(Author’s Note: The following story is the only work of fiction I’ve ever written and was originally published in the Farm and Dairy on Dec. 24, 1992. I based my characters on real people: Lig, the elf who took care of the reindeer, was named for Dr. John Liggett, DVM. Sal, the Farmall advocate, after Salona Supply Company, a Salem International dealer. P.W. represents Paul Witmer, who in the 1920s started a John Deere dealership at his farm on Green Beaver Road that became W & W Equipment. Enos Witmer, who began selling Minneapolis-Moline equipment in 1937, and still in business as Witmer’s Inc., gave me the name for the little elf who finally convinces Santa to deliver toys in a UDLX.)
The following story is recorded in the chronicles of the North Pole.
It was one week before Christmas of 1938 and Santa and his elves were frantic with worry. All eight reindeer had come down with a mysterious malady that prevented them from wearing harness of any kind.
Lig, the elf charged with taking care of the reindeer and of keeping them healthy, was beside himself for he had no clue as to the problem. Lig repeated over and over to Santa, as well as any of the elves who would listen.
“I’ve tried every cure in that free 197-page veterinary book that I got through the mail, and nothing does any good.”
Santa shook his head and told poor Lig to keep trying.
Four days before Christmas Eve, Lig could report no improvement in the ailing reindeer so Santa called an emergency meeting of all the elves, along with Mrs. Claus.
“Folks,” Santa began, “we’ve got a crisis on our hands. It looks as though there will be no way to deliver toys for all the children this year. Should we cancel Christmas?”
Mrs. Claus was aghast. “In all the hundreds of years I’ve been here, we’ve never canceled Christmas!” she cried. “I won’t let it happen now! Elves, think of something!”
Hiring elves. It so happened that for several years, Santa had been hiring elves who had formerly worked at farm equipment dealerships around Salem, Ohio. These elves had the job of building all the toy trucks, tractors and trains needed by Santa, and they did an outstanding job because of their training and background.
One of these elves, named Wit, who had just recently been promoted to Santa’s workshop, had a bright idea.
“Santa!” Wit shouted. “At the Minneapolis-Moline dealership I just left is the most amazing new tractor anyone has ever seen. It’s called a ‘U’ DeLUXE and it would be just the thing for you to use to deliver toys on Christmas Eve!”
Al, another of the mechanic elves, said, “Shucks, I can get a beautiful Farmall F-30 from my old dealer that will do the job better than any old Minnie-Mo, and it’s painted Christmas red too.”
Little P.W. then chimed in, “I’ll get a John Deere ‘G’ that’s painted bright Christmas green and with it’s smooth two-cylinder power, it’ll pull the sleigh with no trouble at all.”
Santa was intrigued, but even though he’d lived at the North Pole for centuries, he knew a little about tractors.
“Boys! Boys! Calm down. I really appreciate your ideas, but everyone knows tractors are slow, too slow to cover my route in one night. And another thing Sal, does your Farmall have lights for night driving, and just how fast will it travel?”
“Well, er, the F-30 has no lights and it’ll go about nine miles per hour with a road gear installed. But it IS red!” Sal answered hopefully.
“O.K. P.W., how about your John Deere?” Santa asked.
It was P.W.’s turn to look sheepish; the little elf had to admit that the ‘G’ would run only six miles per hour and had no lights.
Santa shook his head and said sadly, “I’m afraid tractors aren’t the answer.”
Speed and lights
All this time, Wit had been practically jumping up and down.
“Santa! Santa!” The little elf was so excited he could hardly talk.
“My Minneapolis-Moline UDLX has big bright headlights to show you the way and, best of all, it’ll go 40 miles an hour and, if I tweak the governor a little, maybe even more! You won’t even need the sleigh, because the UDLX has a warm, comfortable cab with room enough for your sack of toys!”
Santa thought for a moment and asked, “What will it take to get this fabulous machine here? We haven’t much time.”
“Just give me an overnight pass,” replied Wit “and I’ll have the UDLX here tomorrow by noon! That’ll leave me time to give you a few driving lessons, and then we can load up the toys for the big night.”
So, it was done. The shiny gold and red Minneapolis-Moline UDLX was everything Wit had claimed. Santa easily learned to drive the machine; there was room in the cab for all the toys, and the Christmas Eve rounds were made speedily and in total comfort.
Reindeer retirement? In fact, it is written that Santa seriously considered retiring the sleigh and reindeer and keeping the UDLX. However, Lig found the cure the reindeer needed and, since Santa is pretty much a traditionalist, he returned the Minnie and continued to deliver toys the old way.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all. I hope you get the Rusty Iron you want under your tree.