It was another quaint scene of rural Rocky Mountain Americana, long before the beautiful people landed here. A clothesline, heavy with a fresh wash, was stretched from the propped up hood of a black ’54 Chevy to the corner post of the flimsy front porch. A spotted mutt lay in the mud chewing on an old sneaker as three dirty-faced children ran half-naked through the snow and mud frolicking among the goats and chickens.

Grandma sat glum-faced in an old rocker on the front lawn bundled in a stained blanket. A dip of snuff lay soggy between her lip and gum. Brown spittle drooled down her chin, spotting the bosom of her Goodwill dress.

Mary Jane looked from the kitchen window as she kneaded dough for the Christmas baked goods. She watched as the warm sunshine melted snow from the old barn roof sending its cool droppings into a rancid mound of garbage and rotting deer hides. A mouse scurried from the pantry and into the corner. Mary Jane quickly finished her last slug of Keystone and hurled the empty at the unsuspecting rodent, shattering glass against the stove. The mouse ran back into the pantry, a sprig of parsley clutched fast between its teeth. It’s only parsley, thought Mary Jane. The kids won’t eat it anyhow.

Gus, Mary Jane’s husband, stumbled from the barn. His eyes were red from drink and blinded by the afternoon sun causing him to trip over an old rusty transmission. He fell headlong into the mud and snow cursing bitterly.

On the horizon came a fleet of pickups and vans. Here come the do-gooders, mused Gus. Then he smiled, for in the deep recesses of his foggy memory a thought emerged. Old Melvin Toole was playing Santa at the Grange today. At least he would have someone to drink with after all.

The visitors parked in the rutted road’s ankle deep mud and gathered at the gate. Phony smiles adorned their scrubbed faces. Beneath the holy makeup of a shaky Santa was the smug, devil-may-care Toole. He stepped from his pickup, hoisting a sack of toys over his boney shoulder. He swallowed the last swig of his drugstore bourbon and tossed the empty bottle into the back of the truck, the melting snow muffling the sound of the breaking atop his jack, other bottles and a huge piece of petrified cottonwood.

“I use that for ballast,” he slurred. But not a creature heard him.

Next the county sheriff marched through the gate dragging a fresh-cut spruce. Behind him was a procession of the righteous carrying boxes of decorations and food.

“Ya got anything to drink in there?” asked Gus whose request was promptly ignored by the pilgrims.

The children, stone-faced and perplexed, stood next to Grandma as she rocked and chewed her cud. Gus lit a Viceroy. In the kitchen Mary Jane opened another beer, looking out of the window in disgust at the procession in her field.

All at once a rusty piece of barbed wire, hidden beneath the snow, caught the shiny patent leather toe of Santa’s boot sending him down the hill, gliding on his red Gore-Tex suit and crashing into Gus. The impact sent both men rolling into the pile of garbage and deer hides, causing a roar of laughter and cheer.

On the back of the pickup a guitar player strummed while a chorus from Al-Anon sang that famous old Buck Owens classic, “Santa Looks A Lot Like Daddy.”

Everyone just stood their in the yard wondering what to do next when it began to snow. In the distance silver peaks glistened like white marble against a powder-blue sky. The green pines shuddered, the sun met the land and once again another Christmas arrived in the glorious Rockies.

– Jose Katu

Filed Under: Hard News


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