"Fly fishing is my passion, hunting is my weakness, and mules are a perplexing addiction."

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Once upon a time, tucked away in the snow-covered Rocky Mountains in a land called Utah was the small town of Misery, and there, in a little, two-room shack, almost hidden in an isolated canyon, lived a wonderful little boy named Tiny Tom.

Tiny Tom lived with his grandmother, a crazy, old bird who was constantly picking on him and ordering him about. "Put on clean underwear," she'd holler. "Wash behind your ears," "Eat your brussel sprouts," "Feed the chickens," "Wipe your feet before you come in," "Do your homework." "Pick up your clothes." And on and on it went for poor Tiny Tom.

But Tiny Tom wasn't discouraged. When he wasn't being relentlessly picked on by his grandmother, Tiny Tom trudged two-miles, uphill, both ways, in the snow to and from school. Tiny Tom knew the value of a good education and studied hard so he could someday be a mountain man, or professional baseball player. Tiny Tom's teacher, the evil Ms Ridenhour, had different ideas. Apparently she thought Tiny Tom should be an astronaut because she was always telling the angry Principal Oger that all he did at school all day was take up space. Tiny Tom eventually won the battle and didn't become an astronaut after all, but that's another story.

At any rate, the evil Ms Ridenhour had it in for Tiny Tom. "Thomas, you never end a sentence with a preposition," she'd scream, pulling on her hair. "Thomas, you didn't carry the six!" "Thomas, what's the capital of New Jersey?" "Thomas, wake up!" "Thomas, who discovered Slogvania?" "Thomas, in what year did Queen Victoria have a hysterectomy?" And on and on it went for poor Tiny Tom.

But still, Tiny Tom wasn't discouraged. Sometimes Tiny Tom would day-dream while sitting at his desk (but only during recess) that someday he would be able to buy a brand, new, Daisy model 25 pump BB gun for his granny. Never once did it occur to Tiny Tom to replace his own aging, rusted, dilapidated Red Rider, a tired hand-me-down given to him by his uncle.

Every day after school, Tiny Tom would gather his twelve-hundred-and-sixteen homework assignments and hurry off to his job, working for a miserly jackass who went by the name of Ebenezer Zane Grey, a mean spirited, senile, old mule who owned the town's stable. Zane Grey was always gruff and grumpy, speaking in a New York accent, which was odd not because he was a mule, and talked, but because he was actually from Bishop, California. At any rate, Tiny Tom had to work every day from 3:30 in the afternoon until midnight, day in, and day out; a nearly super-human feat to be certain. But still Tiny Tom was not discouraged.

Sometimes Tiny Tom would inadvertently be late for his job. This was because the evil Ms Ridenhour had given him detention for some minor indiscretion of no consequence. Tiny Tom's tardiness tended to tick-off the terrible tyrant who tended to take tardiness too personally and would make the miserly mule even more mean, mingy, and cantankerous than he normally was. (You try it; it's not as easy as it looks!) Because of this, his stingy, tight-hoofed employer would call Tiny Tom horribly cruel names, and burden him with more and more chores to do; almost more than were humanly possible to do. "Bring me more alfalfa dare, boyd-brain" "Muck my stall dare, Squoit" "Bring me some donuts, dare dimwit!" "Put away dem saddles, pinhead!" "Tote that barge, dare punkinhead!" "Bring me more alfalfa, dare knucklehead." And on and on it went for poor Tiny Tom.

As the days leading up to Christmas approached, Tiny Tom would put the nickel he earned from Ebenezer Zane every day into a small, leather pouch he kept in his pocket. Ever closer to his goal of having enough money to buy the Daisy for his elderly grandmother, Tiny Tom would count his nickels every day.

"Almost," he'd say to himself, as he counted out the last five-cent piece. Finally, Christmas Eve arrived and Tiny Tom was about to burst from excitement. He needed but one more nickel and he'd have enough to buy the BB gun for his beloved Granny.

Tiny Tom arrived at the miserly mule's stable on time, for a change. This was because all of the children were out of school for Christmas break. Even the evil Ms Ridenhour was away somewhere, probably riding her broom over Salt Lake trying to scare all the children, Tiny Tom thought.

At any rate, Tiny Tom worked late into the evening that Christmas Eve. Finally, glancing up at the clock on the wall he saw it was 7:45pm. Usually, Tiny Tom had to work till midnight, but realizing Stedem's Hardware Emporium, Feed Store, and Bowling Alley was open only until eight, he decided to ask Mr. Zane if he could leave early so he could get to Stedem's before they closed.

"Ah geez, ya might as well take off, dare cabbagehead, ya sure ain't got yer mind on yer woyk," growled Mister Zane, as he shook his huge head in disgust and turned away. "But be back here da day afta Christmas at seven sharp!"

"Thank you Mister Zane," Tiny Tom replied timidly. "Excuse me, sir, if you don't mind, I just wonder one more thing?"

"WHAT?" Zane yelled, obviously agitated.

"Well, sir, I just wondered if I might get paid for tonight? You know, for my work?" asked Tiny Tom. "I'll make it up the day after tomorrow?"

