The cold wind snapped across the littered parking lot, pushing sleet
that lightly covered the windshield on the high school principal's truck. After a few moments the wipers
slid across the glass and revealed three men walking slowly across the gravel toward the truck. One of
the men was Santa Claus; he would've looked better with a beard. Within seconds the windshield was misted
over again. When the wipers once more sequenced, the men were waiting at the truck for Mr. Anderson to
remove the key and step out into the December morning.
"When do you
want to start?" Santa Claus asked.
"I'm not in charge
of the parade," Mr. Anderson answered.
said one of the other men who had his ball cap firmly screwed on his head to keep it from blowing away,
"but do you want the four-wheelers to go before or after the horses?"
"All I'm here to do is to make sure the queen candidate is here," said Mr. Anderson.
"You're going to announce her at the end of the parade, aren't you?" another
man said from the comfort of his hooded hunting jacket.
if necessary," replied Mr. Anderson.
said the man in the ball cap. "But what about the four-wheelers?"
Three four-wheelers were sitting in the near corner of the parking lot. Two of the riders were
taking turns popping their clutches and spinning gravel on the third rider, who was trying to get hers started, between cursing
at the other two. In deference to the occasion, they had wreaths attached with duct tape to their handlebars.
"I think the four-wheelers ought to go behind the horses," Santa Clause volunteered.
"Horse," the man in the hunting jacket corrected. "We
only got one horse, unless Larry shows up."
got a horse," said the man in the hunting cap.
"He gots to
go up front," Santa Claus reminded him. "He's carrying the American flag. The
American flag always goes up front."
Out in the street near
the intersection, Victor, who was dressed in his full VFW regalia, was trying to keep the American flag pointing upward with
one had while hold the reigns to his jittery horse with the other. Every time he seemed to have the horse
calmed down, whoever was sitting in the firetruck would rev the engine and send him prancing around in circles.
"There's another horse," said the hunting cap.
"We can't count that horse," said Santa. "It's pulling the Baptists."
Coming up the street was one slowly plodding horse, laboriously pulling a flatbed wagon.
Above the wagon a banner had been erected simply stating, "Jesus Saves." Whoever had planned
the banner hadn't planned well enough, for the letters became increasingly smaller and scrunched up the closer they got to
the right side. Several hay bales had been thrown on the wagon, upon which were seated members of the congregation.
It was hard to tell just how many might be there since they were all huddled tightly under a collection of quilts.
Muffled attempts at singing escaped from underneath the covers.
no one is really in charge of this parade?" asked Mr. Anderson.
Jacket replied, "Well, Larry usually runs these things, but I ain't seen him yet. I figure if he ain't
here by now he probably ain't gonna come."
the other horse," Ball Cap added.
From the back of a pickup
truck parked in the middle of the street, several students whose banner announced that they were Cub Scouts had started throwing
their candy to the half-a-dozen students who had gathered to watch. Only they weren't gently throwing,
and the students weren't collecting the candy to keep; they were throwing it back.
"OK," said Mr. Anderson, "we'll put Chester out front..."
"Who's Chester?" Santa wanted to know.
guy with the flag."
"No, that's Victor.
Victor's got the flag," said Ball Cap.
The guy with the flag leads. We'll put Santa in the rear, right behind the queen candidate, and
everybody else can just fall in."
"Then let's get going before we all freeze."
"We cain't go yet," said Hunting Jacket. "The marching
band ain't here yet."
"What marching band?" Mr.
"Why, the school marching band,"
said Ball Cap.
"I didn't know we had a school marching
band," Mr. Anderson said more to himself than anyone else. Santa replied just the same.
"Oh, we do, and it's a dandy!"
As if on cue, the marching band emerged from the walkway that ran between the high school and the
New Gym. The music teacher was holding a banner that was really designed to be held by two people, which
the wind kept trying to wrest from her hands. On the banner, amidst various cleft signs and musical notes,
were the words "NHS Marching Band." It was actually a nice banner, or at least had been for the
first thirty years of its life. With luck, duct tape would see it through another thirty years.
The three members of the marching band followed behind. There was a drum, a clarinet, and cymbals.
All the students had on the pants and jackets that made up the uniforms, complete with the fancy embroidery work that
ran down the vest. One of them was even wearing a hat.
"I'm sorry we were late," panted Mrs. Murgel, the music teacher. "We were waiting
for Ricky, but he never showed up."
Mr. Anderson replied. "Just as long as you're here we're OK. We'll put you behind
"Victor," corrected Santa.
"Victor. We'll put you behind Victor."
"You cain't put 'em behind Victor," said Hunting Jacket. "The
cymbals'll spook his horse."
"Hell, wind'd spook that old horse,"
Santa said to the appreciation of the other men.
then, the firetruck follows Victor..."
Santa nodded his
approval of Mr. Anderson finally getting the name right.
we'll put the marching band behind the firetruck."
can't march behind the firetruck," Mrs. Murgel protested. "No one would hear us over the noise
from the diesel."
Mr. Anderson was tempted to say that
that was the general idea, but decided it wouldn't've been professional.
"OK, then, we'll put you after the Baptists."
not a good idea," said Hunting Jacket.
"Well, for one thing, they'll both be playing music, which is probably not a good
"I'd agree," Mr. Anderson quickly added, although he wasn't
considering the possibility that their songs would clash.
another thing," Ball Cap continued, "Les has been having trouble with his stomach lately. I don't
think you'll want to walk behind him."
Mr. Anderson wondered.
