A Christmas story down on the farm

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 20, 2013

Last Saturday, I was very fortunate to see Santa Claus jump out of a plane at the airport. I was amazed, just like almost everyone there. It was great fun to see him float to the ground by parachute, wave to everyone, then hop in a van for the ride to the airport’s new hangar. Just a little later, after all the kids got their turn, I got to talk to Santa myself.
Santa had the usual upfront chit-chat, and then talked about his ability to sky-dive and parachute. Everything was going pretty well, until Santa decided to bring up a touchy subject. Santa said, “So Dave, what is up with the lights on the windmill? Do you realize how close Christmas Day is?” Turns out Santa was concerned because the lights had not been turned on. He knew the lights are usually up and looking very festive by Dec. 1. Santa continued, “I always can head directly toward Rowan County when I can see those lights on Christmas Eve night.”
I have always had a special relationship with Santa. It started very early, maybe when I was 3 or 4. Still to this day, I can’t wait for his visit. I certainly didn’t want to disappoint Santa.
Those lights are my pride and joy during the Christmas season. The windmill is 55 feet tall and takes lots of lights, and they have to be the kind that can stand one light going out while the rest of the strand keeps burning. Or the rest of five or six long strands.
Actually there have been lights on the windmill for weeks, or maybe a few months. OK, I can admit that we never took them down after last Christmas. Granted that is probably part of the reason that the lights were not working this year. But the biggest issue is that the power supply to the windmill area has an electrical short, and I finally decided to call a real electrician to fix it.
Another issue is that it takes an accomplished climber to take the old lights down, and to restring the new ones. That lucky person gets to climb the outside and sometimes the inside of the very tall windmill, making sure that the footing is adequate while holding on to secure the lights in Christmas tree fashion.
I gathered two friends, both of whom had to cancel on doing the work Tuesday due to other commitments but were able to make it first thing on Wednesday. Jeff Ritchie and Johnny Brown, who just happened to be first cousins, both came to the farm to provide their expertise. Jeff owns J.R. Ritchie Electric and has done most of the electrical work that I’ve needed over the years. I once worked on his family’s farm. Johnny owns J.E. Brown Guttering, and has no problem with climbing all over anything high. His family did the guttering on my house. Bottom line, they are both great guys who I have known for years. I had not seen either of them for more than six months, so we had lots of catching up to do.
So, these guys brought their talents and good-natured friendship, and we all set about making Santa happy by stringing brand new lights and hooking them up to the star that already was mounted on the top of the windmill. First, Johnny went round and round, taking all the old lights off, dropping them to the ground. I was his laborer, collecting the old lights. Jeff worked on finding the problem with the electricity.
Finally, it was time to string the new lights in Christmas tree fashion. Johnny got the spacing just right. They looked good to all of us, but we wouldn’t know for sure until darkness came. Jeff thought he had made some headway on finding the electrical short, so we all left to take care of some other things. Darkness would come soon enough, and we all had some other work to do in the meantime.
I got home about 5:30 p.m., the perfect time to turn on outdoor decorations. I walked to the back door, almost afraid to look out and see if the lights were on. They were! What a great sight! My giant Christmas tree was back in business. Santa will now be happy on Christmas Eve.
It had been a good day; I had been able to visit with two old friends. There was a familiarity that comes with knowing them for 40 years, but it was more than that. We all needed those lights to burn and make Christmas just a little more special. And they did just that. Another wonderful holiday memory. Merry Christmas, everyone!