Author Topic: Santa's Last Supper  (Read 2275 times)

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December 21, 2016, 08:17:33 PM

Offline vile8r

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Santa’s Last Supper

We never really knew his full name. Everybody just called him Scruffy. Scruffy Kowalchuk. I think at one time, I might have heard him called Myron or Milton or something like that, but to our family he was just Scruffy.

He was an old bachelor who had a little farm on the quarter next to ours. He had some cattle and some pigs and chickens. And he lived in a little two-room shack.

He had been there for years, as far as I knew. My dad said Scruffy's family homesteaded on the quarter back in 1903. They came all the way from Ukraine, apparently. Scruffy's parents tried making a go of farming but after a few years, decided to move on. Scruffy was a young man by then and he took the farm over.

He had never been married, had no children, and as far as we could tell, didn't have a lot to do with his family. We heard him mention a couple of nephews who lived in Edmonton, but never heard him talk about any other family.

He was kinda like an old uncle to me and my brothers. We'd ride our ponies over to his place and visit him. Scruffy was a hell of a cook, and he'd always invite us to stay for dinner.

Every year, my mom would invite Scruffy over for Christmas Eve supper. Scruffy had this tattered old Santa Claus suit he would wear and he'd bring us some Christmas baking and some candies and oranges.

He had this big, bushy grey beard, and he really did make a very good Santa. Me, and my two older brothers Douglas and Pete, we'd already figured out over the years that it wasn't real Santa.  My little sister and brother, Angela and Scotty, they were still a little too young, so we'd play along that Scruffy was the real thing.


It was December 24, 1944. I was 12 years old. The war still raged on in Europe and over in the Pacific. A lot of the families in our district, still had boys off fighting. A few, we had discovered, weren't coming home. My best friend, Luke Cooper, whose family lived a couple miles down the road from us, had lost his older brother, Stewart just a few months previously.
He had been an infantryman in the Canadian Army. He never made it off the beaches at Normandy.

But we listened to the news every night after supper on our radio. The Germans were being pushed back on all fronts, and although they'd tried a big counter-offensive in the Ardennes, everyone was confident, this was the last Christmas the soldiers would have to spend in Europe. At least we all hoped so, anyway. We couldn't understand why ol' Hitler wouldn't just raise the white flag.

And then there was the Japs over in the Pacific. It sounded like they were giving a pretty tough time to the Americans, and God only knew how long that might drag on.

Christmas was approaching and we were all pretty excited. We'd went down by the river and cut a nice little spruce tree. We'd spent the afternoon helping Mom and Dad decorate it. We'd put up a few decorations around the house and we'd even got a few Christmas cards in the mail from various relatives and friends who lived away.

I couldn't wait to see what I'd get in my stocking come morning. Times were tough on the farm, and we knew better than to expect too much, but Santa always seemed to come through with something for everybody. I was hoping for maybe a new Red Ryder or Dick Tracy book. And we always made home-made gifts for each other.

I'd carved some little farm animals for Scotty out of some scrap wood. I knew he'd really like them. And Doug and Pete had spent days out in the shop building a little wooden doll bed for Angela.

That night after we'd done all the chores and came in the house, boy, did it smell good!
We were having roast goose for supper, along with potatoes and gravy and vegetables and home-baked buns with fresh butter. And for dessert, my Mom's best bread pudding!
Then there was the knock at the front door. It was Scruffy.

I ran to the door and answered it. There he was in his old Santa suit, the hat cocked off to the side of his head, with his big beard and a grin from ear to ear. He carried a little gunny sack with all his goodies in it.

"Hey Santa!" I said, excitedly.

"Well, hey there young fella," he said, ruffling my hair and stepping inside, stomping the snow off his boots.
"Wow! It's Santa!" Scotty yelled. "In our house!"

"Did you bring us candies?" Angela asked.

Scruffy swooped her up in his arms and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

"Fer my little dumplin' , you bet I got candy!"

"But none before supper," my mom yelled from in the kitchen. "You boys get in here and help set the table!"

It was an excellent meal! My mom was a great cook and we dug into that roast goose like it was going out of style.
My dad and Scruffy talked about farming and politics and the war. My older brother, Doug joined in as well.

He was turning 18 just after the new year and he'd already informed mom and dad, he was signing up in the army. My mom wasn't impressed about that, but my brother was adamant. He wanted to serve his country and as long as the war was still on, he knew they needed men.

Then the questions started from Scotty and Angela.

"So Santa, did you fly your reindeer here?"

"I sure did."

"Where are they at? Out in the barn?"
"Well of course."

"Can we go see them?"

"Oh no, they get pretty skittish around little kids. I don't want them taking off on me."

"How come you look like our neighbor, Scruffy?"

"I don't know. Why does he look like me?"

"Do they have as much snow at the North pole as we do?"

