Ho ho howdy folkses! Welcome to Day Five of our Twelve Days of Shitmas celebration for 2023. Day Four was chock-full of frolicsome elf-puppets with scrotum-shaped faces and voices like an iron icepick hacking through layer upon layer of North Pole permafrost. Today we present a more human, and decidedly less traditional take on Christmas with an old-timey western TV show that had something to satisfy each member of the nuclear family, especially those sexually repressed 1950's dads who like svelte, sharpshootin' women in fringes and spurs. It's our second foray into the old west this year, but will it be any better than the first? Well, let's find out! Gather 'round the campfire, cowpokes, and we'll spin you a tale of adventure that'll put the kick back in your mule and the bake back in your beans.

An ailing abcess of weeping wonderment.

We're posting a brand-new review of a Christmas special every other day beginning December 3rd, and culminating in what we consider the worst of the bunch on Christmas morning. Speaking of mornings, a few weeks ago, I was walking down the street on my way to work and noticed a glint in the bushes at the very periphery of my vision. I stopped to investigate and found an exquisitely crafted cobalt glass bottle sticking slightly out of the brush and detritus, with what appeared to be ancient Arabic characters in faded gold-leaf relief around its base. I took it with me, thinking it might be a nice knick-knack to display somewhere around my office at Million Monkey Towers. It had clearly been buried in the muck for some time and needed a good cleaning, so I carefully removed the bits of half-decayed leaves and sticky compost, then took a sponge and polished it until it shined. There was a stopper in it that seemed to be badly stuck, so I pulled and twisted it with all my might until finally it came away in my hand.

A dense mist poured from the mouth of the bottle, and when it cleared there stood before me a mighty genie, who bowed his head and said, "You have freed me from the lamp, Master, and in return I offer you a wish."

"Only one?" I quipped. "I thought it was traditional to offer three."

"Not in this economy!" he replied. 

Fair enough, I thought, and commenced to considering what my single wish might be. Should I ask for something personally enriching like money, power or fame? No, I sighed. Tempting as those things might seem, they simply aren't in my nature, and anyway there would surely be some Twilight Zone style sting in the tail should I choose acquisitiveness over compassion. I decided I should choose something to benefit all of mankind and leave the toxic self-absorption to the MAGA Republicans.

"I wish for world peace!"

"So be it! Your wish is granted!" he replied. He made little "Woo woo!" noises and rolled his eyes at me, then raised his hands in a series of mystic gestures, ending in something fleeting but rather rude involving both middle fingers. I thought nothing of it at the time. Different cultures apply different meanings to different things, and what do I know about the ancient secrets of the Djinns?

"Your wish will soon come true. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some business to attend to back at the office." And with that he disappeared back into the bottle, with the stopper replacing itself behind him.

Now, we've all been watching the news lately and you may have noticed things are pretty bad out there. There haven't been any indications of peace breaking out anywhere that I've seen, and I've had my eyes peeled for it, as you might well imagine. By the second week of waiting, I was beginning to think I'd been bamboozled, then one bright morning about a week ago a package arrived from a produce company in Istanbul, Turkey. Then another came from Tokyo, and one each from Bruges, Caen, St. Petersburg, Adelaide, Cape Town and a dozen other cities from all over the globe. Perhaps you've already guessed what it was they contained.

World Peas! Get it?

Peas of many kinds came to me from countries as disparate as Gold Coast and Costa Rica, as distant from one another as Saskatoon and Saigon. I immediately re-summoned the genie and demanded he explain himself.

"I guess I misheard you," he explained "But no takey-backsies." I pressed him further and he finally admitted he'd purposely altered my wish because "World peace would put us Genies out of business."

For the next hour I argued with him to no avail restore my wish. Finally, he retreated back into his bottle, no doubt snickering to himself at the merry prank he'd pulled at my expense. I went straight to my laptop and wrote a sternly worded email to the International Society of Wish-Granting Djinns. I used a standard form on their website to file an appeal, which I've just been informed has been received but is still pending. In it I expressed compassion for their plight and even offered to change my wish to something less threatening to their industry, like maybe a case of Cadbury Cream Eggs (which are really hard to find this time of year) or maybe a nice comfy cardigan to wear around the house. I feel I should get at least a little something for my trouble.

