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Articles

A Pronghorn Christmas

 

Ed the AntelopHis name is Ed. A very ordinary name, for a very ordinary pronghorn. One of thousands. He and his kindred were all over the plains of Wyoming. Some said that there was more of them than people. He was happy living his ordinary life, even though he had to outrun an occasional hunter, or coyote. Badgers were just annoying ankle-biters.

There was one problem that was out of the ordinary for Ed. Mother Nature had given him a curse at birth. Ed was allergic to sagebrush. He could eat it, alright, but when he stuck his nose into a bush to get at the leaves, he'd soon be sneezing. Consequently Ed's nose became a brilliant red from irritation and running. When you have to wipe your nose on prairie grass, it's bound to cause some chafing.

It was late in the year, and it was bitter cold. The herds had been bunching up for some time. There had already been a few snows. At least there hadn't been so much snow that it was difficult to dig down to food. The wind was blowing hard enough to blow a pronghorn to Omaha. Well, maybe not. But it sure seemed like it. All there was for a pronghorn to do was to find some cover, bed down and wait it out. “Achoo!” Then Ed sniffed. Prairie grass is fine for eating, but wiping your nose with it was another matter. “Ow”, he grumbled.

Santa was having a few problems of his own at the moment. There were times that he and his team of reindeer had to fly through the Jet Stream, but the winds over Wyoming were another matter. It usually wore out Rudolph and the boys. That made it difficult for Santa to keep to his schedule. The team always grumbled about the Wyoming winds, but this year they were getting down right unbearable. They had already finished their rounds in Oklahoma, and had Nebraska about half-way done, and already the team was complaining as the winds grew stronger and colder as they got closer and closer to Wyoming. “C'mon boys. It's not as bad as some places we go through,” Santa said, trying to improve the mood of the surly bunch of reindeer. A chorus of renewed complaints came from the reindeer – Wyoming was BIGGER than other windy areas, and the wind was harder, and steadier, and it NEVER quit, and with all of those ground blizzards, you couldn't see where you were supposed to be. At least in some of those other chilly places you got a break now and again, but Wyoming just never let up, all the way across. “What are we supposed to do? Quit bringing presents to the kids in Wyoming?” Was it his imagination, or were the reindeer glaring at him?

Ed and his herd had found a bluff to bed down behind that let them keep some of the wind off of them. The last snowfall had come and gone yesterday, but now that the wind had kicked up, it was blowing the powder around, and the visibility at ground level wasn't very far. Ed was just starting to drift off to sleep when he thought that he heard the sound of bells. Not big bells. Little jingle bells. It's too early for Santa, isn't it? “Blast these ground blizzards!” he thought, squinting into the storm. You can't see a thing. At least he didn't have to worry about coyotes. Through the wind, the sound of the bells seemed to be getting louder. It didn't seem to be coming from up in the sky, either. It was down here on the ground somewhere. The next thing Ed knew, something seemed to trip over him. “What the...??”

“Oops. Sorry.” said the form. “I didn't mean to trip over you. Couldn't see you in this ground blizzard.”

Ed couldn't believe what he was looking at. It looked like a rabbit, but he had antlers! Not only that, he seemed to have jingle bells in his antlers.

“Hi. I'm Tom.” said the jackalope.

Ed just kept staring.

“What's the matter?” said Tom. “Haven't you seen a jackalope before?”

“Can't say that I have, “ said Ed “And I'm Ed... Just Ed.”

“Don't call me Jack, neither. Some folks seem to figure that all jackalopes need to be named Jack.”

“OK” said Ed. “I'll try and remember that...What's with the bells in your antlers”

“Oh...them. I love Christmas. It's my favorite time of year. One of these years I'd like to hook up with Santa and his team.”

“Aren't you a bit small to be pulling a sleigh?” asked Ed.

“Who said anything about pullin'? I just want to go along for the ride, helping to spread all that Christmas cheer,” said Tom. “By the way...If you don't mind me askin'...what's with the red nose? You could almost put Rudolph to shame.”

“Gee thanks.” said Ed. “I'm allergic to sage. And wiping my nose on prairie grass is no fun.”

“Sorry to hear that. I didn't mean no disrespect. It's just that I haven't seen anything that bright red, except for the lights on the tops of them wind turbines. I was trying to find the source of that light through this ground blizzard when I tripped over you”, said Tom

“You saw my nose through the ground blizzard?”

