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The story of the Santa Mouse began some thirty years back.
Wife and I were, of course, poor as church mice while we Worked To Better Ourselves and finish up our Bachelors, get our certifications, and, y'know, have money and food and things.
That was, of course, the Christmas that our little girl wanted the Advent Calendar, this thingy where each day before Christmas, you'd open a little door and there'd be a little treat behind it, as a buildup for Christmas. And, of course, as many of you who have been parents will know, Christmas is a heckuva time for parenting, because the kids have to have the Christmas magic, and yet the rest of the world wants PAYING for it, a thing which, at the time, I was not well equipped to do. There was a tree, there were presents, there was a dinner -- we had the basics covered -- but durned if this advent calendar thing didn't throw me for a loop, because it wasn't inexpensive, and I had no budget for it, and why they stick that stuff out there to tantalize the kids AFTER all the budgeting is done?
And lacking funds, I fell back on ingenuity, and had her write a letter to the Santa Mouse.
My darling little girl cocked a cynical eye at me and said, "Santa Mouse?"
"Yeah, write a letter to the Santa Mouse."
"And this Santa Mouse is distinct from Santa Claus? In what way? Elucidate," she said.
I might mention that while my little girl was a sweet little toddle-darlin' with stars in her beautiful big brown eyes, she might have been a bit precocious.
"Well, sweetie," I began in the proper dadly way, "You know Santa Claus. He's the Big Guy, with the big job of manufacturing toys, as well as brokering deals with major toy companies for specific high demand items, and operating mass delivery systems via reindeer, UPS, Amazon, and the post office, and the like. But like any big corporate deal, he has subcontractors."
"Right..." said my little moppet.
"And that's where the Santa Mouse comes in," I said. "Bein' a mouse, he is ill equipped to bring bicycles or Barbie's Malibu Dream House to your stoop; that's not his job. What Santa Mouse does, now, is he handles the small stuff, spaced out daily from Christmas, and then on Christmas Eve, he rides with Santa to deliver the last small item, and assist with cookie eatin' duties and suchlike."
"Small stuff, spaced out daily," said my little girl, having immediately locked onto the salient facts in the narrative. "So, basically, chocolates, small toys, and suchlike?"
"Yups," I said.
"So Santa Mouse serves the same function as an Advent Calendar?"
"Pretty much," I said. "But he's not the mass operation that Santa is. You have to contact him directly, and contract for the services."
"And what criteria are in the contract?"
"You have to write him a letter, care of Santa Claus, and ask. You have to give mommy and daddy a kiss before bed, and you have to be good, as per Section C of your Santa contract. And you have to leave the Santa Mouse his own cookie (or a piece of cheese) on Christmas Eve before you go to bed, to conclude the contract."
"That doesn't sound particularly tough."
"I leave it to you, my little darling."
And so she wrote Santa Mouse and asked if he wouldn't please include our home in his daily routine, and gave me the letter to mail, because even though she was far from stupid, she WAS still a child, and certain observances had to be met. And so, the next day, I informed her that Santa Mouse had faxed me his response (it was the eighties, gimme a break,) and that daily services would depend on her ability to locate the Santa Mouse icon that he had provided me; he would be hiding it every night, somewhere in the living room, and it was HER job to FIND the thing and lay claim to the provided goodies what would accompany it.
"Was this included in the contract?" she said doubtfully, examining the fax.
"I assumed you were agreeing to the terms when I signed off on it as your proxy," I said. "Don't you remember our conversation about contract negotiations? If you didn't want to authorize me as your proxy, you shooda said so." And she sorrowfully agreed that one should always read the fine print before signing anything, sure. It's never too early to start on certain life lessons, you know?
"So what do I need to do?" she asked.
"Just leave the little Santa Mouse figurine in front of the TV," I said. "Each night. If it's there, he'll pick it up and hide it somewhere, and in the morning, you can hunt for it and see if he left you anything." And my little girl dutifully did just that, and upon searching the living room the next morning, found that the Santa Mouse figure was over on the bookshelf with a Fun Size Snickers bar, a thing she found quite acceptable...
…and our rather odd December commenced.