In the meantime, let me know if you need any peas.

The Annie Oakley TV show ran on ABC for eighty-one episodes over three seasons from 1954-1957, along with a host of other western TV classics such as Gunsmoke (1955-75), The Rifleman (1958-63), Have Gun, Will Travel (1957-63), Bat Masterson (1958-61), The Roy Rogers Show (1951-57) and many others, which collectively provided wholesome, sometimes provocative and often hokey entertainment to red-blooded American families during the post-war prosperity of the Eisenhower years. I personally enjoy many these shows, and I get to see quite a lot of them at the mental health non-profit where I work, as members of our center often watch day-long blocks of them on a big-screen TV just twenty or so feet from my desk.

Gene Autry, a prominent star of the era, was by this time entrenched as an elder statesman of American entertainment, with successful forays into radio, movies and television. Those of you who who've been with us here at MMT over the past two decades may recall Nate and Pam's round robin review of The Phantom Empire (1935), which was one of 93 film productions in which he appeared, and is the earliest known western to include elements of science fiction. The Gene Autry Show ran from 1950-55 for 91 episodes. With his newfound clout in the emerging television market, he started his own production company, Flying A Productions, and was responsible for bringing, among others, Gunsmoke and Annie Oakley to the small screen.

Gene Autry with Annie Oakley star Gail Davis

Beyond her sharpshooting prowess, the TV Annie Oakley has little to do with the historical Annie Oakley, who was born into poverty but used her marksmanship and hunting skills to get her family out of debt. Later, as part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, she became one of the highest paid performers of her era. She was also, amongst other things, a proto-feminist, a humanitarian and the adopted daughter of Sitting Bull. A paragraph or two in a Shitmas article couldn't possibly do justice to her extraordinary life, so I'm just going to encourage you all to look her up and learn about her for yourselves.

The real deal.

The TV Annie Oakley lives in the fictional town of Diablo with her plucky little brother Tagg and her uncle, Sheriff Luke McTavish, who tends to be away from town a lot, especially when there's trouble to be sorted out. There's also a hunky deputy Sheriff named Lofty Craig, Annie's friend and occasional unsuccessful suitor, with whom she and her brother get caught up in all sorts of adventurous shenanigans involving thieves, outlaws and just plain folk in need of a helping hand. More often than not, Annie's exceptional marksmanship plays some role in saving the day. Many of the TV westerns of the era were straight dramas, intended for adult audiences and exploring mature themes, but others, such as Annie Oakley, were meant to be enjoyed by the whole family. The stories aren't particularly groundbreaking, but the program is unusual for the time in that it centers on a strong, smart and capable woman who completely holds her own against, and often outmatches the men who seek to challenge her. She's also mighty cute, but then I've always been attracted to strong, smart and capable women, especially if they frighten me a little. Just ask my wife...but don't tell her I told you.

Our episode begins at the local train station, a few miles outside the dust-swept streets of Diablo Arizona, where Annie, Tagg and Lofty have come to pick up some parcels that had been delivered for them a few days before. Pasted outside the station is a poster advertising an upcoming carnival featuring "Snowy Kringle the Mountain Man: World's Greatest Sharpshooter." Tagg thinks it's a mighty bold claim, but Annie tells him it might well be so, as some of the old mountain men are mighty fine shooters. They also notice the old-timey muzzle loader he's posing with and the old cap-and-ball pistol in his belt, weapons long-since made obsolete by double action cartridge revolvers and repeating rifles. With a name like Kringle and a big white beard, you might be tempted to think the old fella is the jolly old elf himself, but he's really just an ornery, flea-bitten old coot the march of progress has left behind, left alone to try to exploit what few skills he has to make a decent living in the twilight of his years. 

