Not so very long ago, just south of the San Juan River, in the Navajo Nation, there came into being a badger. After a time the youngster was put out of the family den and began looking to settle a territory of his own. He bid his parents a sad but fond "ha'goo'nee" and trotted off in a westerly direction. After several days of travel across mesa and around monuments, the badger came upon a large expanse of metal objects. The accumulation included oil-encrusted and dirt-impregnated car parts of every description, heavy duty bed springs, bent and twisted patio furniture, appliances of most makes and models and office furniture in every state of disrepair. The collection seemed vast to the badger. What he saw as junk was spread across an expanse of aridly depressed and pebble-populated flat land. Smack dab in the middle of all the rusty implements and pitted iron rested a well kept hogan; a large lodge pole framework for a summer shade; a small and immaculately maintained, freshly painted stick-built home; and a 20' x 30' galvanized Quonset hut packed to the gunwales with tools. The badger was intrigued with the place, and fascinated by the cluttered-uncluttered contrast, so he decided to move in, post haste.
The badger located the stripped-down framework of a 1969 Mustang fastback, went inside to explore the possibilities and found them satisfactory. Through an opening in the floor pan he began excavating a burrow. The thoughtful creature figured the old car would protect him from sun and storm on the top side and in the burrow deep within the good earth he could escape the extremes of heat and cold. As the badger dug, he heard a ferocious growl just outside his door. Stepping out of the car, he came face-to-face with a junkyard dog. The dog was mid-sized and well muscled, his hackles were raised and he seemed ready to fight. The badger sank low to the ground and bared his teeth, as if to say, "Okay Buster, if you want it, come and get it!" Sensing the challenge, the dog lunged. The fight really didn't last long. As the dog shot forward the badger neatly side-stepped the oncoming animal and clamped down on its nose. With razor sharp canines and a fierce determination, the badger held firm. The poor mutt let out a mournful howl of pain, struggled halfheartedly, laid down and gave up. The badger shook the pup one last time for good measure and released the Curr. Turning his back on his outmatched opponent, the badger kicked dirt in the pup's face and returned to the vehicle. Realizing there was a new sheriff in town, the junk yard dog ran off licking his wounded snot box and never returned for a rematch.
The badger settled into a daily routine of cruising the yard for mice and prairie dogs in the early morning light. He slept during mid-day, and in the late afternoon and early evening hours watched the man and woman work around the house and in the shop. By listening to the many visitors the couple met with, the badger soon discovered the names of his new neighbors. The woman, Betty Shorty, was small and sturdy, with thinning salt and pepper hair which she pulled back tightly in a traditional bun. She had a habit of singing traditional songs in a loud, clear voice as she scouted for parts her husband needed to finish one job or another. She was quite a sight walking through that mess in her brightly colored velveteen blouse and satin skirt. Betty was quite fond of her man. In fact, she thought him the most generous and helpful human being in the Four Corners region. Most everyone else agreed, because Ben Shorty was a gifted mechanic and fabricator who freely shared his talents. He was known to his friends as "Old Ben". Old Ben was 70-something years of age, tall and lean, with a ready smile for all people. Ben was laid back and easy going. Ben and Betty were good together.
Ben and Betty had become widely known for their benevolent nature. They were often visited by people seeking help to keep vehicles running, repair broken-down equipment and . . . well just about anything to do with metal. If Ben did not have a needed part or piece in his yard, nine times out of ten times he could fabricate it on the spot. Betty was a fabulous "finder" and cook. Her mutton stew and fry bread were considered the best in the land. The badger found it fascinating to climb onto the cab of an ancient Mac truck and, with a bird's eye view into his shop, watch as Ben worked his magic. He also loved to see Betty search out parts and pieces in the yard. It was amazing how that couple loved people and how they shared their talents so freely. Ben and Betty soon became aware of the badger and discovered his new home. They steered clear of the Mustang, believing the creature was a brother to be welcomed into their world. Except for a nonexistent social life, the badger was content.
Soon the weather began to turn cold, and snow came to the high desert Southwest. The badger appreciated his hot rod hovel even more because the windows in the Mustang allowed the car to warm up nicely during the day. The badger could not resist watching Ben and Betty work, and was continually amazed at what the old man created with his hands, a torch and a little metal. One day Betty drove herself to town in their Dodge truck. When she returned, along with many bags of groceries, there was a spruce tree in the back. The badger thought that quite odd, but was even more confused when Betty dragged the tree into the house. Ben was working in his shop, but soon followed Betty inside. From his perch on the cab of the Mac truck, the badger watched contentedly as Ben and Betty decorated the tree. As the sun set they finished their chore, and when dusk settled onto their home the Navajo couple lit up their Christmas tree. The badger stayed up late into the night, bedazzled by the colorful, twinkling lights.
