Russell Odell

©1997 All rights reserved

We have all heard about Rudolph, the deer with the shiny red nose.Gene Autry wrote a song about him that has been sung in every language in every country in the world. Where did Rudolph come from? How did he finally get into Santaís group? How did he learn to fly?

Nobody knows. The happy little guy just appeared, red nose and all. Santa accepted him and that was it. I, too, wondered how he happened to appear on the scene. I had just about given up trying to find out when, one day I went into the woods to cut a Christmas tree for my neighborís children. . There I saw a large stag with a magnificent rack. He looked majestic. He was big and strong, well formed. Why do I always see these things when I donít have my camera?

I stopped axing the tree and sat down to rest a spell. I didnít want to make extra noise to scare this deer. Occasionally it would stop nibbling and stare at me for a long time. It was an inquisitive stare, almost as if it wanted to say something. I had a small cassette player with me that had just played Burl Ivesí recording of "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer". Unconsciously I had sung along with it.

The stag started to walk toward me but hesitated. I broke the silence with, "Hello, Mr. Deer. How are you this fine day?" Then I went about cutting the Christmas tree. When he saw I didnít try to catch him or molest him in any way he came quite close. Then I got the shock of my life when he asked, "Could you play that Rudolph song again, please?"

I tried not to act startled and calmly replied, "Certainly. Iíll have to wind the tape back. It will take but a minute."

I rewound the tape and pressed the play button. . I sat down so the deer would see I wasnít aggressive in any way. He listened to it intently. He held his head high and looked stately and grand. He was majestic in his stance.

When the song ended he asked, "Are you going to be here for a while or must you leave?"

To hear a deer talk was a bit bewildering to me. It is not something you adjust to immediately. Trying to keep your composure and act natural is rather hard to do under such circumstances.

"Iíll be here about another half hour or so, shaping this tree a bit before I take it home. Why? Do you want me to wait for something?"

"Yes," he said. "I would like someone to hear that song up close. We have only heard it from a distance. I will be back quickly."

Then another strange thing happened. He didnít seem to run like other deer. His legs moved but he glided swiftly through the trees. And just as quickly, he reappeared with a beautiful doe.

"Would you play that song again, please?" he asked. While Burl Ives sang out with that fatherly voice of his, the two deer stood
frozen in time. They didnít move a muscle. They stood in a trance.

"That was beautiful," commented the doe. I never heard it up close like this before. Itís more beautiful when you are close to the music."

I began to get accustomed to hearing deer talk so I inquired, "Why is this song so fascinating to you"?

They both spoke together very proudly, "Rudolph is our son."

I was shocked beyond belief. This was all too strange to be happening. First deer talking, deer liking music, then claiming to be the parents of the one with the red nose. This was too much to come all at once. I was a bit beside myself. Wouldnít you be if this happened to you?

They looked at me and asked in a concerned voice, "Are you all right? You suddenly began to look quite pale. Are you sure you are all right?"

"Yes. Yes," I replied. "Iím not used to talking with deer. This never happened to me before. To say the least, this is a bit unusual. Youíll have to pardon me if I seem a bit bewildered. It does take a bit of getting use to."

"You are quite right," replied the Doe. "We seldom get this close to strangers. We worry about getting too close to hunters."

There was a moment of silence and then the Doe said. "It took us a long time to get use to not having our son around. We are a special breed of deer. We learned how to fly. That may sound strange to you but, it is the truth. We can glide through the air with the greatest of ease."

"The only deer that I ever heard of that could fly was the deer Santa Claus has. But to find deer like you two that can talk, I say, this is a startling experience for me. Can Rudolph talk also"? I asked?

"Why, of course," said the Doe in a surprised tone of voice as though I should have known that. "But he is very shy. He only talks to Santa and the other deer. Occasionally he will talk to children. Some children donít believe in Santa and that hurts Rudolphís feelings. Take yourself for, instance. If you didnít believe in the Spirit of Christmas and Santa Claus, you couldnít hear us talking to you."

