Once upon a time in a faraway land lived Santa and Mrs. Claus. They led very busy lives, what with tending to the reindeer and making gifts all year to be ready for Christmas. But they had a good life. They lived way up at the North Pole where the air was fresh and the water was clean. Nature was an everyday miracle they were able to experience. They were happy to live such an isolated life.
The only problem they had was with a four year old reindeer named Dick. He was the meanest, dirtiest, most evil-eyed reindeer Santa had ever seen. It was late August when Dick and a female were brought onto Santa's farm. Since this was the time of year the reindeer were in the rut, Santa just figured he was a healthy male doing what comes naturally.
As the months went on, Santa got to know his two new reindeer better all the time. Dick was so dangerous that one day, with his massive antlers, he picked Santa up by his suspenders and dangled him in the air. Before he knew what was happening, he was being flung around and quickly ground into the dirt. Hooves and antlers everywhere, and if it hadn't been for the elves, Santa may have been killed.
The other reindeer was quite a different story. She was tamed right down, eating out of Santa's hand. Mrs. Claus was always asking Santa what he was going to name the other reindeer. Then the elves started in on him too. "What about the other reindeer, Santa? What are you going to call the other reindeer?" Santa finally decided on "Olive the other reindeer" for her. It was a good private joke for his wife and the elves too.
Santa and Mrs. Claus were nearing the end of making toys. It was almost Christmas. Finishing touches to the gifts and some extra food for the reindeer were Santa's priorities. Everything was going along fine, or so Santa thought. It turned out that Dick and Olive the other reindeer were creating quite a bit of havoc in the deer pen. Dick was jumping from pen to pen, bullying the rest of the herd, and Olive the other reindeer was laughing and calling Rudolph names. When they got to go run and play in the big pen they wouldn't let Rudolph join in any reindeer games.
The elves ran into the house and told Santa all about the problems that the herd was having. Santa quickly grabbed his coat off the rack by the door and raced outside. It was very quiet, and dark! Santa couldn't see anything, so he went back to the house to get a flashlight. As he was rummaging around the porch looking for the flashlight, Mrs. Claus yelled from the workshop, "We still don't have a Christmas tree, Santa." He found the light and headed off into the darkness.
As he walked, he could hear nothing. He thought maybe the elves were over-reacting. He shone the light here and there. He called out to the reindeer but they didn't come. "That's odd," he thought. Then he heard a faint noise, a moan maybe, so he headed in the direction the sound came from. To his horror, he saw the unbelievable! There lay Rudolph, all bloodied and twisted! The way he laid there, it looked as though he was dead! "Oh no!" Santa gasped. He moved closer and knelt down beside him. Santa put his ear by Rudolph's mangled face and could hear him breathing ever so faintly. He scooped him up and placed him on a sled and dragged him back to the house. "Help me get him inside!" Santa cried.
Everyone helped get Rudolph into the house. Mrs. Claus got some warm water and started cleaning his wounds. "Oh my goodness!" she whispered to Santa. "Look at his nose and face! It's as if a wolf got a hold of him!" "No," Rudolph said as he gasped for air, "it was Dick and that other reindeer, Olive, that did this to me. They've been mean to me since they arrived here in August." "You just try and rest. I'll get to the bottom of this," Santa said.
That night after Rudolph finally fell asleep by the fire, Santa and Mrs. Claus were having a brandy, discussing all of the day's events. "There's still work to be done on the toys," Santa whispered softly. "We don't have a tree yet and I don't know that Rudolph is going to be well enough by Christmas Eve to help pull the sleigh!" Mrs. Claus sighed and said, "I suspect the damage is far worse than we even know. Broken ribs and a mangled face are just what we can see on the outside. It's going to take a miracle for him to be well enough by Christmas Eve!"
Rudolph only slept a little that night. Because of the Banomine Mrs. Claus gave him for the pain, he wasn't sure if he was dreaming or hallucinating. He could see a lot of bright lights, dancing around the room. It made him dizzy, so he closed his eyes. Soon he could hear little faint whispers. It sounded like he was surrounded, so he opened his eyes slowly. To his disbelief, there were little angels all around him. They were fluttering about, making little lights flash in their wings. They were the most beautiful things he had ever seen! "Maybe I'm in heaven now," Rudolph thought.
