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The Hero of Goat Gap

Maybe you heard about the inflatable, singing Santa Claus that was stolen in the little town of Mesick, Michigan, a few days ago.

He was seven feet tall. He stood outside a store and sang “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” Over and over again.

Someone kidnapped him. Police found beer bottles and cigarette butts at the crime scene, suggesting that rowdies took him as a prank.

Somebody’s always messing with Christmas. I admit that the commercial season is a bit much, and I’m jaded at times. But something always happens to restore my spirits, and my gladness that Christ was born.

This year it’s Nick, the Santa who was abducted in Michigan. He’s alive and well in Goat Gap, north of Wickenburg.

Nick has decided to spend the winter in Arizona, just as the real Santa does. (Shoot. I wasn’t supposed to tell you that the real Santa winters at his home on a dude ranch golf course. He told me that if I gave away his secret, he’d put a Martha Stewart Chia head in my stocking. Well, I’ve let the bear out of the bathtub now.)

Anyhow, Nick, the inflatable Santa, has already become a hero in Goat Gap. There’s a nice story in this week’s Goat Gap Gazette & Desert Land Shopper, and it goes this way:

Windy Joe, an old-timer around these parts, was hired to fly back to Michigan and haul some horses out to Goat Gap for a wealthy couple who spend winters at their ranch on Cricket Creek.

Windy flew back and picked up a fifth-wheel rig with a deluxe, four-horse trailer on behind. He was rolling along near Kalamazoo, just getting comfortable with the feel of the rig, when he saw someone standing forlornly beside the highway. Windy said the guy looked deflated.

Being a kind man, and a little lonely, Windy stopped and offered the fellow a ride. The guy appeared to be dressed in red, and his clothes were a mess. Windy had to help Nick into the truck.

Windy said Nick didn’t talk much, but it was nice just to have another being in the cab with him as he drove across the Midwest.

You have to understand that Windy is not an analytical, judgmental man. Some folks think he’s one tine short of a fork. He accepts life as he finds it, and in that way, he and Nick are a good match.

He said Nick told him about the rowdies who had kidnapped him and thrown him into the back of an old pickup. Nick said they seemed to forget all about him then. When they stopped to buy more beer, Nick jumped out of the truck and started hitchhiking. He really liked the idea of visiting Arizona.

At a feed store in Indiana, Windy bought Nick a pair of coveralls and a John Deere cap, and loaned him a razor. Nick came out of the restroom looking like Wilfred Brimley going to a corn shucking. (Come to think of it, the other Santa also looks like Wilfred Brimley. He dresses like a cowboy and drives around Wickenburg, chuckling, “Ho, ho, ho.” You’d chuckle too if you were driving a new, yellow Hummer H2.)

Windy said the only thing that bothered him was Nick singing the same song over and over again: “We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas…” It was driving Windy crazy.

By the time they got to Missouri, Windy had taught Nick to sing “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Jingle Bells,” and “God Bless America.” They continued to expand Nick’s repertoire as they crossed America.

Windy let Nick help feed and water the horses, although Nick didn’t seem to eat or drink much himself.

Coming through Oklahoma, they stopped to help a woman with four kids whose ancient car had broken down. While Windy got the car started, Nick entertained the kids with “Little Drummer Boy,” tapping out rhythm on the car hood and giving Windy a headache.

When they arrived in Goat Gap, Windy told Nick he could sleep on the sofa in the front room of Windy’s single-wide mobile home. Just until he can find work and a place of his own, because Windy has his own ways of doing things.

The way Nick got to be a hero was this: Windy always plays Santa Claus for the annual Christmas party in his little church. It’s not the richest church in Goat Gap, but it’s rich in spirit.

The church invites poor kids to the party, whether they are members of the congregation or not. There are presents for everyone–nice presents.

The church is too tiny for the party crowd, so the gala is always held outside. Fortunately, the weather has been gorgeous. The late afternoon light of autumn adds a richness to all the colors of the desert. Afternoon blends into a clear, nippy evening.

Windy took Nick along to the party, of course. Nick looked a little slack, so adolescents in the congregation filled him with helium from a party balloon kit. Now Nick felt bloated.

He started to float away, so they tied his ankle to a board fence with a long string. Nick felt like an idiot floating idly above the party, but he lacked words to express his feelings. Luckily, the string let him float high enough to escape the kids who mistook him for a pinata.

Nick had a great view of the pageant that told of Jesus’ birth. The presents were piled on long tables, under strings of colored lights. Windy had slipped off to change into his Santa suit.

Bobbing around on the evening breeze, Nick spotted four young men lurking behind the fence. Their breath smelled of beer and cigarettes. They reminded Nick of the guys who had kidnapped him in Michigan.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Nick found a way to release helium from his body. He hovered low over the rowdies and heard them plotting to dash in and steal the Christmas presents.

Nick released a little more gas and hovered just above and behind the bad guys. Their beady little eyes were fixed on the presents, and they did not notice Nick.

Not being so bloated now, Nick had enough wind to really belt out “Jailhouse Rock” right into their ears. The startled miscreants yelped and took off into the darkness. The men of the church gave chase, just to hasten their flight.

Nick got to sit proudly beside Windy while “Santa” gave out the presents. The congregation was grateful. The pastor quietly persuaded his flock to donate some cowboy clothes, including boots and a weathered Stetson. Now Nick fits right in, in the same way the other Santa… well, never mind about that.

The people of Goat Gap and the entire staff of the Wickenburg Institute For Factual Diversity wish you a wonderful Christmas.

Last 5 posts by Jim Cook

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