"If you wonít think us rude," cut in the stag, "we never talk to those who donít understand what Christmas is all about."

"I donít think youíre rude for saying that," I assured him. "I know a few people who donít believe in Christmas. They say it has something to do with their religion."

"Oh my!" exclaimed the Doe. "Religion does not have anything to do with it.Christmas is for everybody regardless of who you are. Itís a time for everyone to forget their troubles and join together in love and happiness.Christmas is just a happy time for every one."

I was beginning to feel comfortable talking with the deer and thought I should ask them a couple of questions that have been bothering me through the years.

"I wonder if you would answer a question for me. It is something I have always wondered about ever since I saw Santa and his reindeer flying through the sky when I was six years old. I have asked many people and no one knows the answer. Please tell me, How do you fly?"

"That is quite a long story", said the stag. "Do you have the time?"

"It really is a simple story," was the quick response from the doe. I assured him I had all the time in the world to learn how Santaís reindeer can fly.

They told me about a time a ago, before there was a Christmas, when they met a happy, jolly old man chopping down a tree. He was singing a happy tune and joy just seemed to flow from him. They asked him why he was cutting down such a pretty tree. He told them he needed the wood to make more toys for the children in the village. He was disturbed that he didnít have the means to travel around faster and farther so he could reach other children and make them happy. Many times they heard him say in a wishful voice, "If only I could fly."

One afternoon the deer were visiting this happy old fellow called Santa. He was kidding the deer about not being able to fly.

"Why donít you fellows learn to fly?" He kidded them.

"Fly! Fly did you say," questioned the deer? "We are deer, not birds."

"Well fellows, birds can also walk. You fellows can walk. If the birds can walk and fly why canít you fly as well as you walk.?"

"This got to be a jolly conversation," said the doe. They all had a good laugh.

"Imagine," exclaimed one of the deer, "Wouldnít that be a funny sight? A herd of deer flying like a flock of geese!"

"No funnier than seeing a flock of geese walking through the meadow like deer," chirped in another.

A few months drifted by and a few of the deer got together to discuss why they couldnít fly. They thought they were as smart, if not smarter, than the geese. After all, the geese had to fly south for the winter. The deer didn't.

They began their research by asking Santa how he learned to walk.

"Itís something you just do," Santa told them. The deer kidded Santa that when he was born he didnít know how to walk. He had to creep around on all fours like a pussy cat. When he tried to stand up he fell over. It took Santa a long time just to learn how to stand still. The deer had seen him grow up. Even when he tried to walk he fell down. He got so he could take one or two steps. That was a big improvement. After a while he was able to walk.

"It just something you have to keep trying to do." Said Santa, "Until you can do it. You canít explain it to anyone. Everyone learns the same way.Gradually you get the hang of it. Once you do, there is nothing to it. You just walk." That was Santaís explanation.

I got into the conversation by adding, "I can remember when I first tried to roller skate. Trying to navigate on wheels instead of just your feet is tricky. I fell many times and sometimes it hurt. Nobody can learn to roller skate for you. Itís a "you" thing. When winter came I got a pair of ice skates. Try moving around on the slippery ice. I fell so many times I learned to skate on my bottom before I could skate standing up. If anyone should ask me how I learned to ice skate I would tell them I didnít quit every time I fell down. It was perseverance. You have to keep trying until you get it right. Some can learn things and others canít. But everyone who sticks with it can learn the fascinating secret. Sorry to have interrupted you. Please continue with your interesting story."

The stag continued with, "A few deer got together and reasoned out that when they leaped over anything, they were momentarily flying. The problem was to find out how to sustain the "leap factor". It was dangerous. Many had bad
falls. Because of all the sore and bruised muscles most of them quit. If you quit, you donít learn. A few of them continued trying and the leaps became greater and greater. After awhile a few of them could "make like a bird". They laughed and said, "I suppose the next thing Santa will ask us to do is lay eggs."

Then the doe continued the story. "About a year later when four of them developed this flying-leap secret real good they flew over to see Santa.Santa was real surprised to see them fly in and land so graciously.

