The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Man Who Met Santa Claus

By James V. Burchill © 1995

Issue: Winter, 1995

"Grandpa, Grandpa, tell us a story!" cried Mellisa.

"Yes Grandpa, please," said Robert.

"Tell us a Christmas story," yelled Laura.

Delbert, snarled something that no one understood, which was just as well.

Grandpa gathered his little darlings around him, lit his pipe, and said, "Well, I do have a Christmas story; it's about the man who met Santa Claus. Let's call him Harvey, okay kids get comfortable."

Well, it was forty-six years ago this very night, the night before Christmas. Harvey was lost, there was no doubt about that. His boots crunched in the newly fallen snow. He shuddered in the sub-freezing weather.

When Harvey was released from the Veteran's Administration hospital that Christmas Eve morning, the first thing he did was to call home. After talking to his Mama, and Daddy, Mary Lou, his sweetie came on.

"Mary Lou, I'll be home by midnight, and I have an important question to ask you."

"Oh, I know," laughed Mary Lou, "We'll be waiting."

Unfortunately for Harvey, he couldn't get a train from Richmond. Everyone in the world was traveling that night, December 24, 1945. Harvey, six months out of a Japanese Prison camp, had regained his health back, almost.

Harvey, hopped a Greyhound bus heading south, but the snowstorm stopped the bus in Columbia. Harvey started hitch-hiking and after two rides found himself on a lonely road, that seemed to go on forever, to nowhere.

Despite the cold Harvey was sweating. He staggered, almost falling into a ditch. Darn, he thought, a malaria attack. He took a quinine pill and waited.

Harvey lurched around a bend in the road, and his feverish eyes spotted a vehicle almost off the road, obviously stuck.

"Ho, Ho, Ho," laughed an oddly dressed white bearded man. "Merry Christmas, I seemed to have wandered off the road. Can you give me a hand?"

"Sure," said Harvey, although the vehicle he thought was an old truck looked, well, like a sled.

"Say, Harvey?" Asked the jolly old man, "You look a little feverish."

Harvey through the haze over his eyes said, "I'm okay, can you give me a lift. I have to get home."

"Ho, Ho, Ho, Harvey. I'll take you right to your door, just as soon as we push this here - er - vehicle back on the road. Heck Harvey, that's why I'm here."

Harvey grunted and groaned, and with the help of , he guessed, six big dogs, they got the vehicle back on the road.

Harvey, slumped next to the old man, and dozed off. He heard the man laughing and shouting, "On Dasher, on Dancer."

What seemed a minute ago, the jolly old man was shaking Harvey, "Harvey, wake up son, you're home."

Harvey staggered out of the vehicle, the malaria attack over, started to thank the old man, when the man shouted. "Merry Christmas, Harvey," and handed Harvey a small package, then rode away.

"Harvey Bannister, are you telling that old story to the children. Land a goshen, you know it was an old truck."

"Yes Mary Lou," smiled Grandpa Harvey.

"Come on children, I have hot chocolate in the kitchen," said Grandma.

The children screamed as one, "We like your story Grandpa," and they ran to the kitchen with Grandma.

Harvey put down his cold pipe and reached into the drawer of an end table. Pulling out an old box he opened it and drew out a clay pipe, a pipe that the old man had given him that cold night many years ago. He packed it with tobacco, and lit it. When it was warm a small picture appeared, it was Santa Claus. Under it was written, "A Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight."