Buck’s White Christmas
Christmas was always special for Buck. It was the one time of the year that he would attempt with every fiber of his crusty Canuck-infested being to be the kind of son his mother always prayed for…but came up short on. It was during that one time of the year that he would trade in his surly reputation as a walleyed womanizing bush pilot to become an angel from on high…or at least so he thought.
It was during this special time of year that he would transform his oil-leaking, rivet-popping, barely airworthy, DeHavilland Beaver into Santa’s personal sleigh…or a close approximation thereof. His only employee Magu would paint the fuselage a dull red coat of water paint, even adding the crude name “Santa’s Slay” in large white letters, in case any semi-literate person might miss the connection. Since he was under contract to service Ojibwa reservations in northern Ontario it only made sense that he would be the deliverer of goodies, having already made his mark as their lifeline to civilization dropping off newspapers, magazines, coffee, and Nintendos. So he felt it only fitting to spice up that special role for the kiddies.
To insure historical accuracy he even put on a pair of frayed red flannel underwear stuffed into a pair of all black Sorel’s, while wearing a greasy red duck down jacket, replete with a red toboggan topped with a white fuzzy ball purloined from some stripper down in Toronto. He already had the salt and pepper beard and due to copious amount of Dewars over a span of years, had the trademark bulbous red nose. Several big canvas duffle bags held the ‘goodies’ and to top it off he duct taped two leather straps of authentic sleigh bells to the struts of the Beaver so when at cruise the old girl would whistle and rattle beyond the normal clatter of a bad valve job. It also made a good indicator for in-flight ice.
Now Buck waited for a night when the air was clear, cold, still, and lit by a full moon. On that night he would crank up the Pratt & Whitney powered sleigh, break the skis from the ice, point her north and depart Pickle Lake bound for all of the good little boys and girls up at the reservation. Radio calls had already heralded the ETA of old St. Buck…er Nick.
The trip north was everything a half-baked Santa could wish for, with no clouds and a layer of snow that allowed the moon to reflect back in a good imitation of daylight. Buck found himself humming “White Christmas” over the busted intercom and just as he crossed the far treeline on final to the large lake where the reservation resided, one of his sleigh bell strings broke loose from the strut, striking the tail in a bang and a clatter.
The Beaver coasted to a stop next to the ice-locked dock and Buck jumped out for a hurried look-see at the nice new dent in the tail. It was at that time he heard a little voice crying from the left wing. “Ma, it’s Santa and boy is he miffed. He’s cussing up a storm.” Buck caught himself midstream of a rant and quickly went into character. “Oh, no, no…I mean Ho, Ho, Ho, Santa here ain’t miffed, just calling out to his misbegotten reindeer: Here Son of Blitzen.” Soon more little figures wrapped up like cabbage rolls appeared out of nowhere, crowding in around the bush pilot straining to see the sacks inside the cabin. “Well now I reckon everyone wants to see what Santa done brought.” One little elf with dark eyes glowering from beneath a parka hood looked Buck over once. “You ain’t Santa.” Buck retorted, “You betcha I am. Come alllll the way from the North Pole just to bring you wee ones goodies.” Another voice piped up from the back. “Nah, I seen ya’ swing in from the south and Santa knows its S-L-E-I-G-H cause’ he can spell good.” Buck grimaced and then after jostling open the door a smaller bag fell out hitting the ice with a crash and a crack. “Jeez, Santa How much whiskey do you need?” Buck grabbed the bag, throwing it into the cockpit. “Pretty cold out here tonight sport and Santa needs it for his gout.”
Then it was two girls: “Sing us ’Jingle Bells,’ Santa.” Buck thought for a moment. “Ah, let’s see Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, all the live long day with Chestnuts roasting in a pot belly stove next to a guy with a big red nose, kissing your momma, going adios and to ALL A GOOD NIGHT.”
Soon it was all but apparent that the jig was up and when the two girls mentioned that Santa had more than four teeth, Buck blew up. “That’s it you little stinkin’ ice urchins. Old Santa has had it with the lot of you. And is going to take his oil puking S-L-A-Y and fly right outta’ here. Whereupon he will kick open the door at 3,000 feet and toss all of your bloody goodies out into the bush for all of the good little wolves and bears to gnaw down to the Made in Taiwan labels!”
An eerie silence fell over the assembled throng as frothing spittle dribbled in a cloud of ice down Buck’s beard only to refreeze on his collar. One of the larger kids elbowed the ratty one. “Look what you done. You made Santa Claus mad.” Another voice piped up from the back. “We’re sorry Santa, please don’t go away mad.” Buck stood erect, while grabbing the hem of his coat and tugging it down. “Now, that’s better, eh. Santa don’t like being mad see, but he don’t take lip from bad little boys and girls and only doles out to them that has good manners.”
The ratty kid was heard to whisper: “RIGHTTT,” just before he was cuffed in the head by a snowshoe. And so it is to this day far up in the Great White North when on Christmas Eve one can hear the bark of a badly running R-985 and a yell as the power goes to idle, and the sleigh bells rip off the strut: SON of A BLITZEN.” Santa Claus is coming to town.
By Steve Bill Hanshew