The Blacksmith's Christmas Eve
by Allan Green
Many years ago, a North Carolina blacksmith was awakened after midnight on Christmas Eve by the ringing of a hammer on an anvil. The sound was coming from his own forge. He peered out the window and saw the sparks flying from his forge chimney, so he quickly dressed and went out to his shop, wondering who could be using the forge at this hour. His heart began to pound as he saw, parked in the pasture beside the forge, a sleigh and a team of reindeer quietly grazing on the good grass that was still green this late in the year. Quietly opening the forge door, he saw an elderly, bearded man in long red underwear and wearing the blacksmith's own apron busily shaping something on the anvil. The sudden draft alerted the old man, and he looked up.
“I wist that thee not mind,friend”, he said, “but I have need of thy shop for my team in yon pasture”.
His accents were strange, but the old fellow obviously knew what he was about. “My shop is at your service, Sir” the blacksmith replied, and settled back to watch a master smith at work. At first it was not clear what his guest was so energetically forging. Singletree ends? Harness rings? Shaft stays? Whatever it was, he had 4 irons in the fire at once – a sure invitation for disaster for a lesser smith. The blacksmith watched as the old man quickly removed each piece from the fire and expertly shaped it into a U over the horn. A few last blows flattened the pieces into matching tiny horseshoes – except for the delicately shaped ends which belonged on no horse the blacksmith had ever seen.
“'Tis about half my route, this far, and my wheel boys need shoes again”, the old man explained. “I'm much obliged for your hospitality”. And with that, he took the shoes from the slack bucket and headed for his team. A quick lift of each leg, a few expert taps for each nail, and the job was done before you could say “Cookies and Milk”. Stowing his tools,the old man jumped in the seat and gathered the reins.
“Wait!” the blacksmith shouted. “Leave me the throws and next year I'll have 4 sets waiting for you!
The old man laughed, tossed him a pair of used shoes, and called, “Its a bargain, my friend. 'Till next year then! Ho Dasher! Ho Dancer!” Then he shook the reins, and the sleigh gained speed over the snow and vanished into the night.
And so it is that blacksmiths in this part of the country fashion“Reindeer Shoes” for their red-suited fellow Smith, who brings his team through here each Christmas Eve.