"How did you guys learn to fly?" he questioned.

"The same way you learned to walk. Itís just something you keep trying to do until you learn you can. Took a lot of spills, falls, bruises, and had aching muscles but a lot of determination. Most of the herd quit after getting banged up a bit."

"Actually, thereís nothing to it once you get the hang of it. Watch this," said another. He took off and gave Santa a
demonstration of what he meant by, "thereís nothing to it." The deer regarded this flying stuff very nonchalantly.

"In time others learned to fly," added the stag. "Soon it became "old hat stuff" and they didnít have to fly south for the winter
like the geese did. Many quit flying because it was getting too dangerous and the novelty soon wore off. Now you find very few
that want to fly. The deer said they found no useful reason for it because they lived in a forest, not the wide open spaces. It was
fun for a while but when the novelty wore off, the fad died.

"How come your son got into Santaís Christmas group?" I queried.

"Thatís another story. Are you sure weíre not boring you with all his reindeer news?"

"Of course not. You have just told me one of the most interesting stories I have ever heard. And to learn how Rudolph got into Santaís flying group is something I have wondered about for years. Yes, continue. Please do."

They told me when Rudolph was very young he was always running off to many places he shouldnít have gone to. He was a restless deer. He always wanted to know what was over the next mountain. He wanted to learn everything all at once

One time he got so far from home he couldnít find his way back. After two or three years they gave him up as lost. One day he came running home all excited to tell his parents about all the things he had seen and some of the places he had been. He was a true explorer.

"We have always thought that this world wasnít big enough for him. It wouldnít have surprised us if he had tried to go to the moon." Said doe.

I asked if his nose was red and how did it get that way. I learned that he use to eat the bark from Christmas Trees. There was some chemical in the bark that would make his nose redden a bit if the weather becamefoggy. His parents tried it to see if it would make their nose red. They tried it. It didnít. It was something in the bark that affected Rudolph. In the spring of the year if the sap was running and he got too much of the sap, his nose would actually glow brightly.

One year Rudolph got lost up around the North Pole and was stranded on an ice flow. It almost cost him his life. A Polar Bear spotted him and decided Rudolph would make a good meal. The piece of ice Rudolph was stranded on touched shore just in time. When the Polar Bear gave chase that is when Rudolph said he found out he could fly. The capability of flight just came to him in a moment of fright. Itís just one of those unexplainable things that happens that you canít explain and you are wasting your time trying to figure out how it happened.

"He was gone for several years and we wondered what may have happened to him. Then, I think it was in 1962, when we heard a wonderful mellow voice singing about a deer that had a red nose. The song had something to do with Santa Claus so we set out immediately to see Santa. WE were good friends for many years and knew Dasher and Dancer before they joined Santaís Christmas team. Dasher and Dancer are our nephews and Vixen is the brother to Blitzen.Comet and Cupid are my sisterís children and Prancer and Donner are my brotherís siblings.

When we got to Santaís place, we spotted Rudolph right away. The minute he saw us he flew right over to his Mama and Papa. What a happy time we had.What a thrill of happiness that was. Santa came out to greet us and Santa gave us a party that lasted for a week. Rudolph wanted to stay with Santa because he got the chance to explore the whole world every December because he acted as the Seeing Eye Dog during foggy nights.

Rudolphís parents are going to see Rudolph and the gang this Christmas and have a special Reindeer Party with Mr. And Mrs. Claus as Guest of Honor.

The sun was beginning to sink in the western sky but they asked if I would play that song once again before we parted. I wound the tape pack to Burl Ives, turned up the volume and let his friendly voice fill the wooded valley with the strains of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. I could see a tear or two in their eyes. They thanked me, politely bowed and flew off towards the setting sun.

That night when a few coy stars crept out into the sky and the moon came stealing up mysterious and shy I knew more about what makes Christmas such a fantastic holiday.

I know why Rudolphís nose is red and it only glows when it is foggy. I also know there is a Santa Clause and that reindeer can fly. It was a most memorable day. I will never, never forget it!

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