reindeer

Editors Note:  In anticipation of Christmas, which is quickly approaching, South Georgia Today writers will be sharing some holiday inspired stories, to help get you in the spirit of the season.  Some stories may be fictional, some funny or perhaps a personal experience.  What ever the nature, we are sure you will enjoy them all.  

Christmas is my favorite time of year. The weather is normally perfect in the South, not too cold and not too hot. The humidity and gnats are gone, football is in playoffs, and a hunter can sit in a deer stand without fear of being consumed alive by mosquitoes. My favorite thing of all is good old St. Nick himself spreading love and joy to all. The look on children’s faces Christmas morning is what moms and dads all over the world stay awake all night on Christmas Eve to make sure they don’t miss. Seeing the kids run to the Christmas tree yelling at the top of their little lungs, “Santa Claus came, Santa Claus came!”

Now it would be just a crying shame if Santa Claus didn’t make it! Well, let me tell you how that almost happened one Christmas and how Billy Bob the Spotlight Reindeer saved Christmas in The South.

“Man, it’s cold, and is this rain ever going to stop?” I thought to myself as I walked to my deer stand early one morning before daylight. I was a young man back then and had two small girls at home working on their Christmas lists. I thought about how glad I was there was a Santa Claus, there was no way I could afford all Cari Beth and Stephanie wanted for Christmas! I arrived at my deer stand and prepared to climb the wooden steps to a small platform about 12 feet off the ground. There wasn’t room on the platform for all the gear it takes to hunt, so I put as many items as I could beneath the stand and covered them with leaves.

Thirty minutes later just as first light was hitting the ground, I saw movement in the palmettos about fifty yards from my stand. Something was walking right to me on the trail I came in on that morning. I was being tracked! It kept coming and at about twenty yards from me it stopped and threw its head straight up! I breathed a sigh of relief! Billy Bob dang near made my heart jump out my chest.

All hunters have a deer they see on a regular basis and give a nick name. Mine was Billy Bob. He was a young deer, sporting a small, eight point rack that seemed off just a little bit, larger than normal brown eyes and a slight overbite. Yep, he was a redneck deer and was too young to have developed the sense to fear hunters. He walked right up to the stand and began to sniff out the items I had placed on the ground. One item, in particular, seemed to have his attention, my brand new flashlight. This was not any old flashlight, it was what they called, “The Shaker.” To make it work, you would get a firm grip on the light and shake it up and down, the more you shook it the brighter it got and longer it would last. No more batteries to buy, ever! And now Billy Bob had it playing like a baby lab with a chew toy. He would bite it with his mouth, heave it in the air and then chase it down. It was quite amazing to watch and not something you see every day ( too bad there was no such thing as an iphone back then). Then, it happened. Billy Bob heaved the light high into the air and when he ran to retrieve it, the shaker light landed and lodged itself in Billy Bob’s antlers. It was in there good too. He would shake his head hard as he could trying to dislodge the light, but all he managed to do was make it shine brighter. He grew tired of trying to shake the light free and disappeared into the woods.

The next weekend I noticed there was not as many hunters at camp and asked one of the old timers who was busy loading his truck were everybody was. “You need to go on back home son,” he told me, “This here woods are hanted!” (In the south a hant is a ghost.) He had my full attention .

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“All week we been seeing a strange light floating through the woods,” he said. “At times it was moving real fast then it’d just stop and shine at you like the devil himself. Just last night it circled the camp twice—so close we could hear breathing and grunt sounds. We all getting out of here and I would advise you to do the same!”

I just stood there wide-eyed thinking, “Wow, I got the whole club to myself, thanks Billy Bob!”

I figured that when Billy Bob got up from his bed in the evening and went to rubbing his antlers on a sapling to get loosened up from sleeping all day, that light must have gave him quiet a scare. He must have run all night trying to loosen it. But giving me the woods all to myself was not the last good deed Billy Bob would do.

That Christmas Eve, as I’m sitting next to the fire place sipping on hot chocolate hoping my wife had baked more cookies like the ones the girls had put out for Santa (because they went missing), I heard a loud knock on my door. “Now who would be out in this kind of weather on Christmas Eve?” I thought to myself. When I opened the door, to my surprise there stood Santa Claus with a look of distress all over his face.

“Santa, what’s wrong?” I asked.

“Well Doc,” Santa replied. “Christmas in The South is in trouble. Between the rain, mud and fog, there is no way I will be able to deliver toys to all the boys and girls down here! You see, Rudolph and the rest of my reindeer are used to landing and pulling in the snow, not South Georgia mud! My sleigh is stuck in your back yard right now! The fog is so bad that Rudolph is missing the roof tops, landing in the back yard, and then I’m stuck.”

“Can’t you use some of your magic Christmas dust to free your sleigh?” I asked.

“That’s how I got this far,” Santa replied. “But at this rate I will run out of magic dust way before I finish delivering all the gifts.” I was sure glad he made this far.

“But Santa, all the kids will be broken hearted. They have all been especially good this year.” I said with concern.

“I know,” Santa replied. “But what can I do?”

I sprang into action.

“Come on, Santa, I know what to do!” I said. We unhooked the reindeer and gave them a rest. With my four wheel drive truck, I got Santa unstuck. With his sleigh on my trailer, we headed east towards Naylor.

“Where are we going Doc?” Santa asked.

“To meet an old friend that can help with your task,” I replied.

I knew about where Billy Bob would be and it didn’t take us long to find him and his spotlight. I explained to Santa that this is Billy Bob and there is not a fog made that he can’t shake his way through. I told Billy Bob to round up seven of his buddies and deliver those toys. Santa looked confused.

“Look,” I explained. “These here are redneck reindeer. They were born and raised in the south and there ain’t a mud hole made these deer can’t pull a sleigh through.”

It didn’t take Billy Bob long to round up seven more bucks and Santa was ready to go. He climbed in his sleigh and in a loud voice I heard him say, “On Billy Bob, Skinner, Duke and Kraken, on Jeremy, Rich, David, and Mike, let’s get packin’!”

And away they went. And that is how Billy Bob and the red neck reindeer saved Christmas in The South.

Until the next adventure…

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Donald Newham
Donald Newham, a.k.a. Doc, is an outdoor enthusiast born and raised in Lowndes Co. Georgia. Doc graduated from Lowndes High School in 1981, and was a member of its first state championship football team. He became a certified law enforcement officer in 1983 and worked under Sheriff G. Robert Carter. In 1987 he became a Teamster working for Roadway Express until 2012. Doc then returned to the Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff Chris Prine where he was chosen Deputy of The Year in 2013. In 2017, he became a reserve for the Lake Park Police Department where he assisted in organizing the Lake Park Underwater Search and Rescue Team. Doc enjoys spending time with his family, scuba diving, and spear fishing as he searches for his next adventure.

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