Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, Claus had sent Tallymaker down the street on an errand, and snuck across the street to Country Ladies Trading Company. I later learned that he asked Robbin Ahles to help him pick out a special gift for Mrs. Claus. Every present we produce is a group effort as thousands of elves are involved in the planning, shopping for materials and specialty items, wrapping and delivery. All but one that is. The danged elves can’t resist Lady Claus’ milk and cookies and just start blabbing. Boss learned eons ago that he had to take advantage of moments like this to get her that one surprise each year. Was it a trendy pair of jeans with fancy embroidery on the pockets? A new perfume or handbag? A “12” t-shirt to support her favorite football team? Who knows?! Robbin’s not telling any elves on Santa’s strict orders. Really, even me? I’m trusted with international mission secrets, but not this? *Sigh* So I guess I’ll find out Christmas morning with everyone else.

I may, or may not, have been sulking a little bit when Claus and Tallymaker finally climbed up into the idling truck. “Report Tallymaker,” Boss called out to the back of the cab. “I went down to see Rachel Bennett at Farmers Insurance down the street like you asked, sir,” Sigfried answered, just a bit winded. “She said to tell you not to worry, that the accident is fully covered, including any property damage. They’re even taking care of towing the sled to the shop and sent a rental car to bring over the rest of the crew.” Santa replied, “That’s great news! Did you thank her for insisting that the reindeer take that emergency landing safety class and ask her if they are eligible for the pet insurance policy?” Tallymaker looked a little uncomfortable as he confessed that in the rush he had forgotten, but would be sure to remember next time. “No worries my old friend! I needed you back here with us, and you got the important stuff taken care of with Rachel.”

NKC_Tribune_piece_of_North_PolePulling into the parking lot between Cle Elum Farm and Home and its Christmas Annex Store, Santa noticed the nice hay and straw out front and sent the elves to go get some fresh bedding and forage for the reindeer. The rest of us headed towards the Annex, which immediately reminded us of a piece of home, Cle Elum’s very own North Pole. Taking the North Pole snow globe out of my pocket, I shook it up and realized that I had discovered the connection – the North Pole. I gazed around at the forest of fresh cut trees and wreaths as well as those crafted for use year after year. Now where would the mistletoe be? I pondered. It was hard to stay focused with all the distracting decorations symbolic of the time of year we live for everywhere we looked. We gawked at ornaments, Christmas village pieces, wrappings, lights and … and, what was that over the doorway to the back? The little white berries emitted rays of hope and anticipation, as they have for centuries. Racing towards it, I peered around hopefully anticipating seeing Mindy, er, Agent Mintycane. What I found instead was Max Keeton holding a dainty Mindy-sized lady elf shoe, scratching his head wondering how that got there. “Hey Santa, don’t forget you’re slated for photos Saturday,” Max shouted as we left the store with the shoe, “and can you guys pick up the chair at the furniture shop?” What chair? Oh we’ll figure that out later. Right now we had enough cookies on our plate.