Today is officially the first day of winter. At the Falls of the Ohio, the Ohio River is up due to the heavy rain producing thunderstorms that went through our region a couple of days a go. The high water has me walking the edge of the river with anticipation for signs of anything new. Today I find a story to share with you. While the winter solstice has passed, it also that Christmas/Holiday Season time again that seems to be getting longer and weirder with each passing year. As proof, I offer this variation of the beloved Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, classic Christmas television special that so many of us have enjoyed since childhood. This tale from a slightly different reality is set at the Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, Indiana and photographed on site using objects found within the park. Our tale begins at the water’s edge.
At this moment, Rudolph has no idea what has happened to him. He has no recollection of his near escape from the Abominable Snowman. He was lucky to find a piece of wood big enough to support his weight as he launched himself into the river. It is widely known that the Abominable Snowman is deathly afraid of water. While Rudolph was now safe from the snowman he had a river to negotiate and had no basic idea where he was going? Sometime in the middle of the night it stormed very badly and Rudolf was tossed helplessly into the water. Many weeks later and with the color washed out of his eyes…Rudolph was coming back to life.
Little Rudolph stood up again and propelled by instinct and memory headed down the driftwood line in search of a way home. Although he couldn’t explain it, there was some hard-wired, deep need to get back to where he originated like a salmon finding just the right stream. Along the way, a little bit more of what had happened to him crept into his consciousness. Images of cold white snow and a bearded man in a red suit began to drift across Rudolph’s mind with regularity. Rudolph still had no idea where he was and every once in a while he would come across something he could identify as being a toy in similar circumstances and he and would investigate it.
Most of the toys Rudolph encountered where too far gone to converse with and he left them behind. Every once in a while, however, Rudolph would come across other toys like himself who had a very strong need to exist. They used creative strategies to reinvent themselves. The first of these hybrid toys that Rudolph encountered were named Pigskin Pete and his pal Handy.
They were throwing a football back and forth on the sand. Rudolph approached them and the trio struck up a conversation. That is how Rudolph found out that they were in the Park of Misfit Toys. A fabled land purported to be a paradise for toys. Pigskin Pete and Handy both had fuzzy memories of distant lives that made them wonder if they in fact belonged here now? That’s when Rudolph made them the offer that if he could get out of this park…he would come back to get them. The little deer with the zombie eyes continued walking east along the river’s edge. After a journey of many hours, Rudolf met the Primate Twins for the first time.
The Primate Twins were a sight to behold! The will to exist among shampoo bottles is strong and through millions of gallons of waters these twin caps found their nearest relatives to form this plastic simian union. Rudolph told them of others that he has met along the journey and offered the twins the same offer he was offering everybody that if they could help him get out of the park that he would return to rescue them in return. The twins seemed intrigued and what were the chances of this happening anyway in the first place? Rudolph sallied forth to the limit of the park and met one last new friend.
RoboBoy lived at the land’s margin and knew the river’s ways too. He offered Rudolph a wooden plank to attempt the dangerous and potentially foolhardy journey back to the North Pole. If the river didn’t get him there was still the specter of the Abominable Snowman lurking out in the frozen wastes. Without hesitation and for the second time…Rudolph hurled himself into the cold river and took his chances. This time…luck would be kinder.
The trip across the waters was uneventful and gave Rudolph time to reflect. By now, he understood that his visions of a bearded man were of Santa Claus himself and Rudolph knew were to find him. Rudolph’s families were a part of the reindeer elite that pulled Santa’s sleigh. Those jobs flying across the sky had long been inherited positions and Rudolph…if he wanted it…was next in the long line of Prancers and Dancers.
Santa didn’t seem surprised to see Rudolph with his red plastic nose again. In fact, he said that he had been expecting him because the pull of Christmas is a mysterious force in the universe. Santa agreed to talk to Rudolph and around a small pine tree they huddled together to talk about what constituted the holiday spirit and other philosophical matters. While they spoke, a heavy snowfall fell upon the land.
By morning the snow had finished and Santa agreed to stop by the Park of Misfit toys and offer its inhabitants the chance of being gifted to different owners. Santa also told Rudolph to be prepared that toys often change their minds and that he might not get quite the answers as he did before.
Snow had fallen at the Park of Misfit Toys since Rudolph’s previous visit. A shadowy snowman figure agreed to escort Santa to the assembled Misfit Toys.
On the shores of the Park of Misfit toys Santa declared in full disclosure that he was glad to take anyone away from the park if that were their wish. He had made Rudolph a promise to help him keep his promise if possible and Santa Claus was going to honor that. But he also asked if anyone had considered how they had personally arrived at the Park of Misfit Toys? The prevailing myth is that all you toys were miss manufactured and dropped off here to lead your lives in semi-useful exile ever wanting the love of the other. The truth Santa declared…is that you were all discarded as trash…not even given the dignity of recycling…you somehow found your way into the river and then here. You are mass produced and marketed consumer goods that have served your useful lives and more than likely there will be no new owners waiting to embrace you on the other side of this park. He was speaking from personal experience which made his words all the more convincing.
Santa’s words had struck a chord with the Misfit Toys. They hadn’t even considered that they might not be wanted by somebody across the river. It was the Primate Twins who piped up that life wasn’t so bad here. At least they had their own culture as a community of survivors and free thinkers. Those that still had the desire to exist carried on until the sun finally broke the bonds of their plastic polymers and set them free. In the end, all the Misfit Toys decided to stay at the park and lead out their existences here and leave their layer in the record of the land.
Rudolph decided to return with Santa and the shadowy snowman to the North Pole. In the years to come, Santa and Rudolph the Zombie, Red, Plastic, Hex-bolt Nosed Reindeer were involved many Christmas season adventures. In fact, they went down in history. Happy Holidays from the Falls of the Ohio!