“Just barely...” Tom said, suddenly feeling a little sheepish.

“Me, too!” boomed another voice, from behind a patch of greasewood. A large reddish blob materialized through the blowing snow. Tom started to wiggle with excitement, and had to restrain himself from running around in circles, as the red and white suited figure got close enough to recognize.

“We seem to be having a few problems in this weather.” Santa said. “This snow is really messing with the sleigh and the reindeer. We couldn't see our landing approach, and we seem to have hit something and broke a runner off of the sleigh. I was following that red light looking for some help.” He gestured toward Ed's nose. Then he looked again, realizing for the first time that there was an animal attached to it.

“Wow! That honker even out-shines Rudolph!” Santa exclaimed. “You sure would come in handy trying to find our way through this mess.”

“Gee, Santa, we'd be glad to help.” said Ed. “But I'm not exactly sure what we could do.” Tom wasn't able to volunteer much, since he was only to the point of being able to make occasional strangled noises in an attempt to speak, but his brain wasn't yet connecting with his vocal cords.

“I've got my emergency crew of elves heading down from the North Pole to get some repairs done, but I don't think they will be able to find us. And it's already getting quite late.”

“The ranch over the hill has an old chuck wagon you could use, if you could figure out how to get it to fly.” Ed volunteered, thoughtfully.

“That might work, “said Santa. “But I'd need another team, as Rudolph and the boys are still a little shook up, and they'll need to help the elves when they get here.”

“My herd's just over that hill,” said Ed. “But even with this Wyoming wind, us antelope aren't too good at the flying thing.”

“Don't worry about that!” Santa said. Just collect up your team, and we'll meet over at that chuck wagon.”

Even though Tom was dumbstruck, Ed was able to get him to move. Together they went to round up some of the herd, and get the toys moved from Santa's sleigh to the chuck wagon. Santa did at least have a spare harness packed in with his emergency gear.

The work didn't take long, despite the wind and snow, and Santa soon had eight pronghorn antelope hitched up to his sleigh, with Ed in the lead position. The emergency harness didn't seem to have any jingle bells. “Tom!” said Santa, “Have I got a job for you! That is if you can stop bouncing enough to stay put on the front seat of this chuck wagon. We Need some bells.”

Tom bounced up to the front seat, beside Santa, and somehow managed to stay put. Although he did seem to be bouncing up and down, with the bells in his antlers jingling in just about the same rhythm as a team of galloping antelope.

Ed got the team and the chuck wagon pointed to the edge of the bluff, and got them ready for take off. Even though Ed knew that Santa could do all kinds of neat stuff, he still felt a little nervous about leading eight other antelope and a chuck wagon at full speed over the edge of a cliff – even if the bluff wasn't all that high.

“Ready whenever you are!” Santa bellowed over the wind. Ed and his team got to running at full speed. Being pronghorn antelope, it was quite impressive. Even with the fully loaded chuck wagon, they managed to get up to a gallop that put Santa's white-tail deer to shame. Ed had to restrain the urge to close his eyes as they headed toward the cliff. The Wyoming prairies are covered with sage brush, grease wood, and prairie dog holes. One false step would mean another disaster for Santa, so closing his eyes was not an option.

Suddenly Ed had nothing but a feeling of smoothness under his feet. And the chuck wagon wasn't rumbling anymore. Ed didn't know how he and the other bucks from his herd were doing it, but they were flying! And pulling a loaded chuck wagon, at that! He could still feel the weight of the chuck wagon behind him, but he couldn't feel his feet running at all.

Ed and his team were able to help Santa cover Wyoming in record time. When they were done, they went back to where Santa had found Ed, to see how the progress was coming on Santa's sleigh. The blizzard had cleared enough to let the elf emergency team find Santa's downed sleigh, and Rudolph and his team had settled down enough so that they were anxious to continue on their rounds. Everyone pitched in to get the toys transferred back to Santa's sleigh.

“You know, Santa,” Rudolph said, “me and the boys have been talking this over. We think maybe we just ought to let Ed and his friends do this every year in Wyoming. We'll handle Alaska, Greenland, and even Siberia. But we think that it really takes a pronghorn antelope to do Wyoming.”

“What do you think, Ed?” Santa asked. “Do you and your team want to meet up with us here again next year?”

Ed didn't manage to get out a single word. As he opened his mouth to express his honor at the request, Tom belted out a hearty “YES!”

Santa was still laughing as he drove out of sight.