'Everybody knows the real Santa carries a Smith & Wesson Model 3.'

Station Master Clem comes sidling up to them to let them know their packages are ready for them on the counter inside the station, so Annie and Lofty head inside, only to find a sinister-looking fellow glaring at his revolver with cold, dark eyes and a grim, determined brow. This is D.K. Rodney, a special agent for the railroad, who immediately spews out a lengthy, well-organized bundle of extremely helpful plot exposition. It seems there's a train a-coming in just a few minutes with an Army payroll of $55k on it, ultimately bound for nearby Fort Newman. The strongbox with the cash will be kept in the station safe overnight, then loaded up on a mail train that's due to arrive the following afternoon.

"I reckon I just like telling folks stuff."

Agent Rodney is anticipating a holdup attempt, as there have been several robberies at train depots in towns where Snowy Kringle has been performing. Annie comments that he doesn't look like a holdup man, in fact he looks like Santa Claus, but Rodney replies, "This Santa Claus wears a gun," and claims Kringle even shot a station agent in Dodge City. He condescendingly adds "You can't always judge a man by his appearance, Miss Oakley, a man isn't always what he seems."

Lofty very sensibly inquires as to why Kringle is still on the loose if he killed a dude, and Rodney says he was wearing a flour sack over his head at the time of the holdups, probably to hide his beard, so nobody could prove that it was him.

Annie smells bullshit.

Annie seems a little skeptical, and frankly, so am I. This guy practically has a neon sign with "third act villain reveal" hovering over his head. Still, Annie sets her doubts aside and asks if she and her perpetually blue-balled deputy pal can help in any way. Rodney says he appreciates the offer, but he's got his own blue balls to attend to and plans to camp out in the station overnight so he can personally assure that the strong box gets on the mail train.

Speaking of trains, the very train carrying both the payroll and Snowy Kringle arrives just then, and as Clem takes the box inside to lock it in the safe Tagg spots the old mountain man himself, standing on the platform, muzzle-loader in hand, a grizzled yet dignified artefact of a wild and wooly frontier now made a bit more tame by wave upon wave of the relentless American westward expansion. Tagg is a little starstruck, and runs up to introduce himself, asking him if he's really the greatest sharpshooter in the world even with his old-fashioned muzzle-loader.

"You sure ain't had a bath in a while, have you mister?"

Kringle enthusiastically offers to demonstrate the rifle, which he calls "Old Betsy." He gives Tagg a toy balloon to blow up and toss to the winds so he can shoot it out of the sky, and as a brief aside: the fact that Kringle specifically calls it a "toy balloon" warms the cockles of my old-west history-loving, verisimilitude-craving heart, as commercially available volcanized rubber balloons of the period were, indeed referred to as "toy balloons" in order to distinguish them from balloons used for scientific or medical purposes.

So Tagg blows up the balloon and tosses it high in the air, and Kringle takes the buoyant little fucker out with a single, perfectly placed shot. As the old fella climbs aboard a transport wagon headed for Diablo, Tagg breathlessly confides to his sister "He's as good as you!" She humbly corrects him, humbly admitting that Kringle is probably better, as she's not sure she could have made such a shot with that particular type of weapon. This further elevates Kringle in the impressionable young lad's eyes, and he immediately counts himself his number one fan.

Suddenly, and just to keep the kiddies at home interested, there's a spot of completely random trouble, as the horses hitched to the open transport wagon somehow get spooked and bolt while the driver is still loading Kringle's bag onto the back of it. Kringle is in the rear-most bench, too far away from the driver's seat to make a jump for the reins, so Annie, Lofty and Tagg hop on their horses and make chase.

Thrilling wild west action!

Sure, this is decorative filler material, completely superfluous to the plot, but what the hell? Who doesn't love a runaway carriage scene? The stuntmen of 1950's westerns were a fearless breed who were pretty much up for anything, and there were few, if any safety precautions taken beyond a few extra layers of padding on their elbows and knees. When we see Kringle being bounced around the wagon, and damn near falling out at every bump and turn, the peril of his situation feels absolutely real and immediate.

