CHRISTMAS ON THE PRAIRIE
Round about this country when I was a kid there was a feller lived in the bunkhouse and his name was Iggy. Now his folks had homesteaded on a piece of land that wound up in the middle of our ranch. When his folks was gone , he sold that land to my Granddad and just hired on as a cowhand. He always said he din't want to own or be tied down to one place. He just wanted to go where there was good folks and work critters on horseback. Now one of the things Iggy done with some of that money he got from his land,was buy himself a Santa suit. He never was married, but that feller loved kids and bein' Santa was one the big pleasures in his life. Iggy was a big man in a lotta ways.. He was over 6 foot tall and crowdin' the 250 pounds, and it warn't too long till them red britches din't fit no more. Iggy had an old Ford pickup and a delapidated one horse trailer that he seldom used. About a week before Christmas, he would fire that pickup up and check the tires on the trailer and make sure everthing was up to snuff. Iggy din't go to town and blow his wages like a lot of the hands did during the year. No sir, he saved his wages in a coffee can on the shelf above hiS bed in the bunkhouse. Just before Christmas he would ask for a day off. Course my Dad couldn't refuse, cuz he knew what Iggy was up to. Iggy would shoehorn himself into that old Ford and my Dad would say.. "Stop down at the gas tank and top'r off Iggy!" Iggy would grin and go fill the tank and head for town. That pickup a rattlin' and smoke a boilin' out behind him and everthing for miles scatterin' from the racket. Well bout sundown Iggy would get back home, and the back of that pickup was plumb full of gunny sacks full of toys and clothes and candy. Come Christmas eve, my Dad and all the hands would find that somehow they had managed to get all the chores done a might early. They would all find themselves standin' around the bunkhouse and just happened to be able to give Iggy a hand with sortin' packages into them gunny sacks. Them sacks just somehow had the right presents in them for some family in some isolated ranch house out there in the High Lonesome. Well sir, when supper was over, the hands would just happen to be around to hook Iggy's trailer to his pickup. While that was goin' on, somebody must have decided that it would be handy if Iggy's favorite horse Cooter was to get saddled and loaded in that trailer. Bout time all of this was finishin' up, the fellers would stand around Iggy's pickup with grins on their faces. You could tell that they was plumb proud to be in on what was gonna happen. Then here he would come! Ol Iggy decked out in that there Santa coat and hat and he had the durnest pair of boots you ever seen. Them suckers was red on top and had white fur trim around the top.. Now any other time of the year, if Iggy had wore them boots anywhere he would had to clean somebody's plow for makin' some smart remark. Today, though there was nothin' but admiration and slaps on the back for Ol Iggy and them boots. Wall, Iggy would load himself into that pickup and head out. It would be dark by the time he reached the first ranch. Bout a half mile from the house he would unload ol Cooter and shuffle through them sacks till he found the one he wanted.. He would lay that gunny sack of presents on the hood of his pickup and haul his carcass up onto Cooter's back. He would ride over by the pickup and grab that sack and away they went. Him and Cooter would come a gallopin' up to that house, him a hollerin' "HO HO HO!" carryin' on like you couldn't believe. He would spend most of the night loadin' and unloadin' and deliverin' presents to kids that din't have a prayer of gittin' anything but maybe a pair of homemade socks or mittens and such. He made sure them kids knowed that there was a Santy Claus and that they hadn't been forgot. Well, I can tell you, Ol Iggy brought more joy to kids scattered like tumbleweeds across the prairies of Wyoming than any fancy doin's in town, and he done it for over 40 years. It was kinda fate I reckon that about the time him and Cooter couldn't do it anymore, was about the time that all them war babies was growed up and there warn't no kids that needed to be tended to. I was growing up about the time Iggy started all of this and somehow my Mother managed to keep me occupied when all the loadin' and such was goin' on around here when I was young.. An' ever Christmas, Santy Claus came to my house too. There was always somethin' in that sack that I wanted more than anything. As I got older, I learned who had come to my house every Christmas, and I learned that Iggy spent all of his spare time each fall findin' out what the kids in that part of the country wanted or needed for Christmas. It made me feel mighty special when I joined in with the others in helping Iggy get loaded and off on his annual adventure. Well, I'm crowdin' 60 years old now, but I'll whip any sucker walkin' that tries to tell me there ain't no Santy Claus, cuz I was there and knowed him personal.
NOTE: There actually was a hired hand on the ranch that dressed as Santa for Christmas. He was the inspiration for this story. His name was Tom Turnbull and he was a special guy. To a kid in grade school he seemed to be a giant of a man. He was 6'2" and weighed about 275 pounds. He worked for our family all of his life. He had a beautiful sorrel horse that I admired and on occasion he would let me ride him. I was the only one that was EVER allowed to ride that horse. If there was one passion in Tom's life it was fine horses. He spent all his money on horses and one Santa suit. He died of a heart attack about a year after the pictures were taken. He had no family but those on the ranch. He left his horse and saddle to me. To say that I was dumbfounded and thrilled is a gross understatement. I loved that horse and won many a ribbon and trophy at the County and State Fairs on Cy. I wish I had a picture of him.