Finte hated it when they laughed at him.
“Nanah, nahna, nah, na! Santa’s never going to pick you,” they shouted.
Finte’s big nose had gotten in the way again. Today at Santa’s reindeer school they were practicing roof landings and Finte knocked over a TV antenna with his nose, and did a little dance as he regained control. Everyone laughed even harder and imitated the Finte Dance. .
“Finte, Finte, Finte,” the teacher shouted. “Do not watch the sleigh. Never worry about the sleigh. It will follow you. If it doesn’t. If it slips off the roof, you will feel it. You will all feel it and you will pull and lift it into the air and try again. If you are watching the sleigh. If you are watching Santa, you will not see where you’re going and worse things than bumping into something can happen. Now, everybody, try it again.”
And so it went, six months of training: listening for Santa’s commands; lifting off, flying and landing, dealing with rain, snow, and ice; steering around skyscrapers, mountains, towers, and trees; and most of all just getting used to the feel of the sleigh filled with presents and Santa.
Still, there was one terribly embarrassing moment left. It happened on the first day of the last week of training when Santa was the teacher and actually rode in the training sleigh. Finte was nervous and wanted in the worst way to look back to see Santa’s reactions. He knew better and kept his nose pointing straight ahead. That didn’t keep him from slipping once, and he almost pulled the sleigh and all the other reindeer off the roof. He was so strong, though, that he turned it into just a little slip that just slowed everybody down.
‘Santa probably noticed,’ Finte thought.
Santa did notice. After that first training run, he jumped out of the sleigh, moved to the front of the team and told the elves to unhook Finte.
‘Oh no,’ Finte thought, ‘It was the slip or it’s my nose or both. I’m finished.”
“That’s a mighty fine nose you’ve got there, Finte. Do you ever have trouble seeing around it?”
Finte shook his head, no, and said, “No sir, well just a little, but I’m used to it.”
“Well, I noticed the way you handled that slip even with that nose of yours. As strong and fast as you are, you should be at the front, not back there.” Santa told the elves to move Finte up to the front next to
So, for the rest of the week, Finte got used to leading the sleigh, something he had not done since that day long ago when he knocked over a TV antenna.
Finally, the big day came, the day Santa would pick his eight reindeer and give them their new names: Comet, Donner, Blitzen, Dancer, Vixen, Cupid, Prancer, and Dasher.
One by one Santa called out the names: “Brina you are now Blixen, Immergrun you are Dasher, Zoey will be Cupid, Corridore will make a fine Comet, Stetig is Vixen, Sven will be called Prancer, and Artur will now be Dancer.
Finte was disappointed but not surprised. He didn’t really expect to be picked, not with his big nose. He looked around at the nine other reindeer who were still waiting. Flossie and Glossie, the leaders of the other sleigh were at the front of the crowd. Five of the reindeer Santa already picked were from their team. Finte was pretty sure one of them, probably Glossie would be the lead. That’s who Santa was looking at as he took a deep breath and started talking again.
“That leaves just our lead reindeer, one who is just as strong and fast and smart as all the reindeer who pull my sleigh have to be, and it’s been a very difficult decision making this most important choice because this is a good class, at least ten of you could just as easily be the lead reindeer this year. However, it would be a shame to ignore the ability to clear a path through fog, or snow, or sleet. Something a reindeer with a big nose can do better than anyone else.
Finte, now Donner couldn’t believe it. He was so excited he spun in a circle knocking over or pushing away everyone around him. Then he winked and did a few steps of the Finte Dance which then became simply, The Donner Dance.