“I believe in Santy Claus, and any one who doesn’t is a danged fool!” Shorty made the statement and then stared at the man named Jake, sitting next to him in the half-empty, Royal Flush Saloon. Shorty squared his shoulders, waiting for the inevitable jeering and the fist fight that would follow his words. “I might be short, but I ain’t puny and I can whip any man twice my size … so don’t try convincing me with a bunch of fancy talk about how there ain’t no Santy.”
As Jake looked at him, Shorty could’ve sworn he saw something intangible flit across the guy’s face. Not a smile, exactly, but more like an invisible nod. Shorty laid his Stetson on the bar in hopes it wouldn’t get mashed in the soon-to-be fight and steeled himself, waiting for the first punch.
Jake’s arm snaked out, Shorty jerked to the side while bringing up his gnarled fists … and Jake patted Shorty on the shoulder. “I’m not trying to convince you of anything; we’re just having a conversation. Why don’t we take this outside?” Jake stood up and nudged the cowpuncher away from the oak bar.
Shorty’s brow creased and he clenched his jaw. “Quit shoving. If you want a fight, it don’t matter to me where, but I don’t take kindly to bein’ pushed around like some ornery longhorn about to be branded.”
As they stepped through the door, the cold, Christmas Eve air took Shorty’s breath away. I got about two minutes to handle this tin horn before I’ll be too stiff in the joints to even move-dad-blamed ol’ bones.
He took a swing at Jake’s nose, but the guy sidestepped, slipped behind him, wrapped his arms around Shorty’s chest and squeezed. “Listen to me, you old galoot! We aren’t out here to fight. I want you to help me with something.”
Shorty gasped for breath. “Well, you shore got a funny way of askin’ for help-squeezin’ me until my eyeballs pop.”
Jake loosened his grip and Shorty turned to face him. “Give me one good reason why I should help you.”
“Well, let’s just say that it’s because you still believe.”
Shorty eyebrows raised a notch, and he brought his fists up again. “You makin’ fun of me?”
“No. I need you to help me get it down.” Jake pointed up the road.
“Get what down from where?” said the ol’ cowboy, cocking his head and feeling confused.
The moon sparkled on the new fallen snow as Jake scuffed at it and said, “My vehicle. It’s stuck on the roof of some old building.”
Shorty laughed, then doubled over and laughed some more. “I think you had yourself a mite too much to drink there, fella, but it’s all right. Ol’ Shorty will help you out. I’ve pulled trucks out of ditches and cars out of creeks, but this’ll be the first time I ever pulled a pickup off a roof!”
They climbed into Shorty’s truck and Jake give directions for Shorty to drive to a field a mile away. Sure enough, at the end of the field sat an old wooden building with a dented, Ford F-150 sitting on the roof.
Shorty stood below, shaking his head in disbelief. “You musta been nippin’ at the bottle waaayyy too long. And I can’t even begin to figure how you did this.”
As they climbed up to the vehicle, Jake said, “Let me get in and start the engine, then you give it a push and that should do it.”
Shorty stopped in mid-climb. “Well, I’ll be corn-swaggled if that won’t just end up droppin’ that pickup off the roof and then rollin’ it. Are you sure that’s what you want to do?”
Jake’s eyes twinkled in the moonlight and he laughed. “Yes, you’ll see.”
It was no easy climb, going up an old, rickety building but Shorty finally made it and hunkered down behind the truck. As the motor roared, Shorty gave the biggest push of his life and muttered, “I don’t know why I’m doin’ this. Some days I don’t even have as much sense as a hop toad havin’ a picnic on the highway.”
The vehicle slid down and to the right, causing Shorty to pitch forward. Catching himself with his hands, he looked up just in time to see the pickup transform into a mahogany sleigh pulled by eight reindeer and driven by Jake-whose jeans and plaid shirt had turned into a red and white suit topped off by a stocking cap.
Shorty scratched his head in amazement. “Well, I’ll be … that truck was just a disguise, and Jake is Santy Claus!”
The sleigh moved into the air, and Santa waved. “Thanks for your help getting it unstuck, Shorty!”
The ol’ cowboy looked down to see a brightly wrapped present at his feet, with a tag that said, “To Shorty, who has always believed.” He picked it up and with a jump, slid off the roof. Waving at the sleigh, he called out, “Thanks, Santy. And ya better stop along the way to get yourself a new pair of glasses … otherwise you’ll land on another outhouse fer sure!”