Growing up in Florida we usually had warm weather for the Christmas holidays. We still sang ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and ‘White Christmas,’ but we didn’t relate to the lyrics of those songs as much as our friends up North did.
Being raised in an extremely rural area on a cattle ranch, our family made up some of our own Christmas traditions that we dutifully repeated every year. Our mom and a couple of our aunts congregated in the kitchen each Christmas Eve to fry up cornbread to make stuffing for the Christmas turkey, along with delicious pies, cakes and cookies for the big day.
Meanwhile, our dad and uncles would gather outside (usually on horseback) under a large grapefruit tree in the corner of our yard and start their own celebration. First, they would pick a nice, ripe grapefruit and cut a plug in the top with a pocketknife, then squeeze it till it got good and juicy. Then they would pour shots of vodka from a flask directly into the hole. One of the brothers would pull a saltshaker out of his back pocket and shake a little on top of the grapefruit/vodka blend and presto! A homemade Salty Dog!This would go on for most of the Christmas Eve afternoon and then around sundown, just when us kids were beginning to wonder when Santa Claus was gonna get there, we’d hear him… and boy, did we hear him! Santa wasn’t shy or quiet at our house! First, our uncle Doug would start throwing grapefruit and oranges up on top of our old tin roof to get us kids good and keyed up. Then, just for good measure, he’d fire off a couple rounds from his trusty double-barrel shotgun! He’d tell us it was Santa’s sleigh backfiring as it was coming in for a landing. We’d fly out of our bedrooms and find a new bike or a red Western Flyer Wagon sitting under the tree!
Right on time, Santa always arrived at our house – a little tipsy sometimes – but he sure did leave us some great presents!