The local Girl Scouts recently asked me to help them with building a float for the town-wide holiday parade and tree lighting ceremony. Seeing as both of my daughters are scouts and my wife has not only been a volunteer helper for several years but is now making her rookie appearance as a troop leader, it was difficult to turn down such an "opportunity". They had planned for months to get their hands on a decent size trailer to cover in Christmas lights, center a tree, lay out wrapped gifts, and top off with an inflatable snowman. One sticking point for the float was the means of towing it in the parade. They did not want a simple car or truck pulling their creativity down the street. The girls wanted something a little more memorable. And so, my three girls decided to offer an antique tractor from our farm to pull their float. It would keep with their 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts celebration as it is an old piece of Americana. But it needed to be transported from our farm down to the city and it needed a driver.
To say the least, I was not entirely happy about borrowing the truck and trailer for transporting the old tractor from work and making the late night trek through the mountains for three hours after work. I did not look forward to arriving at the farm at dawn to load up the old iron and head back to the city with my heavy cargo and little sleep. I especially did not want to attempt to find a parking spot on my crowded street and fight to get an old farm tractor off the trailer among all the tightly parked cars. The whole ordeal seemed rushed under the time constraints and left little sleep for the delivery person, me.
With the tractor delivered and hooked up to the float, which was wonderfully done by the scouts, the final step needed attention. The scouts wanted their float to be pulled by Santa. I had never played Santa before and my daughters actually wanted their Grandpa to fill in, due to his extensive experience with the role. Their concerns were not quite satisfied with Grandpa's lessons on being Santa over the previous weeks. They quizzed me on Ho,Ho,Ho's and proper Santa laughs and waves. The scouts wanted a traditional suited jolly fellow but some how the suit was misplaced. I wasn't especially keen on parade route waving and jelly-bowl-jiggling laughter, especially on minimal sleep. But I stuffed my overalls with a Santa belly, donned my snow-white beard, fitted my Elmer Fudd rabbit-fur hat, and presented Farmer Santa for the tractor-pulled, 100 anniversary Girl Scout holiday float. Grandpa's stern warning of the importance of playing Santa weighed heavily upon my shoulders.
The tractor rumbled to life and the float lurched forward, blaring Christmas music. The old, dim headlights seemed brighter than usual. The Christmas lights behind the tractor had more sparkle than usual. The float was well received by the community and all the scouts that hadn't had a chance to view the completed project. We rolled along the parade route at a snail's pace, the Girl Scouts walking behind their float waving and glowing. And somewhere along that route the magic of the season swirled. In the crowd along the sidewalks, kids yelled out for Santa, grown-ups waved, and the older folks nodded their approval with a twinkle in their eyes. Most had never seen an old tractor up close, and Santa was up the in the seat. I waved without thinking, smiling behind the beard and the ho,ho,ho's seemed to flow out. It was easy to have a glow about you with so many people smiling and waving and looking on with a little amazement at the whole scene
At the end of the parade route, by the town Christmas tree, the crowd closed in around the girls and I parked the float in its designated spot. People flocked to it, asking for pictures with Santa and a chance to climb aboard the old red tractor. Christmas cards were created, the girls took turns taking pictures in front of their creation, and I was far from tired. I was given the greatest Christmas present ever. I was given the chance to bring smiles to so many people, most I didn't even know. I was given a chance to be Santa. Folks are still talking about Santa and the old red tractor from two weeks ago, happy at the memory. And I am thankful for the opportunity and the Girl Scouts for allowing me to have it. Merry Christmas from Farmer Santa.