Now, at this point, the reader is no doubt wondering what the heck is going on. This is because I haven't explained it yet. Y'see, a while back, Reaper Miniatures began the manufacturer of these lovely little Santa Mouse pewter figurines, right? And as a collector, I bought and painted one, and this is what Little Darlin' was putting in front of the TV every night, and her mother and I would hide it in the living room along with whatever candy or goody I could scavenge from someone's candy dish at work, or whatever was in the bottom of her mother's purse, or whatever I could get out of a gumball machine with the coins I could find in the couch cushions. I make no apologies. Any poor person will tell you it's easier to come up with thirty bucks gradually on a daily basis than it is to do so all at once for a dumb overpriced advent calendar.
Each day, she’d clamber out of bed and begin an examination of the living room until she found the little red Santa Mouse sitting atop a Fun Size M&Ms bag, or a pack of gum, or whatever. I did have a bit of a skid one day, when Santa Mouse was sitting atop a Happy Meal toy from McDonalds; I’d grabbed a quick bite there the previous day and had saved the toy for just this purpose.
“It seems curious that Santa Mouse would reutilize secondhand merchandise,” my daughter mused.
“The little plastic bag was still sealed,” I replied. “It was new merch, purchased from McDonalds, no doubt; even mice have to eat. McDonalds is, after all, the number one toy distributor on the planet. And when one is benefiting from a localized magical phenomenon, it is unwise to question the mojo, yes?”
She had to agree with that, and the matter was dropped.
As December went on, she did ask about Santa Mouse’s methods of operation. Did he use a sleigh? Perhaps he used Santa’s transport and tackle, to warm it up for Christmas? How does a mouse manage a full sized sleigh?
I replied that he did not, that he instead used a gold plated roller skate, repurposed as a mouse sized sleigh, and pulled by a friendly enchanted pair of skunks, who could not only fly, but keep predators at bay while Santa Mouse did his job, as no sane predator would mess with skunks.
“And how does he manage all the candy and toys on one roller skate?”
“Same as Santa Claus does: magic bag.”
“What are the skunks’ names?”
“Barney... and, um, Clyde,” I said, thinking fast. Fortunately, she did not question this, and the conversation turned to other topics.
By the time Christmas rolled around, Wife and I were pleased to note that we had spent under ten bucks on Santa Mouse, less than a third of what they wanted for the advent calendar, while providing hours of amusement and fascination for the child. And we were greatly touched when on Christmas Eve, she insisted on making a special little sandwich for Santa Mouse (Squeezy Cheez and Swiss on Ritz Cracker, with parsley sprig) to fulfill her contract with this strange and magical entity.
I WAS just gonna eat the thing, but Wife insisted that I uphold the magic, and therefore I ate about half of it, and then made a great many little mouse sized bites out of the remainder with a hole punch, which I later had to clean the Squeezy Cheez out of, to my slight irritation. But it galvanized the Sproglet the next morning to see that Santa Mouse did indeed take tiny bites, as opposed to what Santa’s daddy-sized dentition took out of the Oreos.
And thus a tradition was born.
Years later, in college, she got around to asking me, “That first year with Santa Mouse?”
“Eeeeyes?” I replied over my book.
“Santa Mouse was all over the living room, hiding candy and toys?”
“It would seem so.”
“How many cats did we have at that time? Five?” she said, eyeing me for a reaction.
“As I recall, Santa Mouse has a posse,” I replied smoothly. “Barney and Clyde, the magical skunks, specifically to keep cats at bay.”
“What about Mr. Magoo?” she asked, referring to a cat we had had at the time. “Magoo was dumb enough to think he could make friends with a pit bull, and was in love with one of your socks. You think a couple of skunks would have slowed him down?”
“Well,” I said, “what was the second lesson we took away from our experience with Santa Mouse?”
The Kid frowned at me, and recited: “Always read the fine print?”
“The SECOND lesson,” I said.
She frowned again. “When one is benefiting from a localized magical phenomenon, it is unwise to question the mojo.”
“She remembers,” I said with a smile. “Plainly, I have fulfilled my purpose as a parent.”
And I guess I did.
Funny thing about this story? It's largely hooey. Anyone who knows me can check the dates, and say, "Dude, when your little girl was a little girl, Reaper Miniatures didn't exist yet. And by the time Santa Mouseling was in production, she was in college already." And this is true.
But one year at work, I gave out hand painted Santa Mouselings, and they went over quite well, until someone wanted to know the STORY behind them. And, durnit, I can't turn down a request for a story, just because there actually isn't one, particularly when I'm already three cups into the spiked eggnog. So the first version of this tale was born. And now, every year at work, the Old Hands watch me like a hawk to make sure the new hires, at Christmas time, get their little Santa Mouseling and a printout of the story; it's a tradition now.
