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Lunch with Blitzen

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, as well as Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. Or do you really? Those characters were introduced in the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” better known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Literary authorities remain uncertain about the identity of the poem’s author. However, Robert L. May and Johnny Marks, in a story and song respectively, mentioned Santa’s sleigh-pulling reindeer in passing, but made Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer famous. Gene Autry’s recording of the tune sealed the deal. But while he of the glowing proboscis may be the star of the show, like most lead actors, he couldn’t do what he does without a back-up cast and crew that allow him to, well, shine! So while he usually keeps a lower profile, one of the other reindeer agreed to share his thoughts about his long-time gig and his famous colleague.

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You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, as well as Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. Or do you really? Those characters were introduced in the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” better known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Literary authorities remain uncertain about the identity of the poem’s author. However, Robert L. May and Johnny Marks, in a story and song respectively, mentioned Santa’s sleigh-pulling reindeer in passing, but made Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer famous. Gene Autry’s recording of the tune sealed the deal. But while he of the glowing proboscis may be the star of the show, like most lead actors, he couldn’t do what he does without a back-up cast and crew that allow him to, well, shine! So while he usually keeps a lower profile, one of the other reindeer agreed to share his thoughts about his long-time gig and his famous colleague. (ARTIST DRAWING BY MRS. CLAUS)

Blitzen? Really? I mean, I know our parents pick our names when we’re born, and perhaps I’m showing an incredible lack of cultural sensitivity in judging a name that’s obviously not English. But Blitzen?

(Sighs) Yeah. I know. And just to add to the confusion, sometimes I get ‘Blixem’ or ‘Blixen.’

The latter would really make more sense, since it would rhyme with ‘Vixen.’ But I guess you can’t change your name just for the sake of a couplet.

You’re right — I can’t. I mean, I could. But I won’t. It’s my name, it’s who I’ve always been, and I’m stuck with it. I’ve worked hard to be proud of it, but that’s a challenge sometimes.

I’m sure it is. Anyway, I’m curious about how you feel about being the last reindeer named, and in the back row, where I’m assuming you have a heavier load to bear? I don’t know much about teams in hitches, but I attend the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair every year to watch the heavy horses, and…

RIGHT! You’re in Brandon! One of these years, I really want to get down to the Royal. I really admire those Clydesdales and Belgians and Percherons. They’re something!

You know about the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair?

It’s legendary! Second-largest agricultural fair in Canada, I think — next only to the Toronto Royal. But I’ve heard about your prairie hospitality. And I’d like to check that, and the big show, out for myself.

Well that’s great! You’d be welcomed with open arms — I guarantee it! But getting back to my question about your position on the team: Based on those heavy horses, while it looks like the front ones have a bit of a dicey job because they have to count on everybody stopping behind them, I can’t help but think the greatest strain must be on you and Donner as the guys in the back. You’ve got to get the sleigh going before the other reindeer get to pulling, right? Or have I got it all backwards?

No, no — that’s it. Because we’re closest to the sleigh, we have — well, this sounds immodest, but it’s true — we have to be the strongest because we have to start the sleigh’s movement. And then it’s the same thing when it comes time to land — we have to be able to use our weight to help slow it down and stop it.

I said I admired the draft horses, and I really do — they’re way bigger than we are — but you should try doing all that with antlers thrown into the mix! It makes it even more difficult, if you get my ‘point.’

I do! So with all that said, does it gall you that the guy up front, who, to be fair, has to be agile and fast, gets most of the accolades and attention?

Well, I’m only human. Wait! (laughs) I guess I’m not! But yeah — from time to time, when there’s all this singing about him and ‘Oh Rudolph — your nose is so bright! Can I get my picture taken with you?’ and everybody’s fawning over him because he’s so cute and cuddly and the rest of us are just standing around waiting for the love-in to be over — well, it can get a little tiresome. He’d have a heck of a time trying to get that thing airborne all by himself.

That makes me sound pretty petty, though, doesn’t it? I really don’t mean to be. It’s just that it’s been a lot of years now — I mean, a LOT of years — and nothing much ever seems to change. But I’m grateful for the gig. Lots of reindeer are foraging to survive, and while the rest of the gang and I are free to roam, we’re always fed and have a barn to keep warm in if we want to use it. I’m one of the lucky ones. Santa and Mrs. Claus are really great folks — they treat us amazingly well.

They couldn’t do what they do without you, though. I guess you could say it be’hooves’ them to make sure you’re taken care of! But you mentioned it’s been a lot of years. Decades — centuries even! How is that possible? You don’t look any older than you did when you started this job?

There’s something to be said for cold being a great preserving agent. And believe me, it’s plenty cold at the North Pole. You folks in Manitoba think you’ve got it bad — I dare you to come try a stint way up north. Now that’s cold!

But you know, I do think about that sometimes. Why are we able to go on, year after year, with no apparent change in the way we look, the way we perform, the way we age or don’t, as the case may be? It has caused me the odd sleepless night, I can assure you.

I guess one shouldn’t look a gift horse — or in this instance, maybe a gift reindeer — in the mouth. We all seem to stay healthy, and we certainly are happy for the most part, so I suppose I should just be grateful for what I have, and not worry too much about why that is.

That would be sensible advice for all of us. But we’re — and even you’re — uncertain about why you’ve lasted so well and so long. And that leads me to another question, which maybe ties into the mystery of this whole thing. I hate to go back to Rudolph, but does anybody know WHY his nose started to glow in the first place?

Nobody’s certain. But there were plenty of nuclear tests and explosions in Siberia during the Cold War era. Who knows what kind of radioactive materials were floating around and perhaps filtered overtop of us? If that happened, and I don’t think it’s illogical to imagine it might have, then maybe some things were genetically altered because of it. Maybe that’s why Rudy’s nose started to glow. Maybe that’s why we reindeer are able to live extended lives and show no signs of aging. I know nuclear fallout is supposed to be bad, and in many cases — most cases — it is. But who knows? Maybe we’ve been genetically modified somehow, and it’s messed with our natural aging patterns. I’m just speculating is all. I really have no idea.

Wow. I never would have even considered that. Very interesting. You’re a pretty smart reindeer! And hey — Rudolph may have a nose that lights up like a LED bulb, but you! You’re talking to me from the North Pole by Skype! Not only are you computer literate, you can speak! Imagine how impressed I am — how impressed Brandon Sun readers will be — with the back row now!

(smile) Thanks. I’m usually fairly shy. But I appreciate the chance to speak out for a change. All of the other reindeer are grateful, too. You’re welcome to join in any of our games any time you want. But I understand you’re not particularly fond of the cold.

Guilty as charged. And I know you’re on a tight schedule on Christmas Eve, but if you and Santa and the rest of the team ever need a place to stop for a few extra minutes on your journey, please consider this an open invitation. Mi casa es su casa. I’d love a chance to meet you in person! In reindeer! In… well, you know what I mean.

Thanks for that. And thanks for this! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Thanks, Blitzen. You too!

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 22, 2012

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Blitzen? Really? I mean, I know our parents pick our names when we’re born, and perhaps I’m showing an incredible lack of cultural sensitivity in judging a name that’s obviously not English. But Blitzen?

(Sighs) Yeah. I know. And just to add to the confusion, sometimes I get ‘Blixem’ or ‘Blixen.’

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Blitzen? Really? I mean, I know our parents pick our names when we’re born, and perhaps I’m showing an incredible lack of cultural sensitivity in judging a name that’s obviously not English. But Blitzen?

(Sighs) Yeah. I know. And just to add to the confusion, sometimes I get ‘Blixem’ or ‘Blixen.’

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