Sleigh Ride


I no longer listen.

As the years pass, Christmas songs have simply lost their magic.  I am a grown man.  My sons are grown.  If it were not for the grandbabies, I would have little motivation to do anything on Christmas Day other than say a simple prayer of gratitude, which I plan to do anyway.

Note that I did not say Christmas carols, which are a different subject altogether.  My favorite is Sweet Little Jesus Boy, a negro spiritual written in the ’30’s by the late Robert MacGimsey, a white man from Mississippi.  I suppose he and I are some sort of racists in today’s America.  I contend we both know a good carol when we hear (or write) one.

A couple of weeks ago the Redhead and I went to church to hear the dreaded “Christmas Musical.”  She sings in the choir, so I sort of had to go.  Men with wives, red-haired or otherwise, understand the “had to” part in the last sentence.  “At least I will get to hear some of the old carols,” I thought.  “Maybe they will get me in the Christmas spirit.”

Imagine my surprise when the choir opened with “Sleigh Ride.”  You know the one.  “It’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.”

And there you have it.  That is why I no longer listen to those old Christmas songs.  They are outright lies for someone who lives in the deep South.

I am from a small town in central Alabama.  When I was a kid, there was a Western Auto  downtown on Broadway.  I went there a lot with my dad because it was an auto parts store, something he needed frequently back in the day when you had to fix your own car. And trust me, dad spent a lot of time fixing.

Western Auto was more than today’s auto parts store.  Between walls covered with hoses, belts, and batteries were shelves lined with things that kept a boy occupied while his dad and a greasy guy looked for a water pump for a ’63 Rambler.  Bicycles (Western Flyer was the store-brand, a forgotten piece of Americana), sporting goods (from the Red Ryder BB gun to the more tempting Revelation 20-gauge single-shot shotgun) and other merchandise made a boy yearn for that glorious “some day, when you’re all grown-up.”

But the one thing that got my complete attention, every year just before Christmas, was the Flexible Flyer sled that sat on the top shelf in the center aisle at the very front of the store.  I would stand there, transfixed, hoping that Santa Claus might see fit to leave it under our lop-sided red cedar Christmas tree.  I dreamed of dashing through the snow, bells jingling, while my mom and dad went walking through a winter wonderland on that white Christmas.

Every year I asked my dad for that sled.  Every year he said “No.”

Finally one year, exasperated, he stated the obvious.  “Son, it don’t snow here.”

Seems like I would have figured that out in eight or nine years of living, but my childish hopes were still anchored in those lying Christmas songs.  Alabama Christmas is not white.  It may be gray, which I suppose sort of approaches white, but any precipitation is drop and not flake.

And yet even here the lies continue.  Some time back three ol’ boys from north Alabama made a pile of money with the song “Christmas in Dixie.”  It goes “Christmas in Dixie, it’s snowing in the pines…”

Liars.  I will not listen to your propaganda.  There won’t be any snow here on Christmas Day.  Not this year.  Not ever.

Still, after all these years I have to wonder.

Did any kid’s daddy ever buy that sled?

17 thoughts on “Sleigh Ride

  1. Merry Christmas Ray! Your story hit a spot in my heart….. Yesterday we celebrated Christmas! It took a month, with my husband’s help, to half way decorate; my body and my mind just didn’t feel the spirit of Christmas! Our children are grown and Santa doesn’t leave “sleighs”under the tree anymore. STILL we want to have the family “home for Christmas”! Oh, they brought food, smiled, said the right things….. We even had a new great grandchild this year! Some were on time, some early, some were late, some were in a hurry(they had other places to be)…..Papa and I were exhausted and wondering why we do this; like you said, there was no snow, no Holly Jolly songs sung No mention of JESUS, the reason for the season!!! It is funny that your memories of a sleigh in Alabama sparked my memories of years long ago compared to the present times!
    I long for slower times, filled with gospel songs, stockings filed with oranges, and remembering the reason for celebrating!
    Ray, I love your stories! Thank you for the memories and for letting me ramble on!!! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    1. Thank you, Martha. I’m glad this little story triggered some memories of the “old days.” I remember them fondly as well. I usually had an orange or two and several pecans. Maybe a roll of Life Savers. But those were good times.

