how irresistible Oklahoma women are,” he said—and I wasn’t going to disagree with him, having married one myself. (Some of my cousins have married several.) “I think Rudolph has taken up with some of the local does.”
“You do?” I said this with the tone that may have started a fight if it hadn’t been muted by the phone. Bubba either missed it or pretended too.
“Yep, I do, and you know what,” he continued unabated. “I think it’s the best thing that’s happened around here in a long time. Just think about how big a business deer hunting is. What about hunting flying deer? Think how festive a deer head with a glowing nose would look over the mantle in the holiday season.”
“I can’t imagine,” I said, and I tried not to.