The horses make it all the way to Main Street in Diablo before Annie and Lofty can catch up and rein them in. Kringle is clearly a man who's seen more than his share of danger, and when he climbs down from the cart, he at first seems no worse for wear. He fumbles around a little and can't find Betsy, but Tagg steps onto the cart, grabs it and hands it to him. He heartily thanks his benefactors for their help and asks them where he can find the Diablo Hotel. As it turns out their standing on the steps of it at that very moment, as he looks up and scrunches his face before an enormous sign emblazoned with the name of the place not three feet above his head.

"Oh, that Diablo Hotel!"

He mumbles as an excuse that "this diablo dust gets in a feller's eyes" and heads inside to check in. Annie and Tagg exchange a puzzled glance but chalk it up to the poor fella having just been bounced around like a ball in a bingo drum. Later, however, Tagg brings Kringle his room service meal (apparently, he works as a bell boy at the hotel, at least for narrative purposes in this particular episode) and when the old feller gives him his tip he asks the kid if they've met before. Tagg reminds him of the stage incident, and he says, oh yeah, how could he forget? Yeah, it's a fair question, and that that's twice now in just a couple of minutes we've been plot-flagged over either Kringle's mental competence or his poor eyesight, so keep that in your pocket for later on.

As Kringle prepares to eat his dinner, Tagg notices a fancy pair of buckskin boots sitting on a chair, with the letters S.K. embroidered at the seams. He mentions how nice they are and Kringle says he had them custom made. In fact, he says, this is the second pair he's had to have custom made, since the first pair got stolen from him at his hotel back in Dodge City.

They're mighty purty.

Next, Tagg goes over to the dresser and picks up Kringle's pistol, commenting as he does on what a fine old piece of craftsmanship it is. This simple transgression sends the old mountain man into a fuming rage. He leaps up and snatches the pistol from the kid's hands and shouts at him that no one is ever allowed to touch his guns, no one...which is a little strange, as we just saw Tagg pick up Betsy and hand it to him in the previous scene and all he did was thank him for it.

At first, this may seem like a small, albeit easily justified plot hole. After all, he couldn't find Betsey himself, which was odd, considering Tagg spotted it right away on the floor of the cart right where he'd been sitting, but at the time Kringle had just endured a traumatic experience and may have been a little rattled. The second instance was a non-helpful, non-consensual touching of another man's gun, rude by any standard, so maybe that accounts for the differing reactions. To my scheming mind, however, it seems like another in a series of carefully crafted clues we've been drip-fed, designed to tell us something important about our seemingly volatile and crabby Santa-like friend. I think maybe he can't see worth shit and his guns are actually loaded with birdshot... Anyway, that's what I surmised at this point in the action when I watched the episode for the first time a few years ago.

Was I right? I reckon we'll find out later, cowpokes.

Tripp heads over to the Sheriff's office to see his big sis and Lofty, and he relays the strange event to them, commenting how Kringle seemed like a nice fella until he touched his gun, but then he got kind of mean. Instead of telling him maybe he shouldn't be going around diddling with the barrels on other men's guns she says, "you can't always judge a man by his appearance, people aren't always what they seem." Lofty chimes in with "Somebody we met at the depot today said the same thing!"

"Yeah, I know. I was there dipshit"

We cut now to a dark thicket outside the rail station, where a hulking fellow with a flour sack over his head has just hitched his horse to one of the trees. As he steps out into the light of the moon, we see he's wearing a pair of buckskin boots with S.K. embroidered on them. He takes a slingshot and busts out the oil lamp by the side of the depot door then waits at one side of it for somebody to come out and investigate. When our fearless railroad agent Rodney obliges, the stranger sticks a gun in his face and says, "Tell that old man in there if he touches that telegraph key, I'll blow your brains out!" 