      Glad you had that time with your family. Mine is coming tomorrow and Tuesday.

      Merry Christmas.

  2. MERRY CHRISTMAS OLD SON, uphere in Canada land there is no end of snow. Snow belongs on Mountains, sometimes in sneaks down here where people live and causes no end of grief, cars slipping an sliding all over the place, a bumper car hell. Christmas songs aren’t high on my list, they start somewhere just past Hallowean it seems. Anyway, all the best Ray, in yur dreams, ride the red sleigh, watch out for the trees and rocks. And a Happy New Year to boot, all the best. Returning to Mexico for another 5 months in a few days, not much snow there.

  3. Hate to say this, Ray, but you’re a bit of a Grinch on this issue. I like Christmas music of about any sort, even when it has to do with snow and sleds.

    I had never heard “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.” How can a tune written by a white guy be a negro spiritual? I guess it means white folks don’t know it or sing it.

    You brought back memories, and not for the first time. Western Auto! Western Flyer! Red Ryder BB guns! Flexible Flyers!

    Does seem kinda nuts that the store was selling sleds in south Alabama. I was raised in south Georgia and north Florida, and I don’t recall ever seeing a sleigh on sale.

    I leave you with the following:

    1. As I recall, your momma once said to your now ex-wife “He’s not much for subtlety.” Everything here was a set-up to tell a story about a sled.

      Negro spirituals are a style of song that came out of slavery. The man I mentioned grew-up with Blacks and he liked the style, so he wrote songs that imitated the ones they sang. But you are right, white folk shouldn’t try to sing them.

      You remember Western Auto? It was a great store.

  4. Cuz Ray, you have done it again !! I just LOVE your stories, the way you write, and the memories they spark in my mind. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    Merry Christmas to you and your Redhead from another Redhead ❤️🎄!!

  5. I was born and raised in the desert of Arizona! The only sleigh bells ringing was the Salvation Army on the corners of town. We did paint the tumbleweeds white and make snowmen out of them but unless you drove north there wasn’t a white christmas or sleigh rides just hay rides!

    1. Painted tumbleweeds. Now that is improvisation at its finest.

      I visited an aunt in Tucson when I was very young. We left a “dry heat” of 100+ for a picnic on “Mount Lemon,” where there was snow. It’s a vivid memory to this day.

      Thanks for stopping by. Merry Christmas.

  6. I too suffer from lack of Christmas season giddiness. So there, you are not alone.

    Growing up in snowy Iowa we kids didn’t have too many options as to where to race our downhill sleds. But a block away was a very step hill and at the top were railroad tracks. We would drag our sleds to the top of that hill, stand on the tracks all the while hoping one of our comrades would be watching for the 12 noon’ish freight train that would barrel down that track heading towards the round-house a few miles away, and leap onto our sled as another kid would give it a good starting shove. I can’t believe my parents sent me and my siblings to that hill! And because I am most familiar with snowy Christmas wants, I didn’t bat an eye while reading your paragraph of dreaming as a child of a winter wonderland complete with a sled. Your father’s outcry of their ain’t no snow in Alabama brought me to my senses and I had to laugh. Not everyone gets the gift of snow.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you Ray. It’s always a very pleasant event to see a new post from you. Sort of like a Christmas gift! Please come more often.

    1. Snow, a sled, but lack of a good hill? That’s almost as frustrating as no snow.

      Thanks for reading, and for your always kind comments as you pass this way. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you.

  7. Nope, I don’t think anyone ever bought that sled, Ray. I bet it was still around when the store closed. But the old cardboard box worked even better on the grass covered hills around our part of the country.

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