"WHAAAT? Are ya tryin' to bust my…"

"No sir," interrupted Tiny Tom. "It's just that, then I'd have enough to buy the Daisy Pump BB gun that my grandma has always wanted, and Stedem's closes in five minutes. If I hurry, I can make it."

"Humpff," said Mister Zane as he gave a grunt and begrudgingly flipped a nickel on the ground in front of Tiny Tom, not an easy thing to do considering the beast didn't have the advantage of opposable thumbs.

"Thank you Mister Zane," he said excitedly, as he snatched up the nickel and put it in his leather pouch.

"Humpff," was the reply.

Tiny Tom raced to the door and opened it as he glanced up at the clock on the wall. 7:56 pm

"I can still make it," he thought to himself as he opened door. Then suddenly he stopped and turned toward Mister Zane.

"Merry Christmas, Mister Zane," said Tiny Tom, smiling.

"Fah-get-about-it," said Mister Zane, with emptiness in his eyes. "Christmas ain't nuttin' ta me," he added. As the miserly mule turned and stormed away, Tiny Tom could hear him mutter, "AWW-FA-BUNG-HUG!"

"Boy, will Granny be surprised," thought Tiny Tom, as he bolted out the door and raced down the street toward Stedem's Hardware. Racing faster than a turpentined cat, Tiny Tom was but a blur rocketing down the street.

As Tiny Tom rounded the corner he flew onto the wooden porch leading to Stedem's, and pushed on the door. In one fluid motion, he gave a mighty shove on the door, so hard that when it didn't open he was sent reeling backward, landing on his keister. The door was closed tighter than Mister Zane's coin purse.

"CLOSED," read the big sign hanging in the window, and below it, "Merry Christmas!"

"How could this be," thought Tiny Tom. "Hark, whatever shall I do?"

Yes, people talked funny back in those days, but Tiny Tom was heartbroken none-the-less. Now he'd have to come back the day-after- Christmas to get the Daisy Pump for his poor, aged grandmother.

The long walk up the dark canyon to his house would be an agonizing one for Tiny Tom, mostly because he'd have to avoid being eaten by a Bigfoot, Boogeyman, or any one of the dozen or so, horrible monsters who lurked in the shadows along the way to his house up in the dark canyon.

Back at the stable, Mister Zane was getting ready for bed. The old, grey miser put on his night cap, crawled into his large, four-poster bed, and quickly drifted off to sleep; but not for long!

As the clock struck 10 pm, Ebenezer Zane was awakened by a strange sound. Pffft! It sounded strangely like someone passing gas, Zane thought to himself. He then closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep.

Pffft! There it was again.

Zane rolled over to see what was making the sound, and there next to his bed was a ghostly apparition in a worn, dusty, black cowboy hat.

"Sorry 'bout thet, Ah had some chili fer lunch and it's a talkin' back," said the ghost.

I can't tell you exactly what Ebenezer Zane said next because the censors would just bleep it, but to paraphrase, Zane asked the apparition, "Who are ya, and watta ya doins' in my bedroom?" only much more colorfully.

"Ebenezer Zane, ya was suppose ta get visited bah three ghosts tonight, but 'cause a time constraints, the angel strike, and dis bein' a short story and all, ya only gets two, and Ah'm' a standin' in fer 'em. So tonight ya gets the ghost a Christmas past, an Christmas future. So let's get a move-on, Ah got thangs ta do." And with that, Ebenezer Zane found himself flying through the air, high above the clouds.

"Leh-me, leh-me down," screamed the frightened old mule!

"Pipe down, Ah gots a announcement ta make. In the event of a sudden drop in cabin pressure, ya'll turn yer head around an kiss yer ass good-bye. Get it, get it," chortled the ghost of Christmas past. "Get it; mule, ass, ass, mule? Aw well, jes a lettle ghost joke ta pass da time. We's dare now, look down, Ebenezer."

Ebenezer Zane cast his eyes downward upon a beautiful, lush, green pasture. "Where are we at, dare Flash Ghouldon, this place looks familiar," he asked, as they settled into a holding pattern and began circling the meadow where several yearling mules were running about.

"Ah'm serprized, Ebenezer, Ah thoughts you was smarter than thet," said Lecil.

"Whatta ya mean," Zane asked, truly puzzled.

"Ah thought ya know'd better'n ta end a sentence wit a preposition," replied Lecil.

"Yer right, dare Super-fly, now where are we," asked Zane, overlooking the pasture below?

"Thet's you, thar, Ebanezer Zane, a playin' wit yer friends on Chistmas Eve as yer momma looks on," said the ghost.

"Ahhh bologna! It's Christmas Eve and I'm right here, wastin' it by flyin' around with you, dare Chuckles," answered Zane.

"Guess ya ain't payin' attenshun," grumbled the ghost. "Ah splained Ah was da Ghost-a-Christmas PAST, as in a long time ago. Got et?"

"Yeah, yeah, okay, I got it, dat soytainly is me, but what's my ma doin' over dare," he asked?