"Hey, hey, enough with the questions," Mom chided them. "It's not polite, you know, to bother someone when they're eating."
For the rest of the meal, the kids were quieter. Scruffy would just look over at my mom and dad and give them a playful wink. After supper, we all helped Mom wash the dishes, then listened to the news on the radio.

When that was over, we gathered around Mom's old upright piano that sat in a corner of the living room and sang Christmas carols. Then Scruffy handed out the candies and cookies and oranges.

Scotty and Angela sat on his lap and told him what they wanted for Christmas. Scotty wanted a toy tractor and Angela wanted a new doll. He asked if I wanted to sit on his lap too, but well, I was 12 now! I was too old for kid stuff like that.

Then Scruffy read "The Night Before Christmas" for us.

When he was finished, Scruffy looked at the clock and stood up.
"Well folks, it's almost 8 o'clock and I know you better all be getting off to bed. It's big day tomorrow!"

"Yes, Santa's right," Dad said, looking at the two youngest ones. "It's bedtime for everyone."

We said our goodbyes to Scruffy and he was out the door and on his way back home. Scotty and Angela wanted to watch out the window and see his reindeer, but Mom scooted them off to their bedrooms. Dad turned out the lamp in the kitchen and that was our sign to all get to bed.

It had been a great Christmas Eve, we'd all had lots of fun. Now we were ready to settle ourselves down for a long winter's nap, with visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads, and wait for Christmas morning!


Christmas morning dawned bright and cold. It was a beautiful day, with hardly a cloud in the sky. My brothers and I were up early to get the chores done as quickly as we could and get back in the house to open our stockings.

Scotty and Angela were so excited to open their gifts. Scotty loved his wooden animals and Angela was almost in tears when she got her new doll she'd asked for, and the brand new freshly painted doll bed.

Scotty got his little toy tractor too, and a little plow to go with it.
I got a new toque and a pair of mitts, some wool socks and long johns.....and two new books!

After a delicious Christmas breakfast of fried eggs and potatoes, bacon and pancakes, we all began to get ready to head for church.
The church was about 4 miles east of our place and would take us about an hour in the sleigh. My brother Douglas and I were sent out to get the horses hitched up.

As we were finishing up the harnessing, Douglas looked across the field at Scruffy's place.

"That's strange," he said. "I don't see smoke coming out of Scruffy's chimney."

Back in those days, before electricity and gas furnaces, you watched out for your neighbors in the wintertime. No smoke coming from a chimney when it was cold, was not a good sign!

Douglas ran to the house and told Dad. Dad immediately threw the saddle on our old mare, Daisy, and said he'd ride over to see if anything was wrong.

It was about a half hour later Dad was back. His face was white, and he had a worried look on his face. He told Doug to ride into town right away and get the doctor and the Mounties.
"What's the matter?" I asked. "Is Scruffy in trouble?"

Dad went into the house to tell Pete to take the rest of us to church and then he took Mom in the bedroom and talked to her for a few minutes.

I heard Mom say, "Oh my God!" and I knew something bad had happened.

We headed out to church without Dad. He said he needed to stay at Scruffy's until the doctor got there.
None of us kids knew what the heck was going on and I was getting very concerned. At church, Mom had to go and talk to the minister right away. Word was already getting around that something had happened to Scruffy and all the adults at church were in a sombre mood, especially for a Christmas morning.

It seemed like church couldn't be over soon enough, and we rushed back home. Dad still wasn't home yet, but Mom began preparing dinner.

It was about an hour later that Dad finally showed up, along with Douglas. He sat us all down in the living room room and gave us the bad news.

Scruffy had a couple old mules. They were cantankerous things and Dad had always told Scruffy they were going to be the death of him someday. Apparently, that was exactly what had happened. Douglas had found Scruffy lying on the ground just outside the barn door. It seems one of his old mules had up and kicked him, and got him right in the side of the head. Poor old Scruffy had tried to crawl back to the house, but only made it outside the door.

He'd collapsed in the snow, and according to the doctor, had frozen to death.

"The weird thing is," Dad continued, " the doc said it had to have happened at least 12 to 16 hours ago."

"But.....but....that makes no sense at all, " my Mom stammered, with tears in her eyes. "Scruffy was here...last night! It was him!"
My dad just shrugged his shoulders and scratched his chin.

"Well, sometimes strange things happen in this universe. All I can say is, Scruffy wanted to make it to one last Christmas Eve supper."


The old farm is gone now. Dad and Mom retired, none of us boys wanted to take it over. Our old house was torn down many years ago, only the barn still stands. Across the field, you can still see the remains of Scruffy's old shack sitting in the trees. After he died, his two nephews from the city showed up and moved away all his possessions. Dad bought the land from them and farmed it until he retired. And to this day, I cannot eat an orange on Christmas Eve without thinking about Scruffy and the last Christmas gift he gave us.


December 21, 2016, 08:25:39 PM
Reply #1

Offline Jed

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Very nice story vile, and Merry Christmas!