Late November 1858
“Whatcha doin’, Han?” Big blue eyes looked down at a blank piece of paper.
“I’m writing a letter to Santa.” ‘Dear..’
“So I can explain some questionable things that I may have been involved in over the past year.” ‘Mister...’
“So I don’t end up on Santa’s naughty list.” ‘Claus...’
“So I can get lots of good presents this year.” ‘Hi. This...’
A grin spread across the blond haired boy’s face. “Why?”
A crooked frown appeared on the dark haired boy’s face. “Jed! If you’re just going to stand there and ask ‘why’ to everything I say, just go home!”
Jed sat down beside his older cousin smiling. “Sorry. Just proddin’ ya. Will ya read it to me as ya write?”
Han now gave a crooked grin back. “Sure. S’long as you don’t ask ‘why’ to anything!”
“Yeah. I promise.”
A dimpled smile now appeared on the expressive face. “Okay. Dear Mister Claus,...”
“Why ya callin’ him ‘Mister’? His name is Santa.”
A warning voice. “Jed...you promised...”
“What? I just wanna know! And I forgotted about my promise for a second.”
“‘Cause Ma said you should address people as Mister or Missus on account of it’s proper. So’s I don’t want Santa to get offended as soon as he starts reading my letter.”
Han started his letter again.
“Dear Mister Claus,
Hi. This is your good and well behaved friend Hannibal Heyes.”
Jed smirked. “You really think he’s goin’ to believe that?”
Han sighed. “Jed, I swear. If you don’t hush I ain’t going to get this letter done ‘til next Christmas.”
“Dear Mister Claus,
Hi. This is your good and well behaved friend Hannibal Heyes. I turned seven years old this year and in my opinion, I’m getting too old to just be getting clothes for Christmas. I think you should know I have enough. I got my school clothes, my Sunday go to meeting clothes, and my chore and playing clothes. And that’s all a man needs to go about his business.”
“Yeah. You sure don’t need no new chore clothes. Yours hardly ever get used.”
The blond haired boy laughed.
“Not one more word from you until I’m done! Now, where was I?...
...With that in mind, I expect to see some toys and candy under the tree this year please. I wouldn’t say no to some money either. That’s something else you can keep in mind.
So, with that out of the way, I think I need to clear up some things you might’ve taken the wrong way this year. Let me start with the cat poop.”
“Why you goin’ ta go and tell on yourself, Han?”
Han sighed again. “Because Santa watches us kids all year, ‘member? That’s how he decides if you get on the nice or naughty list. And he could’ve not understood my good intentions on some things so’s I need to explain them to him so he don’t accidentally put me on the naughty list.”
“Well, that makes sense.”
“Of course it does. Now...
Let me start with the cat poop incident. There’s this bully at school named Cletus. He’s always stealing my two pieces of candy Ma gives me everyday to take to school. I finally got tired of it and decided to teach him a lesson. So I went out to the place where our cats like to use the bathroom and dug up a couple of pieces of old poop. Had to be old so’s they’d be hard.
Then I went to the kitchen and got a little chocolate that Ma uses to make her candy and took it and a tin cup outside. I built me a fired, melted that chocolate, then rolled the cat poop in it. I put the fire out when I’s done though. Just like a good boy should.
Next day, I took it to school and left it where I always put my candy. Well, Cletus stole it just like he’d always been doing. So I just stood back and smiled as he took a bite. And okay, he did puke all over the classroom floor, but, he never stole my candy again. So see? I wasn’t being mean to Cletus. I was teaching him that stealing was bad. I think that should count as a good thing because I was also teaching him one of them moral things Ma’s always talking about.”
“That t’weren’t no good thing, Han. Ya got in trouble over that. Ya Pa whooped you good over that.”
“Santa don’t know that!”
“You just said he watches us kids all year long!”
“Yeah! He watches us ‘kids’. Not the grown ups. So he wouldn’t be watching what Pa did. Now, will you PLEASE let me get this wrote?!”
“Don’t have ta get proddy.”
Another sigh came from the older boy.
“Now, the thing that happened in our yard. I heard Pa talking about how the neighbor’s boys were always running through it as a shortcut to their friend’s house. And I heard him ask Ma ‘they do realize that yard is ours don’t they?’. So’s I decided to make sure they knew it was our yard. So I borrowed some of Ma’s cooking oil and Pa’s kerosene he keeps for the lamps and to burn off the fields each spring and spelled out Heyes in the yard and set it on fire.
I guess you could look at that as me being mean but in reality, I was just helping to make sure those boys knew who the yard belonged to. Yeah, Pa had to hurry and put it out, and yeah, I got another whooping for that, BUT, my intentions were good and since I already done got punished for it, I think the charges should be dropped on that one.”
“That was funny! There was a black burnt place in your yard that said ‘Heyes’ for a month!”
“See? Was a good idea. Anyway...
Okay, Santa. Now this next one I did with my little cousin Jed.”
“I ain’t ya little cousin! I’s ya younger cousin!”
“What’re you about ta tell him? Don’t be tellin’ on me!”