And durn, I sure wish they'd start making Santa Mouseling in Bones...
I saw this ad in Fantasy Modeling #5 back around '80 or '81 and immediately sent off for the Dragontooth catalog, and promptly bought the dragon. I think it cost something like $20, if you factor in the shipping. I knew when the box containing him arrived, because I think the box must have weighed twenty pounds.
He was about the size of my hand, five and a half inches from tabletop to wing tip, and weighed approximately fifty pounds. Solid lead. Eight parts; Two wings, torso, four legs, and the top of his head and upper jaw. Wings would NOT stay on with crazy glue, epoxy, solder, or Sovereign Glue.
My players must have fought that dragon three or four times in the three years we existed as a gaming group before we all went off to college and scattered to the four winds. One of the boys named him Skippy. As in, "Dragon? Oh, man, Skippy's gonna hit the table!"
There weren't a whole lot of dragons back then. Toy dragons may have existed, but we didn't have any clue where to find one. And metal dragons had begun to exist, but I lived in a little tiny Texas cow town in the middle of nowhere. For us, there was Skippy, and we loved him well.
So naturally, he was among the things my parents tossed out when I left for college. I have never seen another Dragontooth dragon like him. He was seventy pounds of solid lead, and probably illegal to sell, these days, but I'd buy another one in a minute.
This is my newest dragon. Arrived today. He's pretty, and I hear they have him at Wal Mart, now. He and his box of friends cost fifteen bucks.
And back in 1980, I'd have flapped my arms and flown to the moon by sheer force of personality if I thought it would have got me a dragon like this.
But then.... today... you can find dragons anywhere. I think Reaper makes one or two different dragons, don't they......?
Who was YOUR first dragon?
NICHOLAS, DUKE OF NOMADS
SYMBOLISM: Craftiness, ambition, facial tattoos
When reversed, do NOT give money to panhandlers today. When upright, today is a good day to look for treasure in the usual locations, particularly Hot Topic and your favorite hobby shop, but NOT used bookstores; to a Nomad, a book is something you use to level a table with one short leg.
QUOTE: "I have something in which you may be interested..."
PIFFLE, FOOL OF DRAGONLORDS
SYMBOLISM: Humor, fun, sheltered idiocy
When reversed, do NOT get into arguments online, and stay away from the comments sections. When upright, it's a good day to do something fun, but as always, avoid teh stoopidz unless you have a higher level of protection than most of us, who are bogged down with consequences.
QUOTE: "I say, I say, I say!"
The last time I felt like God was back around 1984, ‘85, or so.
I was working for the news department in the campus radio station. On my first day, they showed me the Zombie Wire, the AP ticker where periodically, a bell would ring and the teletype would begin spitting out copy. My job was to rewrite the copy into short lucid bursts suitable for the news reader to read live on the air. One bell meant a standard news feed. Two bells, something important; a Presidential speech, a bank robbery, something. If TWELVE bells were heard, at an odd time, it was something of TRANSCENDENTAL importance, World War III, or something.
Whole time I worked there? Never more than two bells.
But that semester, they’d installed a new toy: the AP Newsfeed. It ran off this “Internet” thing, a continuous signal, through the phone lines via a dedicated modem at a lightning fast 56k, into a green CRT monitor at the news desk. Since I was usually the only person in the office, I got to monkeying with it one afternoon in an idle moment.
And it utterly shocked me to my core.
I quickly learned how to sweep various AP outlets in various locations, various countries, EVERY major city on the planet, and I realized I could access NEWS, in REAL TIME... everywhere.
This was a jolt. CNN existed by then, but it was a rather new thing, and simply rebroadcast the news every half hour, with any fresh happenings plugged in. Most people still got daily newspapers, or just watched the Six O’Clock News on their local stations. But I could access the soccer scores in Nice, France, examine police blotters in Barcelona, Glasgow, and Zurich, and get neighborhood reports from Nairobi, with nothing less than fifteen minutes old, if I wished it. Anything on THIS side of the iron curtain? I could know it in seconds. All as fast as it took me to read that little eye murdering green CRT screen.
No one... ANYWHERE... was as well informed as I was. Except the other newsmen, sifting the AP feed for copy for their next broadcast. The entire PLANET was under MY SCRUTINY, for as long as I cared to WATCH it!
No graphics, no video, just text. But I still felt like God.
Today, I have color, high resolution, video, audio, and the iron curtain ain’t there any more.
