Bill Stancil: Blame it on Gene Autry


Bill Stancil


By Bill Stancil
The Billboard

Friday, December 15, 2017

The tree is finally up and decorated with ornaments from years past, ours, my mama’s and some that my sister passed down to us. That makes it a good Christmas tree of memories.

There have been many Christmas movies and concerts on television with the glorious old Christmas carols that you and I remember from many years ago.

However, ask any child today what his or her favorite Christmas carol is, and the answer will be “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

When we were children, Santa Claus only had eight reindeer, and their names were “Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.”

Sometime while I was growing up, Gene Autry recorded “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and it told every child that in spite of nasty weather for Christmas, Santa Claus would not miss his flight around the world.

Back in those years, Gene Autry was a singing cowboy. We went to the Carolina Theater in downtown Rocky Mount to see him get the best of the outlaws also.

When Gene sang that Santa now had a reindeer with a glowing red nose to guide his sleigh, by golly we believed him! And we never missed a visit from Santa—at least not yet.

Lest you think otherwise, I am not putting Santa Claus, Gene Autry nor Rudolph before the real meaning of Christmas. I am merely recalling the story of how Rudolph came to be.

Jesus is real and Christmas is a celebration of his birth in our house and I hope it is in yours. Gene Autry was real, also, and spent his life entertaining folks with movies and songs, as did Roy Rogers.

That’s all it took to please children of my era, and I was leaving my childhood when Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was introduced to the public.

Christmas is a magic time for children and the song fit the Christmas imagination of children then, and still does today.

Of course, the child inside me enjoys Christmas as much now as I ever did, for it brings back so many wonderful memories with it.

We are still a week and a few days away from Christmas, but we are getting closer, and those visions of sugarplums and other good things are already dancing in our heads.

When I was a child, we did not go and sit on Santa’s lap, but we sure sent him letters to the radio station, so he would know what we were wishing for.

As we children gathered to play each day, we told each other what we were hoping Santa Claus would bring us. We had many detailed conversations about our wishes.

Back then, we did not know which of Santa’s reindeer would guide the sleigh.

Since then, radio, television and even the space station monitors Santa’s trip and keeps the public advised of where he is at any given time during his long trip.

Now that Rudolph is guiding the sleigh, his glowing nose keeps the earth aware of his progress, state by state and country by country.

So, this Christmas, if your children insist on listening to or singing the song about Rudolph, or even going out into the yard to look into the night sky for Rudolph, you can just blame it on Gene Autry.

Meanwhile, here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful, joyful Christmas this year, no matter who delivers your presents.