Just then, one of the angels spoke up and told Rudolph they had witnessed his assault that evening and felt very sorry for him. They wanted to know if there was anything they could do for him. "I would sure like to be well enough to fly this Christmas," Rudolph said. "But I know that's asking too much." The angels looked at one another and joined hands.
Soon the whole room was illuminated. It was the most beautiful thing Rudolph had ever seen. His eyes widened when they started fluttering around him in a circle. They were chanting something that he couldn't understand. "Maybe it's another language," he thought, "maybe it's their language." Nonetheless, it was as soothing as soft music. They circled him round and round, slowly at first, then faster and faster. Soon he felt that dizzy feeling again and he closed his eyes.
Next thing he knew, it was morning and Santa and Mrs. Claus were standing over him, wide-eyed in disbelief. Rudolph was already starting to heal! His sutures were almost ready to come out. "How can this be?" Mrs. Claus said, obviously bewildered. "All I know," Santa squealed, "is that you, Rudolph, are going to go down in history!"
As Santa sat down to breakfast with his wife, she asked the dreaded question. "So what do you intend to do with that dirty, evil-eyed reindeer, Santa? Imagine, beating up everything you come into contact with! He's still in the rut and it's December. As far as I'm concerned, Dirty Dick should become sausage and pepperoni for all the hungry kids of the world!" "Now, now," said Santa, "you're absolutely right about him, but do you honestly want him dead?"
She thought for a moment, and looking over at Rudolph snuggled in his blanket by the fire, and said, "no, I guess you're right. But he has to be punished. And how can you be sure that this sort of thing won't happen again?" Santa replied. "I'll figure something out, but right now I must go tend to the animals and polish up the sleigh. I'll just make sure Dick is still in the barn so he won't be able to hurt anything else."
With that, Santa pulled on his coveralls and headed outside to tend to the animals. When he got out to the corral, he was happy to see that all was well. After last night's fiasco, he didn't need any other problems. He fed the reindeer and decided to go check on Dick in the barn. When he got close to the door, he could hear Dick pawing the wooden floor, all the while snorting and spitting. It sounded absolutely nasty inside that building. "What to do?" he thought. Hmmm. He stood on a wooden crate that was used as a salt feeder and peeked in the window. To his dismay, he'd forgotten that he had left the sleigh in the barn a few days earlier after he'd waxed it.
Dick had ruined the sleigh. It was scattered from one end of the barn to the other. Pieces of sleigh here and there - mangled skis twisted up like pretzels. Santa's big red fancy chair was all ripped apart. Some of that soft velvety material was still dangling from Dick's antlers. "Oh, how can all of this be happening to me? I've never had so many problems! Now what will I do?" Santa sighed, and turned toward the house, wondering all the way how he was going to explain this one to the missus.
As soon as she heard the door slam, Mrs. Claus rushed to the door and asked Santa how everything was outside. Santa just looked at her. He said nothing. She immediately knew something was wrong. "Are the reindeer O.K?" she asked. Santa nodded, and told her the animals were all fine, but that there was a problem with the sleigh. As he was explaining to her what had gone on with Dick in the barn, she turned pale and had to sit and rest for a moment. As she sat there sipping her water, they discussed their options.
Santa called an emergency meeting with all the elves. He filled them in on the latest tragedy. They assured him that if they worked day and night, they could have a new sleigh built by Christmas Eve. He was ever so grateful for the elves' loyalty to him.
Just then the doorbell rang. Santa got up from his easy chair to get the door. "Wonder who that could be?" Santa mumbled, as he opened the door. All he could see was a gigantic Christmas tree, maybe the most beautiful one he had ever seen. All of a sudden, out of the branches popped an angel. "Hi Santa!" the angel beamed. "We heard you needed a tree, so we went out and got this one for you. This is the biggest, most beautiful one we could find!" "Well, Ho! Ho! Ho!" Santa roared. Suddenly Mrs. Claus knew everything was going to be all right. Somehow they would overcome all of the setbacks and Christmas cheer would be spread around the world.
