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A Christmas Tail

by Adam Hills

5th December 2004

"Gimpy the one-horned reindeer, had a very wonky horn ..."

From the moment Gimpy's horns began to sprout, it was obvious that he was different from the other reindeer. It was in the early stages of spring when Gimpy noticed that the two little buds on each side of his head that should have been producing the early stages of antlers were - how shall we say? - deficient to the tune of one.

At first, Gimpy tried to cover up his lack of hornage by casually wearing a fedora, cocked jauntily to one side, which made him look a little like Bambi's gangster cousin Vinnie. However, as summer approached the hat itself quickly became a fashion faux pas, not to mention very sweaty, and the self-conscious reindeer began to fret.
An artist's impression of Gimpy the one-horned reindeer
He tried walking at the extreme right-hand side of everyone he met, hoping they would not see past his perfectly formed left antler. Gimpy even volunteered to play on the right wing for the reindeer football team, and although his team mates remained blissfully unaware of his cranial inequity, the crowd on the sidelines began to suspect something was amiss.

For a period of an entire week, Gimpy strolled around town with a large juniper branch attached to one side of his head. However, once the berries began to ripen, the birds began to visit, leading to even more suspicious glances - not to mention some stinky white deposits on Gimpy's right cheek.

Once, Gimpy stayed up until two in the morning, trying to grow an extra horn. He huffed and he puffed, and he strained and he stuggled, and just when he was beginning to give up all hope - he burst a blood vessel behind his left eye. The following day Gimpy stopped the football match to make an announcement.

"I only have one horn," he proudly declared, "and there's nothing I can do about it. So I suggest you all get used to it."

The crowd was silent for a moment, but then as one they walked over to the nervous animal, and hugged him like a long lost brother. They had known for some time now that Gimpy only had one horn, and they had just been waiting for him to come out and accept it. To be honest, they were more concerned about his one red eye and the lingering smell of stale guano, but they thought it best not to mention it.
Cartoon reindeer
Gradually, Gimpy began to realise that he could do everything the other reindeer could do, and sometimes more. The coach of the football team, in a stroke of pure inspiration, moved our hero to the left wing, making use of the fact that the smooth, untarnished patch of felt on the left side of Gimpy's head was ideal for executing the perfect header.

However, there was one activity for which Gimpy was sadly unsuitable - pulling Santa's sleigh. As I'm sure you are aware, Santa and his reindeer cover an enormous amount of ground each Christmas Eve, and they do so at an alarming pace. The slightest imbalance at such a fearsome speed could cause chaos to the aerodynamics of the group. At best they would pull heavily to one side, causing the sleigh itself to travel in circles; at worst ... well, it could be carnage.

As winter rolled around, Gimpy gazed mournfully at his mates training for their big night. Oh, he wasn't bitter, nor even grumpy; he knew full well that he couldn't be included in their reindeer games and had accepted that. Deep down, however, he couldn't help but feel a little, well, not quite right.

Christmas Eve arrived, and Gimpy lead the town procession to the airfield to cheer on his buddies as they left. If he wasn't able to fly with them, he'd sure as eggs to give them a send-off to remember. However, he arrived to find the team in chaos, and Santa in a right tizzy. Eager to lend whatever support he could, Gimpy made his way to the middle of the field and enquired what the matter was.

"Ho, Ho, Ho!" Santa exclaimed, but not in a good way. More in a street-slang "Your mama's a ho" kind of way.

"What's wrong?" asked Gimpy warily. He had never seen Santa this mad, and wasn't exactly sure who he was referring to as a "ho".

"A cyclone has just centred itself just off the coast of Eastern Australia," boomed Santa. "They're calling it Cyclone Esmeralda."

So that's who the "ho" was, thought Gimpy.

"Anything and anyone flying within two hundred miles of it will be sucked directly into the eye of the storm. A detour will take too long, and a short cut will be too dangerous. It looks like there'll be no presents for the people of Australia this year."

A sombre mood overtook the group as every antler fell, even Gimpy's. If only there was a way that the sleigh could cut across the cyclone without being dragged off course and into the centre of the storm. If only there was some way to counteract the pull of the cyclone, and keep the team on a straight bearing. If only ...

"I can do it!" yelled Gimpy, in a voice so loud it made passing birds produce more guano. "I can keep you on course!"

In less than a minute, Gimpy improvised an amazing plan. He would strap a juniper branch to his head for the flight to Australia, thus allowing him, and everyone, to fly in a straight line. At this time of year the branches were bare, so there was no danger of being besieged and besmirched by birds.

As they approached Sydney, Gimpy would remove the branch just as Santa guided the team to the right of the cyclone. The pull of the cyclone would be perfectly balanced by the drag in the opposite direction created by Gimpy's smooth, furry mono-horned head, thus keeping the team on the correct line. The timing would have to be perfect, but they could do it.
Adam Hills disguised as a cartoon snowman
Well, the events of that night have indeed gone down in his-tor-eee and, as we all know, the people of Australia received their presents on time. Gimpy's impediment made him an invaluable member of Santa's team. Although he isn't needed every single year, the next time you see a cyclone or hurricane looming on Christmas Eve, you can sleep tight in the knowledge that a one-horned deer and a frozen juniper branch will ensure you have a very merry Christmas.

Oh, and by the way, if you are wondering why Gimpy wasn't recognised in song like some of his more feted reindeer pals - he was. We've just been singing it wrong. The line should be: "Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horned open sleigh".

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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