“I told you I’m not telling on me or us! I’m explaining things so’s he understands they weren’t bad things like they looked like they was!”
“Well, okay... I guess...”
Han continued his written plea of innocence. “Me and Jed were playing in the snow and you no doubt saw the snowman we built. I know it looked bad when we got done on account of we put the carrot and the two pieces of coal on the big bottom snowball. Our folks thought it looked pretty bad too. Well, our Mas did. Our Pas was laughing. Anyway, it wasn’t what it looked like. If you noticed, we put the stick arms on the snowman upside down. The snowman was standing on his head. That’s all we was trying to show. We can’t help that our Mas’ minds are in the ditch, or gutter, or whatever that grown up saying is. Childhood innocence was all that was.”
Jed snickered at that. “You didn’t tell him that you stuck the stick arms in after you saw our folks comin’.”
“I’m trying to show him we’re good! And you ain’t helping none!”
“I just think you should tell him what you want for Christmas and leave it at that. He mighta forgot ‘bout all that stuff. Don’t need to go remindin’ him of it if’n he has.”
“But what if he does ‘member? He won’t know the real story and I won’t get nothing for Christmas and you won’t neither ‘cause you was with me.”
“Oh. Well, better tell him I guess.”
Han decided that was enough to ‘explain his innocence’ about. “So, as you can see, Santa, all those things have been rectumfied.”
“What’s rectumfied mean?”
“Means they’s been taken care of and explained, Jed.”
A curly blond head nodded.
“And because they have, I should definitely be on your nice list. If I ain’t, it would truly be a astrocity. And I would just ‘have’ to tell everybody how you put a completely innocent, good behaving, smart boy on your naughty list for no reason at all. Now you don’t want that spread around do you? Kids everywhere would just go around being mean ‘cause they’d think you was unfair and it wouldn’t matter what they did ‘cause you might put them on your bad list so’s you could keep the toys to yourself and not share.
Now, as for the route you take on your trip. I really think you should come to Kansas first. ‘Cause we all ‘round here get excited and get up early on Christmas and since you don’t never want to be seen, (don’t know why that is either. You should explain these things you know), it just makes sense for you to come here first. That way you know for sure we’re asleep.
Okay, I got’s to go now. Jed’s here and is getting twitchy having to sit so long.”
“HEY! I am not! Don’t tell him that!”
“Okay!” The last line got scratched through. “I got’s to go now. I’m running out of space on this piece of paper. I hope when you read this, you understand the smartness of my thinking. I’m sure you do because you’re real smart yourself. Who else has taught a bunch of deer to fly? Have a nice trip and I’ll leave some candy under the tree for you. That’s another reason you should come to Kansas first. If you wait too long to come get your candy, the cats might lick on it. And cat spit can’t be good for you. Can’t have you getting too sick to order all them elves around to make toys. Notice I said toys, not clothes.
Your innocent on all counts friend,
“Are you finally done? Looks like ya wrote a book for him to read. He might not get all that read before Christmas.”
“That ain’t funny, Jed.”
“Do you want to write a letter to him?”
“Do I have to write one that long? Just too much if’n ya ask me. He might get tired of it and just put it down.”
“Write whatever you want.”
“But I ain’t learnt to write yet. Not good. I can make a few letters.”
“Well, you tell me what you want to say and I’ll write it.”
Blue eyes lit up. “Thanks, Han!”
Han got up and went to find another piece of paper and quickly returned to sit back down. “Okay. Tell me what to write.”
Jed thought for a minute before he started. “Um...Dear Mister Santa,
Hi. My name is Jed Curry. I am five years old. My cousin is writin’ this for me ‘cause I don’t start school ‘til next year and can’t write good yet. I’m not goin’ ta tell ya all the stuff I done like my nutty cousin...”
Jed gave his cousin the young version of the ‘look’. “You said you’d write what I said.”
Han sighed. “Yeah, I did.”
Jed started dictating again. “‘Cause I don’t think a man should tell on hisself. I didn’t do nothin’ bad. Just don’t think if’n ya did, it don’t need bringin’ back up. So’s here’s a couple of real good things I did.
First, I stood up for my sisters when a boy was pestering them at the town fair. I squished a rotten peach slice to them floating balloon strings, then when they was in the air over that boy, I shot the balloons so that nasty peach splatted on the boy’s head.
Second, I made sure to throw eggs down in the cellar to keep the monster down there fed so’s it don’t come up and eat us all. Ain’t no eatin’ nobody s’long as I’m around.
So’s I just want some toys and a new slingshot. I broked mine shootin’ so many pine cones off trees. And lots of candy ‘cause I like eatin’ candy.”
“You like eating everything.”
“Shut up, Han! ....Anyway, that’s ‘bout all I got’s ta say Santa. I hope you have a good night riding ya sleigh ‘round.
“That’s all you want to write?”
“Yeah. Like I said, no need to write him no book. He’s got anough letters ta read.”
Han smiled at his practical cousin. “Well then, let’s go get Pa to take us into town to mail these.”
“Sounds good to me!”