Now, we all know who this isn't, which is Snowy Kringle, because that's just the way old timey TV works, but even if you'd made it to this point in the episode thinking it was, you'd now be instantly disabused of the notion. Kringle kind of talks like a gruff, baritone version of Gabby Hayes, the famous singing sidekick to Roy Rogers and the stereotypical old-west coot by which all stereotypical old-west coots are measured. His is the quintessential old west old timer patois, rustic, colorful and ornery as a goat with a rattlesnake sticking out of its ass. The guy under the flour sack talks like a hot dog vendor from 1970's New York.

"Ya want mustard or relish with that?"

So, Fake Kringle stuffs Rodney and Clem into the baggage room, locks the door and heads over to the safe. Rodney asks Clem if there's any way out, and he tells him no, all the windows are barred so they're stuck until somebody finds them. "And Snowy Kringle is out there blowing a safe!" the wily Railroad Agent laments. Clem asks if he really thinks it's Kringle and he says "Sure, didn't you see his boots?" Clem says he didn't see the boots, but he did notice that the pistol the feller was using wasn't no old-fashioned cap and ball. Rodney's responds "You wouldn't think he'd be stupid enough to use his own gun, would you?"

"No, but you think he's stupid enough to wear his own boots."

Back at the sheriff's office, Annie is about to head home and go to bed, when suddenly they hear a big boom. Owing to the events of the morning they immediately think of the train depo, so they rush out together to ride out and investigate.

Fake Kringle has, indeed blown the safe, but instead of riding off with the cash box he sticks it in a footlocker next to the baggage room, locks it up and sneaks back out to the thicket. Rodney and Clem kick out the damaged door and Clem lights a lantern. No sooner has he closed it up than Flour Sack Man shoots it out of his hand from all the way outside in the trees. It was such a good shot, in fact, that Clem now agrees that whether by cap and ball or cartridge revolver, only Snowy Kringle could have made the shot. A moment later Annie and Lofty appear, and that's what he tells them.

Fake Kringle picks that very moment to ride off, and when Lofty hears the hoofbeats he runs out, mounts up, and gives chase. Rodney, meanwhile, tells Annie that Deputy Lofty won't have to go far to find him. His M.O. is always the same, he explains. He blows a safe with a powder horn then heads back to his hotel and pretends to be asleep. "A fine old man who looks like Santa Claus," he quips, "That's the way I found him in Dodge City."  Annie finishes wrapping a handkerchief around Clem's wounded hand and says, "Let's go wake up Santa Claus."

"You can if you want to, missy, but I sure don't think you'll be gettin' any presents this year."

Back at the hotel, the real Snowy Kringle is just pulling on his robe when he hears a knock at the door. It's Rodney and Annie, come to take him into custody for the train depot hold-up. When they go to confiscate his guns he panics, but Annie says they have to take them as they're now exhibits in a criminal case. Poor Kringle insists he's innocent, that there must be some mistake, but Rodney is unmoved. He asks Annie to wait in the hall as Kringle gets dressed, and I can't help but notice that Rodney doesn't say a thing about there being another gun, even though he knows the gun Annie just took away isn't the one used in the holdup. Either he's incredibly stupid and deserves to have that other gun pulled on him now from under a pillow or pile of clothes, or he knows damn well that gun was never in Kringle's hand in the first place.

Back out on the trail, Fake Kringle ditches the flour sack and rides off, but soon he realizes Lofty isn't far behind. He gees up his horse but quickly realizes he's got a better chance of escaping if he pulls up in some trees and tries to hide. Lofty, however, anticipates his plan. Hearing a faint whinny from the villain's horse, he quietly dismounts and circles around to the spot from which the noise emerged.

It's a bright sunny night.

Lofty ambushes the ambusher and orders him down from his mount. When Lofty asks what he was doing at the depot he says he was just passing by, heard an explosion and a shot and rode off. He claims he knew he was being followed, but thought it was somebody trying to rob him. Lofty smells the barrel of the gun and asks when he last fired it, and he answers, "about sundown I shot a jack rabbit." Lofty asks him where he's headed and he says "I was headed to Tucson to look for a job." In short, the guy has an easy answer for everything, and Lofty just can't make anything stick...until he looks down and sees his boots.