"He's the Baptists' horse,"
Ball Cap explained.
"Then we'll put the Baptists behind the
flag, the firetruck will follow the Baptists, the four wheelers can follow the firetruck, and the Cub Scouts can follow them.
We'll put the marching band behind the Cub Scouts, the queen can follow the marching band, and Santa Claus can bring
up the rear."
"What about the other horse?" asked
"We can put him behind the Baptists."
The three men thought about it for a few moments.
"By golly, I think that'll work," Santa finally concluded.
As the parade slowly started down Walnut, the townsfolk came out of the warmth of their homes to huddle near the
street as it went by. The parade made it to the second house down from the school when the firetruck died.
After a few attempts at turning it over, the fireman inside stuck his head out and announced, "It's froze up!"
The excuse was readily accepted.
Hunting Jacket walked
up to Mr. Anderson, who was still standing in the parking lot. "I reckon we'll just call it quits
here. The firetruck ain't goin' nowhere, and the band's already played all the songs it knows.
We can use the Baptists' wagon to announce the Christmas queen on."
The wagon was a good idea. Les, the horse, had laid down in the middle of the street, and since
he was going nowhere, neither was the wagon.
"Oh, I don't
think we'll need the wagon," Mr. Anderson volunteered. "The girl who was elected queen didn't
show up. We'll just give the tiara to her on Monday, if she shows up then."
"I reckon that'll work," said Hunting Jacket.
Down the street, the homeowners had already gone back inside. The Baptists had all abandoned
their wagon, leaving Les on his own. Victor and his flag were no where in sight. Once
the parade had begun, Victor had never looked back to see if the rest were following. The four-wheelers
were all chasing each other around in the field that the students used for parking, and the Cub Scouts were now throwing gravel
at each other, having run out of candy. The Marching Band had headed back to the building, only to be stopped
by Ricky, who had finally shown up and now wanted to play his trumpet. Since Mr. Anderson could see no
reason to hang around any longer on a Saturday morning, he headed to his truck, only to be stopped halfway there by the trio
of Santa Claus, Hunting Jacket, and Ball Cap.
a right fine parade," Hunting Cap volunteered.
"Yes, it was,"
Ball Cap agreed. "A dandy! Best one we ever had."
"We sure appreciate all your effort," said Santa Claus, patting Mr. Anderson on the back. "We
couldn't've done it without you."
This coming up Friday, November 13, 2020, is, as the name implies,
a Friday that, by chance, falls on the 13th day of the month. It seems the idea of Friday the
Thirteenth comes from earlier superstitions that both the number 13 and Friday are unlucky. When they come
together… what do you expect? Or perhaps it stems from the idea that celestial events that fall
on arbitrarily numbered days portend some sort of cosmic sign.
In many cultures, 12 represents a “complete” number. After all, it
is the smallest number that can be divided by 2, 3, & 4. Think of all the things we know that come
by the dozen – months, hours, inches, apostles, the 12 tribes of Judaism, the 12 gods of Olympus, dice, donuts, and
eggs. Thirteen… just mucks things up. As well, there are even old Norse and Jewish
legends that say if 13 people dine, then one of them is going to die. A good thing to keep in mind when
inviting people to your Friday the 13th parties. Just consider the Last Supper from Christian
mythology. It was on a Friday, and there were 13 present. Why it is referred to as Good
Friday is beyond me.
And Friday is unlucky
because… well, it just is. Really, nobody seems to have cared about Friday the 13th before
the 19th century. The earliest record in the English language of Friday the Thirteenth being
unlucky is that of a British journalist in 1869, but since then we’ve developed all sorts of phobias.
“The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being
the name of the Norse goddess for whom ‘Friday’ is named and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number
thirteen).” Of course, not everybody sees Friday the 13th as unlucky. The Chinese, for
instance, believe the number 13 is lucky. But then, there are those who believe that it is unlucky to be
Chinese. Seriously: Chinophobia is the fear of Chinese people, Chinese customs, and
anything else Chinese. As far as that goes, there a phobia for fearing American: Amerophobia.
But why stop there? Xenophobia is pretty much the fear of everybody who isn’t you, and Autophobia
is the fear of yourself. And then there’s Panophobia: The fear of everything.
So is Friday the 13th really
unlucky? According to a study done in Britain, there are actually fewer accidents on Friday the 13th
than other random combinations of week days and days of the months. But that could be because, as the study
pointed out, fewer people leave their homes on Friday the 13th, and on that day, overall, people tend to be more
Me? I think I’ll
err on the side of caution and stay in the house all day.
By the way, it would be a rare year that didn’t have at least one Friday the Thirteenth. That one Friday the Thirteenth in 2021 will be in August.
“Amerophobia.” 2011. Boredom
Relief. 11 Jan. 2012. http://www.blifaloo.com/info/phobias.php
“Chinophobia.” 2011. Boredom Relief. 11
Jan. 2012. http://www.blifaloo.com/info/phobias.php
“Friday the 13th.” 27 Dec. 2011. Wikipedia.
30 Dec. 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_the_13th
“The Phobia List.”
17 July 1995. phobialist.com. 11 Jan. 2012. http://phobialist.com/
“What Phobia is the Fear of Yourself?” 2012. Answers.com.
11 Jan. 2012. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_phobia_is_the_fear_of_yourself
“Why Friday the 13th is Unlucky.” 2012. About.com.:
Urban Legends. 11 Jan. 2012. http://urbanlegends.about.com/cs/historical/a/friday_the_13th.htm