Don’t let the title of this story fool you.
This story isn’t about having the blues this Christmas
It isn’t about depression or anything of the sort
Nor is it in reference to the classic Elvis Christmas song.
This story is actually an update to an article I wrote last year.
Or maybe it’s just a “follow-up” I don’t know
I will leave all that up for you to decide.
As you may or may not know, I have a job that I do this time of the year
I work for the “Big Man”
That’s right, I said it
I am his “Bicycle Elf”
More specifically I am the Bicycle Elf for the Big Oak Ranch
Around the first of December, my ears start to get a little more pointed every day
And I have an uncontrollable urge to wear green clothes and funny shoes.
Don’t judge me……
Santa has excellent benefits and he isn’t required to buy into Obama Care.
But that aside, in the event you haven’t heard of the Bicycle Elf, let me briefly explain how this whole thing works.
I take orders for brand new bicycles from the Big Oak Ranch in Alabama
In case you haven’t heard of it either, it’s a Christian home for abused boys and girls.
It’s a beautiful, peaceful place for children and young adults that had a rough and oftentimes horrible start to life. But there they have a chance, a real chance at life.
The Ranch looks like what I imagine heaven must look like.
So how did I become the “Bicycle Elf” you may be asking yourself
The Lord led me to contact the Big Oak Ranch one day; to find out how many bicycles, what kind etc were needed for the children there at Christmas.
Then I purchase brand new bicycles along with the helmets and deliver them to the ranch for the house parents to pick up for their Christmas celebration.
I never, ever see the children who get the bicycles
Because it’s not about “me”
I am just the middle man here or “middle Elf” as it were here
I have to confess this isn’t easy to pull off and to be perfectly honest, the past two years have been really difficult on me.
But I also firmly believe that when you are doing the Lord’s will, He will send his Angels to watch over you and last year I wrote just such a story.
It was called “Blue Angels”
It’s about some special help and encouragement that I received last year from the Alabama Highway Patrol. Not only did they encourage me along through my bicycle deliveries, but they also didn’t give me a ticket for having an unlicensed horse trailer when they very easily could have.
But that was then and this is now
This year as I was preparing for my run to the Big Oak Ranch, I dug around and found the business card the Alabama highway patrolman gave me last year with the cell phone number on the back of it that I called when I was coming into the state.
Because, unlike Tennessee; Alabama requires all trailers to be tagged, even if you are just passing through, it’s the law.
So after last year, I was more or less in hopes that I would get a “pass” (again) on the Tennessee tag less horse trailer rolling through the great state of Alabama
Loaded up and heading for the Big Oak Ranch I couldn’t help but think…
“I wonder if the cell number was still good.”
“Would they even remember me “if” the number was still good”
“What the heck should I say if I get the voicemail again?”
Too many questions were swirling through my mind as the miles rolled by on my way to Alabama and the Big Oak Ranch.
Finally making it to the Interstate, I had to really pay close attention to what I was doing.
It’s a complicated exchange if you will, traveling initially on one interstate in Tennessee, crossing over into Georgia and then changing interstates again before the Alabama border.
Blink once and you might find yourself as a body double in the remake of “Deliverance”
So as I changed lanes here and interstates there, I called the number on the back of the business card.
Just like last year, it went right to voicemail.
I thought I knew what I was going to say, but I froze for a second or two and then said
“This is Mike (pause) whatever, this is the Bicycle Elf from last year and I am crossing into Alabama headed to the Big Oak Ranch”
I might have given the description of my truck and trailer before I heard the beep from the voicemail I don’t know.
I just know how damn stupid I sounded
If I could possibly sound be any dumber; “the Bicycle Elf”
I deserve a ticket for just being a dumbass
I momentarily put my stupidity behind me and concentrated on the drive ahead.
It was a beautiful day, but it’s still a long journey and pulling a horse trailer is no easy feat for me because I don’t do it that often anymore.
But I was thankful that the trip was otherwise uneventful
Very little traffic
Beautiful weather as I said
And I hadn’t been otherwise detained or questioned by the boys in blue for not having a license tag on the Tennessee horse trailer.
I was a just a few miles from exiting the interstate for my destination when my left rearview caught a flash of blue and by “flash” I mean something flying in the left lane at triple digits.
Racing up beside me in the left hand lane was an Alabama Highway Patrolman
He slowed his patrol car until he was beside me, he smiled, waved and off he went
As I exited the interstate for the final leg of my journey, I still wondered if that brief “visit” by the Alabama Highway Patrol was the result of my voicemail.
In fact I wondered about a lot of things on this trip.
I wondered if the Alabama Highway Patrol got my voicemail
I wondered if I was being the Bicycle Elf for “me” or for something else
I wondered if what I was doing “mattered”
Like I said this “Elf” thing I do isn’t easy and my mind has a tendency to drift on long drives and this trip was no exception, so it was no wonder that I was thinking of those things.
In fact I have thought about those last two issues a lot this Christmas season.
I checked my watch and realized that I was going to be about ten minutes late and before you say it; “yes” I am “that” guy who can’t stand to be late.
So I hit the number on my cell phone and called the Big Oak Ranch to let them know that I would be a little late. The lady on the other end of the call chuckled and said
“That’s ok we are all here waiting for you”
“We” are “all” here? What the heck does that mean?