They're still mighty purty.

The guy even has an answer for that, explaining that his name is Sam Kelly. Unfortunately, he has the initials S.J. on his saddle. He tries to claim he bought it from a guy named Steve Jackson, but the discrepancy gives Lofty probable cause to haul him back to Diablo for further questioning. He gives up all pretense now and cold-cocks Lofty with a wicked right hook. A fight ensues, a gun goes off and the villain's horse bolts, but ultimately Lofty gets the upper hand. He tells the guy they'd better find his horse or he's going to have a long walk back to Diablo, and he marches him off at gunpoint.

Back at the Sheriff's office Tripp is sitting at the desk playing with Kringle's powder horn because the ill-mannered little shit just can't keep his hands off other peoples' stuff. Annie brings Kringle a tray with his coffee and breakfast, but the poor fellow is too dispirited to eat it. Annie insists he at least let her pour him some coffee. She picks up the cup and notices that he's picked up the sugar bowl instead. He realizes his mistake and sheepishly puts it back down.

Tripp, meanwhile, is fiddling with the forbidden gun again and calls Annie over to show her something peculiar he's discovered. The gun doesn't have regular bullets in fact it's loaded with birdshot.

Called it, bitches!

Tripp doesn't understand the significance of his discovery, but Annie does, so she discreetly leads her brother outside to make a demonstration. She has Tripp blow up another toy balloon and toss it in the air like he did for Kringle. When he does so she just kind of moseys the barrel around until it's somewhere in the general direction of it, but when she fires it's a perfect shot. Tripp comments that she didn't even have to aim, and she says "With this gun you don't need to."

They head back inside, and Annie walks over to Kringle in his cell. He heard the shot and knows the jig is up. Annie asks how long he's been using the birdshot and he explains he started in with it about two years before, when his eyes got bad enough he could no longer aim properly. He said he did it on account of lads like Tripp, who came from all over to see the great Snowy Kringle perform feats of marksmanship. He didn't want to disappoint the eager little nippers, so he became trapped in the prison of his own lie. Plus he could still make all that sweet carnival money to keep him in the beans and whiskey that are the only pleasures he's got left.

"I'd have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids!"

Annie releases Kringle from the cell and assures him all charges with will be dropped. She sends Tripp back to the hotel with his stuff and brings Kringle up to speed. She tells him that the railroad agent Rodney has it in for him, claiming he'd robbed another depot in Dodge City, and even that he'd shot and killed a man. She tells him how he'd allegedly even shot a lamp out of Clem's hand back at their own depot...but obviously that's impossible, as his eyesight is so bad he wouldn't even be able to see the depot in the dark. Just then Lofty comes in with Fake Kringle. He hands Annie the recently-fired gun and the flour sack he'd found ditched on the trail, and when they see the boots he's wearing it all comes together.

"Pretty sneaky, sis!"

Lofty admits that although he scoured every inch of the trail back to the depot, he still couldn't find the stolen cash box, and Kringle, who let's face it has been pretty calm about everything up to this point, finally loses it. He takes a swing at the guy, saying "I'll make ya tell us where you put that box!" Unfortunately, he misses, and the dude pulls the newly-restored gun out of Kringles holster, holding the old geezer hostage as he ushers them all into the cell. He locks it and heads over to the desk to swap the old cap and ball for his own gun, and once he has it in his holster he waltzes out the door and calmly makes his escape, making sure to unhitch and drive away everyone else's horses as he goes.

"Later, losers!"

Lofty has a spare key, but he fumbles around looking for it long enough for Fake Kringle to get a hearty head start. By the time they're out of the cell and have their horses back, he's already back at the depot conferring with his partner in crime, the mastermind behind the entire operation...and yeah, of course it's fucking Rodney.

