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THREE Ch r i s t m a s STORIES FROM THE HOME COUNTRY BY SLIM RANDLES

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For years now, Herb Collins has been helping Santa
by donning the red and the beard and the tassels
and waving to passing cars on Christmas Eve out at
the Old Fort Road crossing. He takes a bag of candy
along, in case anyone cares to stop, and he also takes
his daughter Cindy along, because she’s always been
his head elf. Cindy’s grown now and has helpers of
her own, but this has been a daddy/daughter event for
a long time and neither sees any reason to quit.
He had done it a few years and was wondering
why he was doing it when one special Christmas Eve,
as it snowed, he found his reason.
While he and Cindy stood in full-blown elf gear
alongside the road, a pickup pulling a moving trailer
pulled up and stopped. Cindy brought the candy over
to the truck and Herb reached his hands through the
window to shake hands with the young boy and girl
who were in there with their dad. Both kids were crying
and grinning and grabbing his hands.
“Santa,” the father said, “we’re moving across the
country tonight, and the kids were sure you wouldn’t
be able to find them since they were between homes.”
Herb swallowed. “Now kids,” he said, “you know
Santa will find you no matter where you are tonight.”
“Really?” the girl said.
“Why, sure. So you just be good and help your
dad, and I’ll find you, don’t you worry.”
“Oh thank you, Santa!” they said.
Their father mouthed a silent “thank you,” and
everyone waved as the truck went on down the road
toward Christmas.
It must have been the raw wind that made Herb
wipe the tears away.
“That made the whole thing worth it,” Herb says
when he tells of that special night. “That’s why I keep
going back out there.”
“I can’t stand winter,” said Herb Collins, who had
dropped in at the Mule Barn’s philosophy counter for a
quick cup. “There’s nothing to do.”
“ Get out and enjoy it,” suggested Doc. “Go skiing.
Go ice fishing. Build a snowman. Do something. Then
you’ll feel better.”
“I don’t think your advice will take,” said Dud. “Herb
seems to be intransigent on this one.”
We all looked at Dud.
“You see, he said he couldn’t stand winter,” Dud
continued, “which shows he has a proclivity for intransigence
on that particular subject.”
We looked at him some more.
“If he were to take up a winter hobby,” he continued,
“he could stop being intransigent and enjoy
things more.”
Even Herb was staring at him now.
“I usually,” said Herb, “enjoy a proclivity in that
direction, but winter is pretty boring, so maybe I really
should be intransigent
on this point.”
“Well Herb,” said
Dud, “even though
you might have a proclivity
this season for
being intransigent on
your attitude about
winter, you could
kinda’ ease up and
consider a hobby.
That way you’d be
showing a proclivity
for transigence.”
“ Transigence?”
said Doc. “I thought
those were people
who lived under bridges.
You might want
to look that one up,
Dud.”
Dud blushed as
we laughed.
“Say Dud?” said Steve, the cowboy. “Wasn’t proclivity
last month’s word?”
“Yes,” said Dud, “and I believe I’ve used it a couple
of dozen times already.”
“And now this month’s word is intransigence,
right?”
Dud nodded.
“Well then,” said Doc, “it looks like you are going to
have a proclivity for saying intransigence this month.
That’s a veritable plethora of proclivity my friend.”
Dud pulled out a pencil and grabbed a napkin.
“ How do you spell it, Doc?”
“ Spell what?”
“ Plethora.”
We just groaned. Sometimes education can be
ugly.

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