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It's the Pitts: A Christmas story

Contributed by Lee Pitts Published on 23 November 2016

My nephew and I were in the grocery store the other day when he spied a department store Santa Claus who had just finished his shift. It must have been a hard one, too – because the Santa was buying a bottle of booze.

“What if a little kid who was still a believer saw that?” asked my disgusted 8-year-old nephew. “I don’t know who made up all these Christmas traditions in the first place like flying reindeer, hanging up an old sock over the mantle, mistletoe and Santa Claus. Bah humbug.”

I attempted to explain some of these traditions to my bitter nephew. “What you are seeing today is the movie version of the story, but there really was a Santa Claus. He was a crotchety old rancher named Klaus who lived up near North Fork, Montana, a long time ago.

Klaus was nearly 70 years old, and he had lived most of those 70 years by himself. Never married, he really was kind of a miserable old loner, but once a year he did something quite out of character.

Every year at Christmastime he would take a bag full of toys he had whittled in his spare time down to the orphanage at Chinook, where he had been raised as a child.

On one particular blustery Christmas Eve, he pulled on his stocking cap and stepped into his black, five-buckle overshoes. Then he hitched up his two mules, Rudolph and Prancer, and threw the bag of hand-carved toys in his sleigh for the trip to town.

On his way to Chinook, the weather started to turn bad. A blizzard was blowing in. It got so cold the nose on Rudolph, the mule, turned red. Klaus realized he couldn’t make it to town in this weather, and he wasn’t sure he could make it back home.

So in the blinding snow, he pulled down the next lane he came across. It was the road to the widow’s place.

The widow had been running the ranch by herself since her husband died 10 years before. Like Klaus, the widow was a lonely old soul. So when Klaus knocked on her door that blustery Christmas Eve, she thought Klaus was her early Christmas present.

She welcomed him in and made a place for him by the fire. The icicles hanging from his white beard began to melt. The widow fed Klaus a prime rib dinner and put a Bing Crosby record on the stereo to get him in the mood.

She tried to get Klaus to take off his wet clothes, but the best she could do was to get the bashful Klaus to take off his wet stockings and hang them from the mantle with care.

Meanwhile, the storm had become so fierce that the snow drifts were now higher than the eaves of the house. The lonely widow and the lifelong bachelor were trapped in the house. The widow was counting her lucky stars and putting on her best moves ... as best as she could remember.

She huddled up next to Klaus on the couch and leaned over and tried to sneak a kiss under the mistletoe. Then as she lay her hand on his knee, the lonely widow whispered in his ear, “Now’s your chance.”

She scared Klaus half to death. He flew up the chimney, his only avenue of escape. Klaus hopped in the sleigh and virtually flew out of there, leaving his socks still pinned to the mantle. He dropped off the presents and headed for home.

And he didn’t leave his house until it was time to deliver the presents the following year, and even then he went half-way around the world to avoid going by the widow’s place.

While all this was occurring, a group of Norwegian dairymen were having a little Christmas Eve party of their own down at the Chinook Grange. By the time Klaus sped by the grange on his way to deliver the presents to the orphanage, they had all imbibed a little too much eggnog.

So it was only natural that their story got a little twisted. When the Norwegians got through repeating the events of that Christmas Eve, the two mules had been transformed into eight reindeer, and Klaus was flying in the sky yelling “Ho, ho, ho.”

Actually, what he was saying was, “No, no, no.”

“That,” I explained to my nephew, “is how all these stories get started.”  end mark