Rudolph’s Red Nose 

© 1988 Russell Odell

My young friends ask me why Rudolph’s nose is red and Santa’s other deer are not? They also wanted to know why it will only light up if Christmas Eve is foggy? I have found that Santa has many secrets that are strictly Christmas secrets. I wonder if  anybody has ever asked Santa? He is very busy. It is difficult to get an appointment with him. I have met Santa several times and he was always willing to answer any question I asked him.

However, late in November of last year I was visiting friends in Vermont. One morning after a snow fall I decided to take a walk in the woods to see if I could find some bunny trails. I used to do that when I was a kid and I wonder if I could track a bunny like I use to.

After walking a long distance into the woods I brushed the snow from a fallen tree to sit a spell to rest. Through the spaces between the trees I saw an old man tapping a fir tree. I know you tap maple trees in the spring for the sap, and that trees do not have a sap flow in November. This was most unusual. I decide to find out why he was doing this . As I approached him I was startled to learn the old man was none other than Santa himself!

"Hello Santa," I gleefully exclaimed. "What in the world are you doing so far from home? And, how can you tap a fir tree in the winter?

"Hello Russ, my old friend. Glad to see you," he boomed out extending his hand. We had a good hand shake ending in a big hug.

As he poured a small vial of fir tree sap into a half pint container he siad, "Knowing how to get sap from a tree in winter time is something I learned from watching Rudolph. He likes to nibble on the bark to get a little opening. They he blows his warm breath on it to heat it. The heat causes the sap to flow just a bit and he licks it. If it is foggy, there is a chemical reaction between the fog and the fir tree sap that makes his nose glow. I make a small opening in the tree then hold my warm hand over it for a minute or two to warm the sap. It stops flowing the moment it cools."

I wonder how he learned to do that," I asked?

"I really don’t know Russ. The other reindeer used to make fun of him because of his nose and he is rather sensitive if you mention anything about it. However, I have seen the other deer nibble on the fir trees but nothing happens with then. Their nose will not light up. Rudolph is his own kind of Special Deer.

"How much sap does it take to make his nose light up," I asked.

"It all depends on the density of the fog", replied Santa. "Normally it takes about an ounce. Once, a few years ago during a very thick fog it took nearly three ounces. Most of the time the weather has clear skies until I reach the coast of England. The fog is very heavy there sometimes. I take this bottle along just in case we run into one of those English fog banks. I give Rudolph another swig of the fir tree sap and away we go unhampered.

Santa continued with, "I have to contact the North Pole Weather Station to get the latest weather report every few days before Rudolph has to get ready."

"Santa, could I have a taste of that juice," I asked.

"Why sure," he said as he tipped the bottle over his finger.

"Now stick out your tongue," he said.

I stuck out my tongue and he touch it with his finger.

"Wow!" I exclaimed. "It tastes just like a fir tree smells. No wonder Rudolph likes it. It’s so refreshing".

Jokingly Santa said, "I hope your nose doesn’t light up if you walk into any fog. Everyone will be calling you Rudolph."

"Santa," I said, "It will take a more than a finger-taste to make my nose light up. By the way Santa, I notice some times your nose gets quite red. Do you take a nip of Rudolph’s juice when Rudolph isn’t looking"?

"Good heavens no!" was his quick reply. "It’s the wind chill factor. We fly at high altitudes when we cross the oceans. The air get well below zero as fly to Europe. Add the chill factor to that and your nose would get red too, believe me. Well, Russ, I have to leave now. I’ve kept Rudolph waiting long enough. It’s time to go home."

"Do you mean you have Rudolph with you"? I asked in excitement.

"Of course. How do you think I got here. Come on, he’s just over that knoll".

As we cross over the knoll there was Rudolph hitched to a small cutter. The other deer were all back home.

"Hello Rudolph. I met Santa just over the knoll. We had quite a talk." said I.

"That’s nice," said Rudolph. "But I’m in a hurry to get back home. Christmas is coming next month and we have so much to do. Maybe I am telling stories out of school but that present you asked Santa for is already made. We’ll bring it to you Christmas Eve as long as you have been good. So, just be careful you don’t screw up before Christmas or you won’t get it." We had a
good laugh with that as Santa climbed into the little sleigh.

"OK Rudolph", called out Santa, "Let’s go high and fast."

I stood there and watched as Rudolph ran across the snow and lifted off the ground as graceful as a bird - higher and higher until they were both out of sight.

I was glad I had this talk with Santa. Now I can tell my young friends why Rudolph’s red nose lights up. I got it straight from Santa himself.

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