Rudolph’s Distant Cousin
Rufus and his Family Tree
“Rufus” insists on wearing his favorite Christmas ornaments for you. As far as lineage is concerned, Rufus, the mule, is a distant cousin to “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.”
Rufus is not your traditional mule. He’s from the Ozarks. He’s a powerhouse and a trend setter who prefers argyle sweaters to bib overalls and a life of eating sorghum to pulling the treading pole of the sorghum press.
Birth of Rufus
Rufus was born in an art studio. Darrell’s [Wiskur] imagination was in Christmas mode as he sketched and carved patterns and characters with Peter Engler, a famous wood-carver and friend.
Peter designed Santa carvings after the style of St. Nicholas or Father Christmas. His Santa’s were coveted by tourists to his woodcarving shop in Branson, Mo. He was always carving, but no Santa of his ever sat on the shelf with a For Sale tag. Rather, they were sold by special requests from a long waiting list of tourists who became friends and collectors of his delightful characters.
The mule is noble in Missouri, so Darrell whittled twigs for antlers and added a bulbous nose and a Santa hat. It wasn’t long before Rufus the mule emerged as Rufus the red nose reindeer!
Home in the Ozarks
Twinkling lights (over four million at Silver Dollar City, Mo., alone) outnumber neon lights in the Ozarks during the holidays. Here, deer wander into our yards and nibble on shrubs and rose bushes; buffalo graze on ridges at our premier golf course (Buffalo Ridge, Branson, Mo.); and mules hold a place of distinction on farms and at theme parks, pulling plows and grinding sorghum. It’s a perfect home for Rufus.
It’s Christmas Eve, and I saw Rufus peeking out the barn window, hoping to catch a glimpse of cousin Rudolph at the head of Santa’s sleigh.
Merry Christmas and the happiest of newest New Year’s!