The Live Nativity Scene of Covington County

Some years ago, perhaps in the early nineties, a funny thing did occur in my hometown just before Christmas. Now much of it is lost in the telling, but I will relate to you as best I can how things came to pass.

Our county and particularly my town, the county seat, was a place filled with civic pride and possessed a busy and enterprising Chamber of Commerce. This particular year, my daddy was serving as the President of said Chamber and they cooked up a Christmas celebration of great magnitude--to be held on the courthouse square. Our county's courthouse is a beautiful old red brick building. It is bordered on three sides by grassy lawn, while the southern side possesses an unfortunate parking lot. Along the North lawn there is a beautiful evergreen--tall as any tree to grace Rockefeller center (in my mind) and bedecked with large colorful lights for Christmas. Highway Eighty Four runs along this northern side. It comes west from Prentiss and continues East through the downtown and onto Laurel.

This celebration of Christmas coincided with the 100th birthday of our country or city (I don't recollect which) and there was a great to-do happening all around. A cake was set up on the Eastern lawn, there was to be a parade featuring Santa himself, and on the North lawn--Oh, this was the greatest thing--there was to be a Live Nativity Scene. The good folks of Lone Star Baptist church were behind these grand efforts and all their resources were pooled to create a grand scene. There were to be sheep, donkeys, horses, longhorn steer, a black llama, goats--not to mention the requisite characters so vital for a Live Nativity Scene: Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, Wise Men and an Angel--and a large pickup truck.

Pens were set up around the evergreen on the northern lawn and while the county was celebrating it's own birthday on the east, the good deacons of Lone Star Baptist church--already in full nativity costume--were preparing to celebrate a far more important birthday. All of the animals, save the donkey, were secure in their pens, and one of the Wise Men was carefully backing up the cattle trailer which contained the donkey. Backing up with care was a good thing because the lawn was more than a bit muddy from recent rainfall. With just a few more feet to go, they were all shocked by the sudden appearance of a geyser just under the truck--the careful Wise Man had backed over a sprinkler head and knocked the top off releasing a stream of water high in the cold Christmas air.

I have no idea what was said by the Wise Man, but surely he was shocked and for a few seconds at least, he must have lost control of his senses. The pickup jerked quickly back, hitting the pens and knocking more than one over. The longhorn steer and the llama escaped and went running.

My understanding of this story is mostly second and third hand, but my Daddy, with tears in his eyes has more than once related his shock and amazement over what followed. He was on the Eastern Lawn, emceeing the County Birthday Celebration and just as he began to introduce a musical number by Miss Hospitality, he saw a stream of water, heard an engine rev and pens clatter. He looked and a longhorn steer came running from the Live Nativity Scene chased by a shepherd with a lasso. The Shepherd actually lassoed the steer and being no match for a steer, was drug off the lawn and down to highway 84. The shepherd let go, but the steer continued on an Eastward course toward Laurel. Immediately behind the cowboy Shepherd came the Three Wise Men in the pickup truck--in hot pursuit of the steer.

Meanwhile, my mother, sister and I--late as usual--were on our way to the courthouse. We were driving down a neighborhood street and saw several blocks down a Large Black Animal making haste through the town. Was it a dog? A horse? An ostrich? What was that Large Black Animal? We are good, conscientious citizens and hailed a passing patrol car. Of course we happened to pick the only patrol car in town that was delivering Santa to the parade. (We know it was the right Santa because he was riding in the front seat and not the rear).

"There is a Large Black Animal--it ran that way!" we said in what I'm sure was a less stagnant use of words. "Don't worry, M'am" said Santa as he grabbed the Patrolman's rifle, "we'll take care of it." Then they turned their blue lights on and took off after the Large Black Animal which we now know to be the the LLama.

There is no real conclusion to this story. The county ate cake and the parade went off beautifully. I doubt Lone Star Baptist Church ever volunteered to to a Real Live Nativity Scene again, and I don't know if they caught the steer or the Llama. Life's stories rarely give us concrete resolution and this is one of them. However, it has given us many a laugh over the years and I have not been to a Real Live Nativity Scene since.

1 comment:

Caroline said...

I love this story! (And you told it so well.)