December 15th…………“AS A YOUNG BOY OF 12 YEARS, IN YOUR HOMETOWN OF KIESTER, MINNESOTA, WHAT UNLIKELY EVENT FOSTERED A LASTING CHRISTMASTIME MEMORY”??
Contemplatively speaking, it is an arresting thought to muse upon the mystique of our hearts in determining what we embed within our memories and what is set aside in our brains as dross and loss. With that parameter in place, travel with me back to a snowy December and my 1966-67 school year at Kiester High School in our village of Kiester, Minnesota.
I was privileged that year to be a member of our “Bulldog” Wrestling Team and we were about to be bound, that winter’s evening, aboard one of Leroy Dahl’s busses, for a wrestling meet in the distant town of Sherburn, Minnesota, which lay to the far west of our own farming community. This athletic event was transpiring in the holiday weeks leading up to Christmas, so, as winter weather normalcy had it, our town had been blessed with a wonderful, pristine blanket of snow covering our southern Minnesota world.
Our Wrestling Team Coach was the honorable Mr. Daryl Parker. I greatly admired him as teacher and as a fine masculine role model for we MatMen to follow. Coach had granted us permission, that evening, to buy and bring snacks and drinks onto the bus to appease the ever-gnawing hunger of ever-growing young bucks.
I quickly ran up the street, from our school campus, to the Kiester Food Market. Within its quaint and food-fragrant aisles, I had found a brand new type of snack crackers in a box called, “Chicken In A Biskit” and, to wash it all down, I bought a large glass bottle of soda-pop called, “Mountain Dew”.
As I emerged from the store, with my goodies in tow, I witnessed a combination of events that were both sublime and ethereal in nature. There was a calm-inducing quiet that night on the Main Street of our humble hometown.
Many of our city businesses had their Christmas decorations festooned from here to there, as well as gorgeous garlands that were strung from one side of Main Street to the other. All were glowing in a primary spectrum of colored Yuletide lighting. To make this scene even more magical, a beautiful silent snow had begun to float down from the black velvet of God’s wintery Heaven.
This farm boy’s moment of bliss was elevated to an even higher echelon as a quintessential type of dessert alighted upon my ears. From above the roofline of “Jim’s TV & Appliance Store” a large, public-address horn speaker had been wired to the stereo record player down inside the store and was playing beautiful Christmas music over our whole town.
Being a former “Bulldog” himself, from our High School’s class of 1958, Jim Engebretson had a loyalty and love for his dear hometown and, from the sweetness of his heart, wanted to make this Christmas Season as wonderful as possible with the addition of music to the atmosphere around us.
Even though I knew I had to be on my way back to the bus for the wrestling tournament, I stood there and savored every moment that I could as “Mr. Guitar”…..Chet Atkins, masterfully played the Christmas song, “Little Drummer Boy” over our entire town. Within the music-enhanced silence of that snow falling from an onyx sky, my rubber metal-buckled winter boots began crunching upon the snowy sidewalks, which only added to the joy-filled beauty of the musical moment.
The metal buckles of my boots, clinking below me, seemed to keep cadence with the music by their happy “chinka kling” as I strolled in the darkness. The deft talent of Chet Atkin’s playing brought a rich color to “The Little Drummer Boy” song on his electric guitar.
In great gratitude to Jim Engebretson’s provision of this epiphany moment, it was as if that famous guitarist was playing just for me. In my own private soliloquy, I pondered on the thought that I wasn’t just going to a wrestling match, I was tenderly held within a zenith moment of manifest Christmas joy that I have carried gladly, for over a half century, in the heart of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.