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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Let me be your Santa #1

Posted December 9, 2008 9:23 a.m. EST

Let me be your Santa. For the next two weeks I will be giving away gifts here on the Carolina Conversations blog. Today's present - a copy of my book and companion CD "Blue Ridge Reunion."  The two items retail for $40.

All you have to do is share your favorite Christmas or holiday story. Tomorrow morning I will toss all of the entries into a hat and pick a winner. So you don't have to weave the best tale to win. Then we will move on to stage two of the prize program. Try your best to be concise.

I talk about my favorite Christmas in the book. The story is part of an essay called 'Locomotive Love:'

The train theme began to unfold one Christmas. Santa Claus left a Lionel train set under the tree. I had been forbidden from going down into the basement of our Morganton home just prior to the holidays. Daddy wanted the massive train layout he built to be a surprise. He topped it off with handmade trees and houses that looked just like the ones in our neighborhood. It was the most magical place of my childhood especially when we ran those train races at night with the lights turned out.

In between the gift giving for birthdays and Christmas were trips to the Morganton depot where we would put pennies on the track to be smashed by powerful trains. We later learned that was not a safe thing to do. Daddy even convinced an engineer to let me drive a shifting diesel on the side tracks one Saturday morning. This helped me learn railroad lingo and my engineer’s cap seemed to fit perfectly now.

Daddy surprised me the next Christmas with tickets for a special train ride from Morganton to Asheville. The song “Mountain Train” not only covers that rail journey but the many other specific recollections I have about my father.

Come and ride with me on the mountain train,
Watch the world go by from our window pane,
Rolling nice and easy in the misty rain,
Come and ride with me on the mountain train.

I’ve missed you more that you’ll ever know,
With your gentle words and your hair like snow,
Shuffling cards and dealing aces,
Painting scenes of pretty places. (chorus)

Pull a penny out of my ear,
Mr. Magic Man make it disappear,
A Nehi Grape and some Butter Rum,
And a pack of Juicy Fruit chewing gum. (chorus)

Pumpernickel and pimento cheese,
An open window and a country breeze,
Smoke as sweet as a cherry peel,
Climbing up to Asheville on stairs of steel. (chorus)

Heroes from our childhood days,
From Dizzy Dean to Willie Mays,
Rounding third and heading home,
With some Brylecreem and a pocket comb. (chorus)