(A Contemporary Christmas Fable)
Hope springs eternal from the stomachs of dogs. And they are always eagerly on the lookout for their next good meal. Therefore, it was not surprising when the litter of dachshunds clambered excitedly up the staircase to awaken Mr Christianson, to arouse him to his morning duties, calling upon him to satisfy their hopes, and to fulfill their tiny tummies with something good from the kitchen cupboard.
The old man loved his little dogs and he showered them with kisses; and they returned the favor, licking his cheeks while climbing over one another to get in the best positions for pats and pets. Back downstairs, they pushed and shoved to get the best positions in front of their food bowls, as the old man rained various delectables and delights down upon them—tasty tidbits and scrumptious savories, which they ingested voraciously and with gusto, leading to numerous belches and bellyaches moments later.
Next, they rested by the fire—shiny black and brown bodies piled one upon the other, and laid out prone upon the rug, and spilling over onto the hard wood floor. Their little pink bellies rose and fell as they slept, some snoring, with the occasional fart flattening the air. This was the sight and sound (and smell) of contentment. Mr Christianson watched them happily as he went about his business; his curious business.
The folks in town were perplexed when Mr Christianson first put up his sign for business: “Merrysville’s Dachshund Stagecoach” and then, “Rent us by the hour, or for the day!” Nobody had ever heard of, or had ever seen before, a Dachshund Stagecoach; and they looked at one another quizzically, and with the occasional snort and chuckle. One citizen quipped, “I’ll eat my shoes if he’s still in business in a month!” And that was the general consensus, that a stagecoach business in today’s world, was an anachronism by any measure, compounded and made all the more obsolete by the use of such tiny dogs, rather than horses.
Mr Christianson heard all of the negative remarks but he was undeterred. And within a few hours, he began to prove his naysayers wrong, when he had his first paying customers: a family visiting for the week, on vacation, who were captivated by the strange idea of a ride in a Dachshund Stagecoach. They paid cash for a three hour ride, and waited patiently outside while Mr Christianson went to the back of the building to prepare the coach. Curious onlookers lined the sidewalks in anticipation for their first peek at this new business; and they were delighted when the first pair of little dachshunds rounded the corner from behind the building, with a long chain of dachshunds following.
Mr Christianson made it a very merry sight indeed: with hand-knitted harnesses, knit in colorful yarn, looking like holiday sweaters for each of his pups, and with matching knit caps, and with jingly-bells, which jangly announced their arrival, for their safety of course (they are very little dogs after all), but also for joy. But who could have imagined the sheer number of dogs, for there were ever so many. As they rounded the building, two-by-two, it seemed as if they would never end. The kids began counting them out to each other, as they came rounding the corner, “There’s ten!”, “Now, there twenty!”, “Now even more!”, “There’s thirty!!”, then finally, “Forty!!!” Yes, there were forty proud dachshunds pulling the coach!
There at the helm, Mr Christianson sat, beaming and glowing and calling the names, of his beloved dear dachshunds at the end of his reins. “Pull Courage, Haul Patience, Yank Joyful and Tippy! Dig Justice, and Sloppy and Patience and Hank!” All the tiny, warm canines pulled with delight, their long pointed noses showing the way, and the onlookers cheered them as they rode off into the night.
That was the beginning of something truly amazing in our little town of Merrysville, and as is so often the case, there are things that we never knew we needed, but then we find that we can’t live without. I’ve already warmed to the sound of the dachshund’s tiny feet, pitter-pattering down Main Street several times every day, and the sounds of the little jingly bells that they wear, and the colorful lights strung along their bright harnesses. It is hard now to imagine a time when we didn’t have the joyful presence of our remarkable Dachshund Stagecoach.
But it was one year quite recently when the townspeople realized with even greater wonder and with deeper depth, what an incredible and fortunate thing it was, to have Mr Christianson and his forty little dogs pulling that coach. It began in mid-winter, when a sudden cold chill blew in from the west and descended upon Merrysville, and the surrounding towns. With it came a feeling of fear and of darkness—very grim—like some invisible creature of dread had moved in. Nobody could say for certain what had happened, but everyone could feel it; some blamed this thing, and some blamed that, others said it must be something else, and some said it was nothing at all. But that nothing, or something had an appalling effect on everyone.
People stayed inside and barely ventured out, and they stopped visiting each other; family and friends hardly saw one another at all. Instead they ordered everything by phone and online, and if they did visit, they did so virtually, and never in person. Mr Christianson and his little dogs grew very busy that year, as demand for their services grew immensely, calling upon them to do all sorts of errands, making delivery upon deliveries. Certainly FedEx was speedier, but the dachshunds were much merrier; and no one could resist smiling joyfully, when they showed up en masse at one’s front door, with the groceries in tow, or something from the pharmacy, or just a simple letter from a friend.