Santa invited the angels inside to warm up and have some eggnog. As they were warming by the fire, the angels circled around Rudolph, who was still resting quietly. "How do you feel?" they asked. "I remember the pain I had last night," he said. "You mean you remember last night?" the angels asked. "Well, sort of," he replied. "I remember the lights and the music, but I think I was dreaming." "Oh no, you weren't!" the angels said. "We heard your cries for help and quickly came to your aid! You might not have lived at all, and certainly you wouldn't have been able to pull Santa's sleigh by Christmas! We combined all of our energies to make you well again. Your face was really damaged, and, in order to fix it completely, we had to give you one of our wing lights. It will shine red from now on to light up the nights for Santa." Wiping a tear from his big brown eye, Rudolph thanked each and every one of them and cuddled down in his blanket and drifted off to sleep.
The angels drank up their eggnog and were about ready to leave when Santa piped up and said, "How would you like to help us decorate our Christmas tree?" "Oh, could we?" the angels exclaimed merrily. They could string the beads of popcorn with the greatest of ease. They fluttered around the tree with their little lights flickering in their wings. It made the tree look so beautiful that Santa asked the angels if they would just stay in the tree and light it up. They happily agreed. It was much more comfortable in the house by the crackling fire than outside in the snow.
The next morning Santa and Mrs. Claus awoke to Rudolph's hooves clicking on the wooden floor in the kitchen. They could hear him rustling around in the beet pulp cookies. "Don't have too many of those, Rudolph," Mrs. Claus yelled from her bed. "You know what kind of tummy ache they give you if you have too many!" Rudolph remembered that time he had too many cookies. He was sick for two whole days. He wouldn't do that again, he thought to himself.
Christmas Eve was the busiest day of the year, so the whole farm was buzzing with activity. The elves were finishing up the sleigh and organizing all of the toys that were to be delivered. Santa was feeding the reindeer and checking them over from top to bottom. Everything needed to be perfect.
Santa wondered what Dick was up to, so he peeked into the barn and saw him laying there. His head was down on the floor between his hooves. If Santa didn't know any better, he'd swear that Dick was remorseful! He tapped on the window and Dick looked up. "I realize that what I've done is wrong. I'm sorry for all the trouble I've caused. I could hear the rest of the herd talking earlier and they said you're going to make sausage and pepperoni outta me! Is this true, Santa? I wasn't in this alone either, you know. Olive was helping me too!"
Santa did feel sorry for him and he had an idea. He quickly went to the house and called out for his wife. "I've got it!" he shouted. "You've got what?" she exclaimed as she came into the kitchen. "I know what to do with Dick and Olive the other reindeer!"
"Jerky comes to mind," she growled. "No, not that at all!" Santa replied. "If we let them go, then maybe they will survive and reproduce and start their own herd! They aren't the flying kind anyhow. The rest of the world should be able to share in the life of a reindeer. Dick is very aggressive and that would make him a great protector of his herd. Who knows, maybe one day in the future, people will want to farm them like sheep or cattle!"
Mrs. Claus had a good laugh, then said "Yes, just imagine farming a reindeer like a cow or sheep. Now that's a good one! You're a dreamer, Santa Claus!"
Christmas Eve went off without a hitch. Everything went smoothly. The new sleigh was better than the old one. The reindeer were all feeling their best. It was especially handy this year with Rudolph's nose lighting up, for it was an unusually foggy night. "Isn't it strange," Santa thought, "how things work out?" If it hadn't have been for Dick the evil-eyed reindeer, he would not have met the angels who were lighting up his tree and Rudolph wouldn't have had a nose that lit up the way in the fog. Olive the other reindeer probably wouldn't have laughed and called Rudolph names in the first place.
Now Santa was going to repay Dick and Olive by setting them free. They could go forth and multiply. Who knew, in a few thousand years, maybe they would become a familiar word in the alternative livestock industry.
[Cindy told us that this is the first article she has ever written. We think she has a great future as an author. We look forward to seeing many more of her stories and articles. Ed.]