The badger must have fallen asleep there on the cab of the Mac truck, enchanted by the lights of the Shorty's Christmas tree. Sometime between midnight and morning, the badger was awakened by a loud scraping noise coming from the train rock monument located just east of the Shorty compound. It sounded as if something had ricocheted off the sandstone spires. The badger jumped up and turned toward the clamor, seeing an explosion of sparks and hearing the crunch of metal arising from the bottom of the nearby arroyo. Out of the ravine lurched a group of odd looking deer harnessed to a crumpled red and chrome sleigh. For a brief moment the team and sleigh seemed to pause in midair, then it plunged back toward earth. The deer dug in their heels and slowed the rig just enough to keep it from slamming into the dirt. In a spray of rocky soil and a cloud of red dust, the team made a quasi crash-landing right there in the Shorty family yard.
The badger stood there amazed. He heard a loud sigh of relief come from the sled and turned to look upon a funny little man dressed in red velveteen trimmed in white faux fur. The jolly elf sported a snow white beard and mustache. "That was a close call," chuckled the little man, smiling brightly and winking at the badger. Then he sprang from the sleigh and comforted the nervously prancing reindeer. In their night clothes Ben and Betty exploded from the house and into the yard to see what was the matter. "Santa Claus?" they said in unison. "Hello my good friends" said the man, "I am in dire need of help. Can I count on you?" The Shorty's nodded an acknowledgment, and Santa smiled in a bright and appreciative manner. "We will need to hurry," said Santa, raising his hand in the air and shooting what looked like a mini flare from his index finger. That tiny rocket flew about 20 feet into the night sky, exploded and descended in several slowly tumbling arcs. As the sparkling rainbow fell it created a vibrant dome over the compound. The badger lurched backward so as to avoid being scorched by the brilliant light, causing him to fall into the back of the truck. Regaining his footing, the badger looked through the rear window of the Mac, just where the now glowing canopy ended, and saw an amazing sight.
It looked as if a giant snow globe encased the house, shop and yard. Inside the dome's perimeter a magical thing occurred. As the badger watched, Santa and the Shorty's warped into super sonic speed. Visually it was hard to keep up with, but the badger saw Old Ben, Santa and Betty inspect the sleigh and shake their head side to side. Ben shot over to a tarp he had covering something in the shop and uncovered what turned out to be a 1962 Cadillac Coup de Ville convertible. Santa nodded happily and soon everyone was at work reconfiguring the classic car. As quickly as you please, they chopped that Cadillac down to size, welded it back together, painted and re-chromed the exterior and reupholstered the white leather interior. Ben and Betty crafted skis from four separate bumpers, made struts and welded them into place while the jolly old elf popped the hood and went to work adding a little extra lift. As Ben and the old man worked on the guidance system, Betty began polishing the "new" old model sleigh. Before anyone could say "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" the three had that modified convertible hooked-up to the dancing deer and ready to fly. Santa reached for the sky one more time and down came the time capsule. Santa then pointed at his new vehicle and shot it with a magical lightning bolt. The sleigh de Ville raised up off the ground and hovered, ready for a transfer of the numerous velvety bags of gifts contained in the crumpled sleigh. There were hugs all around, and Santa sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle and blasted off into the upper ozone.
As the badger climbed back upon his perch, Old Ben and Betty slid the wrecked sleigh into the shop and covered it with the tarp. The badger watched in envy as the satisfied couple return to the cozy house. When they walked inside there were presents of tools, cookware, clothing and sweet treats all around. It seems the Shorty's were well rewarded for their generous nature. As the badger climbed down from the truck and trotted back to his Mustang, he couldn't help be amazed at what he had just witnessed. "This Shorty estate was a wondrous place," he thought. As the badger turned the final corner to his abode, he pulled up short and sat back on his haunches in surprise. There, sitting near his front door, was the prettiest little she badger he had ever seen. The badger looked into the night sky and saw a brilliant flash of white light. "Now this", thought the badger, "will be a Christmas to tell the kits about."
With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and The Team
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