Monday, December 13, 2010

Multiplying by droves

For the past few years, once, twice or thrice a week, I have had the great fortune to travel one of Missouri's deadliest roads, Highway 63, to head deep into the heart of the Ozarks. There's no way around traveling Hwy. 63 to do what I do during the week, and every time I do it, I end up with white knuckles, but grateful to arrive at my destination alive.

Among the highlights of the drive are small German Catholic communities that advertise on big plywood boards their Fall Suppers, Visitations (I don't know what those are, but I don't think they're associated with funerals), Holiday Suppers, and Festivals too numerous to count. I don't mind at all slowing down to 35 mph through Westphalia, home to one of the state's finest Nortons, and Freeburg, the town with the old general store that still functions quite well in its original 1800s white clapboard building.

But when you roll through Vienna at 35 mph between October and January, it's hard to miss the ranch style house located at the bottom of a gentle slope whose owners populate their mowed lawn with plastic figurines lit with small incandescent bulbs. In October, they set out pumpkins of all sizes, big black cats, and more pumpkins. As December rolls around, they pull out all the stops to celebrate Christmas.

I first noticed the army of Santas several years ago. Oh, there were 50 or more Santas, some clutching candy canes, others with an arm around a reindeer. The next year, there were more. A growing army of Santas and nativity scenes, more reindeer and candy canes all aglow with little single bulbs. Now, in 2010, I think the family of Christmas cheer has pulled out all the proverbial stops. Standing erect on this 5 degree night with snow on the ground and the Geminids ready to pierce the early morning sky, there must be 200 Santas in the front yard of all shapes and sizes, some duplicates, some vintage, but all happy Santas waving to the slow drivers on Hwy. 63. (Don't speed through these towns. The friendly Osage Co. law enforcement officials do not hesitate writing citations to out of town travelers. I've never received one because my car isn't physically capable of speeding....not that I would if it could....)

When such a great effort is made to decorate the outside of one's home with enough Santas to hand deliver gifts to every household in the county, surely the inside of the house is magnificent. These folks in Vienna are clearly chocked full of Christmas spirit, and it's contagious. I tried snagging my mom's 1960s Santa cum reindeer the last time I was in Louisiana, but we all suspect that someone in my neighborhood would steal it from my city yard if I displayed it. That's because I don't live in a German Catholic Ozark town.

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