The following Christmas was even darker and drearier than the months earlier, if you can believe it; it didn’t get any better at all. Compounding everyone’s ennui, the power went out, the stores all shut down, and even the roads were closed between towns! For a storm had come through and knocked the forest all down. Still, through all of this, Mr Christianson worked harder, and his little dogs were indefatigable—carrying folks to the hospital, or to the diner to pick up their Christmas meal-box—and especially delivering to her neighbors, hundreds of containers of Ms. McCleary’s famous cranberry sauce.
It was Christmas Eve day and Ms. McCleary was all in a tizzy, with so many jars of her famous jelly to be sent, and with all the roads closed, and so little time, she was fit to be tied. But in a moment of wisdom she picked up the phone and called Mr Christianson to get the job done. He arrived seconds later, truly heaven-sent, loaded the stagecoach and lickety-split, off he went.
At the end of the day, with all the packages delivered, he and his dachshunds drove past the town square, and there in the middle was a large Doug-fir tree. It was standing dark and forelorn in the center of the square, and was surrounded by dejected workers and volunteers. It was only hours away from the annual tree lighting party, but all the ornaments and lights hadn’t come; they were lost in transit somewhere along the way, and wouldn’t make it to Merrysville until the next day. What could be worse? But it was par for the course, with the sort of year they’d been having, it was hardly surprising, that something so dire was transpiring.
The workers and volunteers shook their heads in disgust, and the small group of school-children nearby kicked at the dust; what an awful bad year, what more could be done, so they all started to slough off back homeward in gloom. But Mr Christianson had an idea then, and he called to his dachshunds to drive to the tree-side. He unhitched them and raised them into the tree one-by-one, and they clung to the branches as he lifted others still higher, to the top of the tree. One volunteer stopped, turned and then smiled; next he called to the others and they all began to return. All the dachshunds were lit up with the lights from their harnesses, which Mr Christianson had woven into the fibers, and with their bright little sweaters and their colorful beanies, they looked like pretty ornaments covering the tree.
The children laughed and they pointed with glee, “Look! It’s a weiner dog Christmas tree!!!” And with that, they all ran off to tell their friends, to come see! Within the hour most of the townsfolk had come; and minute by minute more arrived, from nearby towns and from the countryside. And then something magical happened—something very needed and long awaited—the clouds which had hovered overhead for nearly a year, they parted, and with them the drear and despair lifted and folks started to smile. A sound was heard in the crystalline sky overhead, and the forty little dachshund noses pointed upwards to see; and folks glanced in the direction of those noses, and to everyone’s surprise a beautiful bright comet streaked on by!
Later that eve, as the townsfolk milled about, sharing Christmas cookies and stories, old Mr Christianson brought his dogs down from that tree. He harnessed them back to the stagecoach again, and offered all the children rides ’round the square for free. And as the colorful, magical Dachshund Stagecoach went about the crowded town square, the townsfolk began to sing a tribute:
“Merry Mr Christianson,
and his forty dashing dachshunds,
set out that dark ‘n dreary year,
they delivered Ms. McCleary’s cranberry sauce,
while spreading their holiday cheer!”
“Jingle, jangle, jingle,
Pitter, patter, pitter, patter-patter, pit,
Jangle, jingle, jangle,
Patter, pitter, patter, pitter-pitter, pat.
It’s the Dachshund Stagecoach coming your way,
making your tears go away—
It’s Merrysville’s Dachshund Stagecoach ride,
now holiday joy’s here to stay!”
“Merry Mr Christianson,
and his forty dashing dachshunds,
saw that dark ‘ole Christmas Tree,
and they climbed it one by one,
filling it with weiner-dog glee!”
“Merry Mr Christianson,
and his forty dashing dachshunds,
when everyone said there’s no way,
all the townsfolk moping and having no fun,
then the dachshunds saved the day!”
Yes, hope springs eternal in the hearts of men; someone said that once and it’s true. And while hope springs from a different organ in a dog, we’re not all that different—dogs and men—when it comes to hoping. And sometimes, when our hope is flagging, we just need a little encouragement; and that inspiration can come from each other, or it can come from our four-legged friends.
Just before midnight, on that Christmas Eve night, Mr Christianson finally brought his dogs home. It had been a long and a busy day and they were all ready to sleep. The dachshunds dragged themselves over the threshold and flopped in front of the fire—as he poured out the eggnog and fired up the grill. The smell of bacon filled the air and the dachshunds got their second wind; they shot up from the fire and over to the frying pan, hoping and expecting some fat, juicy bacon! Yes, hope springs eternal from the stomachs of dogs; I don’t believe anyone’s said that before, but it’s true. And there are very few things more worthy of placing one’s hopes, than in the kindly old Mr Christianson, and the sweet, meaty smell of fresh bacon!