Last year, a month before Christmas, Rudolph, Santa’s guiding reindeer, hobbled up to him and said, “You know Santa, myself and your other hard-working reindeer have been carrying you and your heavy load of Christmas presents all around the world for many, many years.”
Santa agreed, “Oh indeed yes dear Rudolph. You and your team-mates have done a wonderful job.”
Then Rudolph said, “That’s just it, Santa. Some of us have been doing it for so long that we’re getting kinda’ old and a bit weak. Besides, carrying your sleigh where it’s nice and cold up here in the northern hemisphere is all very well and good; but when we try to deliver Christmas presents to boys and girls who live in the southern hemisphere: South America, Africa and Australia, it’s hot summer time down there. And what with all our heavy winter fur coats on, we suffer from heat exhaustion.”
“Oh, that’s too bad Rudolph. What can we do? The boys and girls down there still need their Christmas presents too.”
“Yes, we all know that. So we reindeer got together and we’ve decided that we ought to be allowed to retire and take it easy for the rest of our lives. But--not to worry Santa--we’ve come up with a great idea to help.”
“You did Rudolph? What sort of an idea did you come up with? Quick, tell me, please.”
“Well, we thought that it’s about time to let some of the other animals in your Zoo up here at the North Pole help you for a change.”
“Oh?” asked Santa. “What sort of animals ? I have all kinds here, from little mice to giant elephants. But mice are too small and elephants are too big and too slow.”
“Yes, yes. We all know that Santa. But there are some other animals up here who are just about as fast as we are.”
“There are? Quick, tell me which ones. My snakes and turtles are far too slow, and my birds are too weak to pull a sleigh.”
“Never fear Santa. We’ve decided that, to make it all fair, you should post a sign here on the North Pole saying, “Hear yea. Hear yea. All animals who would like to pull Santa’s sleigh this year, have your champions here at noon tomorrow for a race to see who’s the swiftest and can deliver my presents to both the boys and the girls who live up here in the chilly Northern Hemisphere and also those who live in the very hot Southern Hemisphere this Christmas.”
Well! All the animals in Santa’s Zoo read the notice and wondered who would enter such an interesting race. Some animals were too little, some too big, and some, like beavers, couldn’t get into Santa’s reindeers’ harnesses.
However, promptly at noon the next day, a champion horse, a champion zebra, and a champion ostrich showed up at the starting line. Everyone looked them over. Some rooted for Horse: he was so sleek and handsome. Some favored Zebra: his stripes were so pretty. But only the other ostriches rooted for the champion Ostrich. Everyone else snickered and said under their breath, “How can an ostrich even think of competing; he only has two legs. Granted he has a six foot long neck, but he could never be as fast as an animal with four legs.”
Then, Santa shouted, “On your mark! Get set! Go!” The contestants were off in a flash. In fact Ostrich left so fast that one of his long plume feathers came loose and fluttered slowly down to the ground at the starting line.
When the entries rounded the first turn, it was Horse first, then Zebra, and finally Ostrich wobbling along on his two long legs. Everyone shouted, “Hurray for Horse! He’ll be the next animal to help Santa!”
But then, when they rounded the far bend, Ostrich stuck his head down and out in front of himself: to reduce his wind resistance. Also, he started flapping his wings. Now everybody knows that ostriches’ bodies are so big that they’ve long ago lost the ability to fly. But, even so, by flapping his wings out to the side, Ostrich picked up speed and--would you believe it?--At the finish line it was Ostrich first by a nose, then Horse, and finally, puffing Zebra. Ostrich had won!
But then some of Horse’s supporters complained, “But Horse’s body crossed the finish line before Ostrich’s body. It’s not fair.”
However, Ostrich’s supporters yelled back, “Whoever’s nose gets across the finish line first always wins in horse races. It’s not our fault that Ostrich has a six-foot-long neck. He won fair and square.”
At this Santa stepped in and declared, “Yes, Ostrich has won fair and square. Besides, he’s used to both the hot southern hemisphere and the cold northern hemisphere since his kind is found in both places. He and his team-mates will be ideal for my Christmas deliveries.”
So, if any of you folks stayed awake into the wee-small hours of last Christmas morning, maybe you saw Santa flying through the sky being driven by a new team--of ostriches--flapping their wings and squawking wildly. However, on last December 26th, the day after Christmas, Santa received thousands of “hits” on his web site: email@example.com from all the members of ASCAP (you know, the musical composers union) and all the authors of poems who work for the Hallmark Greeting Card Company complaining bitterly that there are no words in the English language which rhyme with “Ostrich.” They demanded that Santa go back to that old standby reindeer which rhymes so nicely with the affectionate word “dear.”
So Santa called in Rudolph and his brother retired reindeer and asked them what could be done. They all thought and they thought and then suggested,”Well, Santa, the best we can come up with is that you round up a new team of young reindeer and then we old-timers will train them how to fly.”
Santa agreed; so that’s what he did. Of course there was only one Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. But Rudolph recommended that his personal trainee take one drink of wine before he started out: that would be sufficient to “light him up.”
So next Christmas, Santa will again have a team of reindeer to pull his sleigh and all the composers and greeting-card poets won’t be thrown out of work.