"She's a knittin' ya a warm pair a size 16 ear-socks fer Christmas."

"Oh yeah, I remember doze tings," Zane answered, and for the first time in a long time he was smiling.

"Yep, you was a happy camper back in them days," drawled Lecil. "Now look at ya; yer so mean and nasty thet a sheep dog couldn't get along wit ya."

Suddenly the scene below became fuzzy as clouds drifted in. Ebanezer was a bit surprised when he found himself back in his room, snug in bed. Believing it was but a bad dream, he quickly drifted back to sleep, but not for long!

Once again, Ebenezer Zane was awakened by a loud noise. CLANK, BANG!

"Sorry 'bout thet, guess Ah had a bit more egg nog at da Christmas party. Anyway, et's jes me. Ar ya ready fer Christmas future?

Before Ebenezer Zane could say Jack Robinson, he was again whisked away and sailing high above the clouds.

"Now where are we goin', dare Cowboy Corpses," asked Ebenezer Zane?

"Ah told ya , ta Christmas future; look down thar," Lecil answered, pointing to a hole in the clouds.

As Ebenezer Zane looked through the hole in the clouds he could see an old, boney, grey mule standing out in front of a building. The mule was sitting on his haunches bracing himself, as two sinister looking men dressed in BLM uniforms were struggling to push the old, grey mule through the door. GLUE FACTORY said the sign above the door.

"Whatta dem guys doin to dat mule down dare," asked Zane?

"Thet mule down thar is you, Ebenezer Zane. Et's you in the future, and you've outlived yer usefulness. Ya got's no one ta take care of ya on account a ya bein' so mean an miserable, so them fellers is a fixin' ta fix yer wagon, if'n ya know what Ah mean," said Lecil.

A sober look washed across Ebenezer Zane's huge, anvil-shaped head.

"Well, mah job's done here, Ah recon. Ah hope you learn't a valuable lesson, Ebenezer Zane," said Lecil. And with that, he disappeared.

Ebenezer opened his eyes and peeked over the thick, quilt comforter that covered him. He was shaking as his eyes scanned the room for the ghost of Lecil. Realizing the ghost was nowhere to be found, he gave a sigh of relief as he lay there, contemplating whether or not to go back to sleep.

Then Ebenezer Zane's eyes got bigger than saucers and Ebenezer Zane bolted up right in bed. "It's Christmas morning," he exclaimed to no one around.

The old grey mule jumped out of his bed and quickly got dressed. He slipped into his four boots and headed for the door. "It's Christmas morning, it's Christmas," he exclaimed, excited as a puppy on new carpet. He did this because this is a fairy tale and it is no more unbelievable than a frog kissing a princess and becoming a prince.

As Tiny Tom sat down with his granny at the table to eat the Christmas goose his grandmother had prepared, an amusing thought came to his tiny little head. "My goose is cooked," he thought to himself. It didn't take much to amuse children back in those days because kids weren't spoiled rotten with video games, computers, and X-Boxes.

Suddenly there was a loud knock on the door followed by a booming, "Merry Christmas!"

Tiny Tom looked over at his granny with a confused expression like he'd been dealt five aces.

"Whoever could that be this snowy, Christmas Morning," Tiny Tom said to his granny.

"Quit talkin' like that or I'll slap that nose of yours up next to your ear," replied Granny. (Granny was quite the cut-up.)

Tiny Tom got up and opened the door. It was Ebenezer Zane and he had a large present in his arm.

"Merry Christmas, Tiny Tom," he said, brushing past and into the kitchen. "And Merry Christmas to you, Granny."

"What-ev-er," said Granny, as she grabbed a broom and dust pan and stood behind Ebenezer, just in case.

"Here, Tiny Tom, this is for you," he said, handing a large, long Christmas package to the bewildered youngster.

Tiny Tom's little eyes welled up with tears and a huge smile came across his face. "It's got to be my Model 25, pump BB gun," he thought to himself, about to burst? "What else could be in this long, slender package?"

As Tiny Tom began carefully removing the wrapping paper a smile of contentedness washed across the old mules face. Even Granny's pearly-white store-boughts were glowing, as she and Ebenezer Zane stood in the kitchen, anticipating Tiny Tom's reaction.

With the festive Christmas wrapping paper but a heap on the floor, Tiny Tom removed the lid to the cardboard box. The precious look of surprise on his face said it all. Why, you could have knocked Tiny Tom over with a feather. His little mouth opened wide enough to put a foot in, something Tiny Tom did frequently over the years, and his eyes were as big as hubcaps. Yes, it was all his, a shinny, brand new manure shovel!

Over the coming years, Tiny Tom would grow out of his tininess. He would develop a facial tic that enhanced his often odd behavior. The AK-47 assault rifle he carried around with him certainly didn't help Tom's social life either, and years of therapy would do nothing to reveal the underlying cause. Eventually he was able to control his odd behavior, but to this day, the words Merry Christmas send Tiny Tom into a frenzy. His facial tic returns and Tiny Tom spends an inordinate amount of time talking to his mules. Neighbors usually stay away until Easter.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


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