And nowadays, I feel more ill informed than ever...
“Well, there’s no such thing as cowboys,” the child said. “They’re imaginary, they’re in movies and TV and stuff. They’re not real. Like Santa Claus and dinosaurs.”
The conversation between the sixth graders had been about Halloween costumes, and whether or not Li’l Shannon could reasonably go as a cowboy. Not a cowgirl; a cowboy. Jeans, boots, and so on. She seemed to feel that cowboys were cool, whereas cowgirls were lame, and where does one find pink jeans and pink Stetson, anyway? And Josh blew it all out of the water with “I don’t believe in cowboys. They aren’t real.”
And it was at this point where I had to ask, “Josh, what makes you think cowboys aren’t real? I grew up in deep south Texas. I knew lots of cowboys. Who do you think raises the cattle that go to make your hamburgers?”
“Well,” said Josh, a little taken aback, “There USED to be cowboys, sure. But now all that is automated, and stuff.”
I had a bizarre vision, out of nowhere, of robot cowboys riding motorcyles, herding cattle, and squealing ‘yee haw’ in electronic voices.
“So... you’re honestly telling me to my face that you believe that cowboys are extinct?”
He looked troubled. Contradicting one’s teachers isn’t normally standard procedure for sixth graders, but he felt like he needed to stand up for his belief system. “Well, I said there USED to be cowboys,” he said. “I mean, someone had to fight the Indians*, and fight at the Alamo**, like Sam Houston and Davy Crockett, and all that. But now, there’s just people who dress UP like cowboys. They don’t carry six shooters, they don’t ride horses, and they don’t have anything to do with cows. Nowadays, it’s all about being in movies about old timey days, back in cowboy times. There aren’t any cowboys NOW. It’s like dinosaurs, you know? We know there USED to be tyrannosaurs, but now they’re only in MOVIES. Y’know? Like private detectives.”
I may have stood there with my mouth open. Admittedly, I can’t say I knew any private detectives in high school, but...
“Um... Josh,” I began, as gently as I could. “Cowboys exist. So do private investigators. Look up PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR in the Yellow Pages, and--”
“Yellow what?” he said, confused. Errrgh. Okay, I stepped into that one. Sigh.
“Josh, you live in Colorado. Colorado has mountains at one end, and plains on the other. Those plains are full of farms and ranches. The ranches are infested with cattle. You’ve seen them, every road trip you ever took. Who do you think looks after those cattle? And you can hire a private investigator any time.”
“Well, that’s just silly,” said Josh, indignant. “Why would you HIRE a detective when you can just call the cops for FREE? Private detectives aren’t REAL, they’re just in TV shows and movies. Like cowboys. Or dragons. It’s all PRETEND. You dress UP as one, you can’t really BE one. And cattle are domesticated, these days. You just CALL them, right?”
I had yet another unbidden vision of a rancher blowing a whistle, and the cattle queuing up neatly to jump into a meat grinder. He was so durn sure of himself. Howthehell do you explain the truth to a child who’s quite sure you’re wrong? I know that insurance companies employ hordes of private investigators to check insurance fraud, even if they don’t look like Tom Selleck or Humphrey Bogart, I know you can hire a PI to see if your spouse is cheating on you and get photos for the divorce lawyer, and I went to HIGH SCHOOL with cowboys, fa potato’s sake, but how do you explain all this to a SIXTH GRADER--
He smiled at me. “Look,” he said. “I appreciate you want to help preserve my sense of childish wonder. My parents felt the same way about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. But it’s okay. I’m grown up***, now. And you have to let go of your childish dreams sometime.”
And that was how I witnessed the Twilight Of The Cowboys, right there in the sixth grade...
*Actually, cowboys did not often fight Indians. Usually only on long trail drives, and even then, they’d rather negotiate than try to fight anyone while trying to keep a herd of skittish cattle from stampeding.
**I do not know how many cowboys fought at the Battle of the Alamo. I do know that neither Sam Houston nor Davy Crockett were cowboys. Sam Houston, in fact, grew up among the Cherokee Indians, and was not at the actual battle... and Crockett was a woodsman and bear hunter who later held a seat in Congress. And while cowboys and Congressmen do have some things in common, they are far from the same thing.
***Don’t talk to ME about grown up, ya little broccoli, with half your education still in front of you, and just WAIT till puberty gets involved...
****Did I mention that this child plays Dungeons and Dragons? But still doesn't believe in cowboys?