In Christmas’s past I have a few house parents to assist me with the unloading and sorting of the various bicycles and staging them in the gymnasium. But I didn’t understand what she meant by her statement, probably, nothing.
As I rolled into the gates of the Big Oak Ranch and made my way to the gymnasium, I turned the corner and there they “all” there.
The house parents, a lot of them.
They were grinning from ear to ear and waving at me.
As I exited the truck, several hands were shaking mine with words like…
“We really appreciate this”
But what really got me was when a couple of them said
“I just wanted to shake hands with the bicycle elf”
I gathered my composure as the house parents opened the doors to the horse trailer and began unloading the bicycles and matching helmets and pushing them into the gymnasium to stage for pick-up.
All of this help unloading and staging was going to make this a quick stop
As the unloading progressed one lady, in of all things an Auburn sweatshirt, asked if she could speak to me and of course I said “yes, ma’am”
She said “you may not know this but, around here you are a bit of a legend”
It’s been a while since anybody said that about me in Alabama, so I didn’t say anything
After all you never know which way that conversation can go
She went on to say “All the children here know you as the bicycle elf”
I nodded and she went on to tell me a brief story
“We got some young girls in our home the second week of November of this year and they saw the bicycles of the other girls in our home and in the neighborhood and one of them came to me two weeks ago and asked me….
“Do you think the Bicycle Elf will visit me this year?”
I felt my eyes tear up as I occasionally looked at the ground and my awkward silence was broken by another handshake and a “Thank you Mister Bicycle Elf”
The Auburn lady went on to say that they had a seventeen year old girl leave their house this past spring to return to her biological mother and a week after she left she called the house parents to thank them for their generosity and kindness but at the end of the conversation the teenager had a request.
“Can I have my bicycle back, it’s the first thing that’s every really been mine”
I couldn’t help but think in this world of digital electronics, games, smart phones, tablets, computers and the like.
A seventeen year old girl wanted “her” bicycle.
The lady in the Auburn sweatshirt went on to say they delivered her bike to her the next week and they could tell how much it meant to her, because it was “hers”.
I really didn’t know what to say, so I just more or less nodded.
But I wasn’t ready for what was said next….
Mrs. Auburn more or less asked me
“I was wondering, do you have any children of your own?”
I stammered something about my two four-legged children “Doc” and “Sadie” at home
She smiled warmly, grasped my hand in both of hers and said
“You have a lot of children here, a lot of children. God Bless you and Merry Christmas”
I wiped the tears from my face, hugged her War Eagle loving neck and prepared the horse trailer for the trip back to my farm.
With handshakes and waves from all the house parents and more than a few hearty
“Merry Christmas Bicycle Elf!”
“God Bless You!”
“Thank you Bicycle Elf!”
I was on my way back to the RTR farm….
As it was getting later in the day the traffic had picked up a bit and when I got back to the interstate I found that I couldn’t get to the gas station I usually went to because there were too many cars there.
Actually, that’s not true.
I can’t back this trailer up, not without causing an unknown amount of property damage.
That’s right I can’t back the trailer up.
Go ahead and laugh now
So I got on the interstate because another one of my favorite stops was about an hour ahead and that gas station had “plenty” of room for me to gas up and turn around in without worrying about sideswiping anything or anybody.
Wouldn’t you know it; by the time I got near the exit I could see that I wouldn’t be able to negotiate that gas station either.
That was alright because I still had enough fuel to get to my other gas station before I left the state of Alabama. I wasn’t the least bit worried.
There it is, right up ahead, the first exit for Fort Payne Alabama
I gave my turn signal and was easing onto the exit ramp when I noticed an Alabama Highway Patrolman rush up behind me, but not too close, exiting the interstate along with me.
I pulled into the gas station, that in case you were wondering had plenty of room for me to turn around in, but as I was getting out of the truck, the Alabama Highway Patrolman pulled along side me at the gas pumps.
The Highway Patrolman eased his passenger window down, looked over at me and said
“Excuse me, Bicycle Elf. When you leave here, stay in the left hand lane two miles before you change interstates, there is an accident up ahead and if you aren’t in the left hand lane it’s going to delay you getting home.”
I was stunned, but I still managed a “Thank you sir”
He smiled broadly, waved and said simply
“Merry Christmas Bicycle Elf, Roll Tide”
I took the highway patrolman’s advice, bypassing the miles of unmoving traffic and made my way for the last leg of my long journey home.
For the rest of the drive I couldn’t help but feel that what I do here at Christmas really does matter. That it’s worth the sacrifice, the trouble and the occasional worrisome night about how I am going to pull it off again.
It’s funny where strength comes from sometimes.
It was the encouragement of the Alabama Highway Patrol and their care and concern for me, even with the traffic, the accidents, the crazy drivers that day; My “Blue Angels” were still watching over me. They didn’t have to take the time to do that, but they did.
It was the warm greetings from all the house parents I met at the Big Oak Ranch. They didn’t have to take the time out of their busy days to help me, to greet me, to encourage me. But they did, and it meant so much to me and it still does.
It was the sweet words of a house mother in an Auburn sweatshirt
That all meant so much to me
But it was all worth it because of something else much more personal to me
Because of a single question from a little girl
“Do you think the Bicycle Elf will visit me this year?”
You better believe it little lady, you better believe it