Hi Ho Silver! It’s Santa!!
With holidays approaching, it reminds me of the time Murphy, my silver-white trotting horse, and I were hired to drive Santa in Seattle’s Sea Fair parade. With holidays approaching, it reminds me of the time Murphy, my silver-white trotting horse, and I were hired to drive Santa in Seattle’s Sea Fair parade. I rescued Murphy from the racetrack, so I knew he had plenty of experience with crowds of people and pulling a cart. Having recently moved to Seattle from NYC, I still thought of Seattle as a small town. Over the next weeks I kept hearing about Sea Fair on the radio and TV. What a big deal for a little parade, I smugly chuckled to myself. But when I received a letter listing the time and place to line up for the start, I began to wonder if this was just a ‘little’ parade. Murphy and I were marching in the 68th place in line and would enter the parade route at 8 PM. It turns out Sea Fair is Seattle’s version of Mardi Gras.
Waiting with a witch
On the evening of the parade all the horses gathered on a side street. As it grew darker and darker, Murphy began to get a bit restless. I kept reassuring him, thinking he would settle down once we got underway. Santa sat comfortably in the carriage, when suddenly a person in an 8 foot witch costume appeared out of the darkness. The witch’s emerald green eyes bulged out of a ghastly white face and floated straight toward Murphy. He threw up his head, and snorting loudly, he began backing up as fast as he could. Santa yelped as the carriage jackknifed. I frantically lunged for Murphy’s bridle and hung on, shouting for the witch to go away. I managed to stop Murphy’s rapid reverse just before the carriage toppled over. Poor Santa was white as his beard.
Brass man and a brass band
Just as I got Murphy to relax a bit and to calm Santa down we were called to join the parade. Darkness had settled as we drove from the quite side street into the flowing parade. Abruptly, we collided with a wall of screaming spectators, exploding firecrackers and blazing overhead lights. In front of us a man dressed in gold, leaped up and down on a float’s trampoline. With every leap, the man’s costume flashed and whirred. Coming up behind us was the University of Washington brass marching band, enthusiastically trumpeting their fight song Louie, Louie!
Murphy blinked in the glare and froze. Knowing he was about to panic, I leaped over the carriage dashboard. I reached Murphy’s head just as he reared straight up. The crowd roared with awe and appreciation. As he crashed back to earth I shouted his name over and over, hoping he would recognize my voice. To my horror, as I tried to coax him forward he leaped straight into the air. Again the crowd roared. Frantically I pulled on the lead rope again hoping to encourage him to walk with me but at the next tug he leaped into the air again. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Santa fall backward in the carriage as it was violently jerked after the leaping horse. Murphy’s ears were pinned so tightly to his skull, I couldn’t see them, white foam dripped from his gnashing teeth and fire red rimmed eyes stared sightlessly at me. Visions of Murphy exploding through the crowd at a dead run raced through my brain. I could see the headlines in the next morning’s newspaper, SANTA SLAIN AS CRAZED HORSE TRAMPLES THOUSANDS, POLICE SEARCHING FOR OWNER.
Thank heavens for TV crews
The parade relentlessly surged forward and I struggled to keep Murphy under control by hanging desperately onto his bridle and shouting encouragement to him over the roar of the crowd. By now poor Murphy was dripping with sweat, and Santa was grimly holding onto the sides of the carriage. I was wondering how I would be able to hang on for the entire parade when up ahead I saw more bright lights. The area was jammed with TV camera crews, bright lights and a crowd packed into bleachers. As Murphy leaped into this even brighter circle of light the cameras began to click and whir. Murphy suddenly realized everyone was looking at him. Ever the camera hound, the heaving, dripping horse threw up his head and began hamming it up, waggling his ears and nodding his head about. A jostled and tattered Santa waved weakly to the cameras and applauding children.
Then it was time to leave the reviewing stand. Preparing for the worse, I willed my exhausted muscles to hold on tight to Murphy’s bridle. But as we walked from the bright lights of the TV cameras a miraculous change came over Murphy. He sighed contentedly and swung into a relaxed ambling stroll. The frantic monster horse was now calmly walking by my side. I wondered what changed. As we came to a stop at the end of the parade route, Santa leaped from the carriage and fled without so much as a thank you. I was still trying to figure out what had caused the change in Murphy, when it hit me. Murphy used to race at night! In the bright lights and screaming crowd Murphy must have thought he was back at the track. I imagine the spot with the TV crews reminded him of the winner’s circle so he relaxed. And that was the first and last parade we ever entered. Happy holidays.