Called It, Bitches 2: Electric Boogaloo

When Annie and Lofty finally arrive at the Depot they immediately spot Fake Kringle's horse, so they hang back to take in the lay of the land. Inside the depot Rodney has a gun to Clem's head to keep him from sounding the alarm. They hear a train whistle in the distance, and Rodney assures Clem that he and his partner will soon be on their way. Clem foolishly lets slip that the train in question is the Sunset Limited Express, which passes the Diablo station by, so Rodney makes him change the signal to force it to stop. Fron their vantage point behind a tree, Annie and Lofty see the stop signal go up in the distance.

Cutting edge frontier technology.

They realize that if the train stops the villain is likely to escape, but if they can somehow change the signal back, they can ensure it'll pass right by and leave their adversary shit out of luck. Unfortunately, the manual signal lever is in an iron box next to the track in the distance, and the box is secured with a heavy padlock. If only the greatest sharpshooter the world has ever known was there with them, maybe they could...

Oh, right.

So, Annie shoots the lock clean off and Lofty starts sneaking along the track to the signal box while she covers him. Fake Kringle gets off a wild shot or two, but every time he sticks his barrel out the crack in the door Annie fires and sends him cowering back inside. Rodney figures it's time to pull out his ace in the hole, so he locks up Clem in the baggage room, throws down his gun and sneaks out the back. He throws his hands up, shouting to Annie not to shoot, then joins her, claiming that Fake Kringle disarmed him, but that he was able to sneak out the back door during the melee. Annie, still not realizing that he's part of the conspiracy, hands him a pistol, which he immediately turns on her. 

"I thought I smelled bullshit."

Just at that moment who should ride up but Snowy Kringle! Rodney takes his gun off Annie for just a split second, hoping to get off a shot at the old coot, but a split second is all she needs to flip him on his ass and disarm him. By this time Lofty has made it to the signal box and switched it back so the Limited will pass them by. Fake Kringle watches in horror as the train and his dreams of ill-gotten gain pass him by. He drops the heavy moneybox on the platform and tries to make a run for it, but just as he reaches his horse Lofty is on him like lube on a rubber glove and punches his Fake Kringly lights out.

As Annie slips the cuffs on Rodney she quips "It was just yesterday you were saying to me 'you can't always judge a man by his appearance...sometimes a man is not what he seems.'"

"Yeah, I know...I was there, dipshit."

A few hours later the mail train arrives, and a stodgy-looking Army Major steps off. He understands there was some trouble surrounding the money, but somebody did some fancy shooting and shot a padlock off a semaphore box and saved the day. He declares "I don't need two guesses to know it was Snowy Kringle!"

Kringle tries to deny it, but Annie steps in and admonishes him for being too modest, that the Major clearly knows he's the world's greatest sharpshooter, and they all know it, too.

Kringle declares that there sure are a lot of good people in this town, yesiree. As he takes out his handkerchief and starts daubing his misty eyes he confesses: "My only complaint is this Diablo dust sometimes gets in a man's eyes..."

"Also, the beds are lumpy and the whores all smell of German cheese."

Aside from my own inappropriate interjections, this was just a fluffly bit of good clean fun. It was a bit too early for the use of the name Kringle in America, which for shits and giggles I'll point out has it has its origins in the Protestant reformation, originally "Christkind," modified to "Kriss Kringle" sometime around 1840, but it wasn't widely used outside Europe until it was popularized by the film Miracle on 34th Street in 1947. No worries, though, Santa Claus Wears a's the sort of thing only a merciless pedant such as myself would ever notice care about. As I say, I first watched this special a few years ago, hoping to include it in my Shitmas list back in 2020, but at the time I felt it threw off the balance between the other articles, so I shelved it. I'm glad to have revisited it this year, and if anything, I enjoyed it even more this time around. It's always welcome to have something good and wholesome in the mix, especially in a year where so many of the specials are particularly gaudy and weird.

Oh, wait...was that a spoiler?

Merry Christmas, folkses.

Next Installment: December 13th!

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December, 2023.

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