December 10th………“AS A CHILD, ON YOUR FARM NEAR KIESTER, MINNESOTA, DID YOU EVER GET THE CHANCE TO MEET SANTA CLAUSE AT CHRISTMASTIME”??
Santa works in mysterious ways, and for me, that meant seeing him for the first time in our farm home’s Living Room on our little black n white television set while I watched my favorite cartoon show called, “Bart’s Club House”.
Up until that time, in my tiny boy life, I had only heard of Jolly Old Saint Nicholas through oral stories and books. But on that day, thanks to the tall TV antenna on the roof of our farm house, we “caught” the television signal all the way from Mason City, Iowa where dear Mr. Bart Curran was hosting one of our cartoon clubhouse meetings. Bart was a kindly gentleman who gave us kiddies a steady diet of fun cartoons during the entire year, but here, at Christmastime, there was something special for us little ones to look forward to. A large, special television was brought onto the clubhouse studio set. I recall there even being a sign on the appliance called, “SANTA-VISION”. In my gullible, trusting childhood mind, I figured that somehow, those amazing television magicians must’ve created an antenna tall enough to send and receive signals all the way from the NORTH POLE!!! That day, after a cartoon just finished, we all saw Bart walking over to the “SANTA-VISION” set. He began fidgeting with picture adjustment knobs and started talking to the screen. “Calling North Pole, Calling North Pole”!! “Santa come in, please”!! In my wide-eyed amazement, I began to see a roly, poly image slowly start to materialize within the electronic fuzz and “snowstorm” at the North Pole. Another few seconds of knob adjustments and THERE HE WAS…….Old Saint Nick himself!!! “Bart?, Is that you I see way down there in Mason City, Iowa? It’s so good to see you”!!!, said Mr. HO HO HO. Santa and Bart chatted back and forth about all the gifts that the elves were making in Santa’s Toy Factory and how Santa loved getting all the letters from us boys n girls. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be grand to meet Santa in person someday”?? Little did I realize that that dream was to come true in just a few days.
A fine, frigid Saturday dawned with a full, thick blanket of sparkling snow over the sleeping farmlands of south central Minnesota. This day was to be special indeed, for in our nearby village of Kiester, Christmas festivities were to be in full swing and joy-filled for old and young alike.
To say I was excited about this family fun day is an understatement……..I was like popcorn bouncing on the skillet with kinetic kid energy.
The snow was so thick on the ground that morning that Dad figured he’d better get the snow chains onto our little, green 1952 Chevrolet Deluxe. Myself and our family were fully bundled up against the crisp cold as we slogged from the house, through the snowdrifts, and into the Chevy. Dad fired up that old “Deluxe” and put the gas pedal to the metal as our chained show tires churned our way out of the driveway and onto the snow-filled roads that led to our hometown. Little did I know, though, as I sat in the backseat, one of those festivities of the day was for me to meet SANTA………..in the flesh!
About a mile from our farming village city limits, our Chevy was fast approaching a horse-drawn farm box sled being pulled by a handsome team of BIG Belgian draft horses. Within a second or two, our father recognized the man driving that team to be our very kind and burly farm neighbor, Chet Ozmun.
Chet Ozmun was a “bigger than life” kind of man. Tall, burly and round, this mountain of a man had been a blessing to our family many times over the years!! Recognizing our family car rolling up beside him, Chet pulled back on the reins of his beautiful Belgians and brought them to a halt as Dad gave the car some brakes and stopped alongside the rustic farm sled.
Quicker than an elf can blink, my little boy eyes popped wide open as I perceived that next to Chet was none other than the red-clad Jolly Ol’ Man himself………SANTA CLAUS!!!
We cranked down both passenger-side car windows to allow for Dad and Chet to visit a bit and exchanged “Season’s Greetings” to one another. Then, Chet asked, “By the way, Russ, would Elliott like to ride in the sled with us for the remainder of the sleigh ride into Kiester”??
From the backseat of the car I joyfully burst out with, “WOULD I EVER!!! Yes, please, can I, Dad”??? Dad’s answer was a happy “yes” as I climbed over the bench seat and into Mom’s lap. As big Chet reached down from his perch high up on the sleigh, Mom helped me climb out through her passenger window and into Chet’s strong grip which swung me up into the air and landed me joyfully between him and Santa!!! I was beyond thrilled to the point of being downright giddy!! Together, Chet and Santa fluffed a big lap robe into the air and brought its warmth down across the three of us on that wagon seat. I was about to bust from kid happiness! Our family Chevrolet, below us, continued its journey as I waved them “so-long” and they continued on into town. With a gentle slap of the reins to his team, Chet gave a soft, manly “Heeyah”! and his massive Belgians came to attention and obeyed their master while they leaned into their harness and our farm-sled sleigh began to slide n glide forward. With every muscled bounce of these equine giants, their silver harness of sleigh bells sounded out in singing harmonies of holiday cheer as we three “kings” were transported the rest of the way into our beloved hometown of Kiester.
I was “on top of the world’, literally, with Santa to my right, Chet Ozmun to my left and those mighty Belgians “singing” with their silver-belled harness resounding with a “ching a ching, ching” as their bells took us up Main Street and to the front of “The KEE Movie Theater”. We were just in time for the annual FREE Christmas movie that was sponsored each year by our very own “Sime’s John Deere Tractor Company”. Santa was there to take part in our Christmas season celebration by greeting all the children and handing out gifts of candy and peanut sacks from his giant red velvet bag after the movie and cartoons were finished. What an extra joyous Christmas that was for this elated Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!!