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Title: A Defective Santa Claus

Author: James Whitcomb Riley

Illustrator: C. M. Relyea

Will Vawter

Release date: December 25, 2006 [eBook #20181]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Juliet Sutherland, David Garcia and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at


Book Cover



A Defective Santa Claus





A Defective Santa Claus


With Pictures by



Copyright 1904
James Whitcomb Riley






Little Boy! Halloo!—halloo!

Can't you hear me calling you?—

Little Boy that used to be,

Come in here and play with me.




A Defective Santa Claus



A Defective Santa Claus

Allus when our Pa he's away

Nen Uncle Sidney comes to stay

At our house here—so Ma an' me

An' Etty an' Lee-Bob won't be

Afeard ef anything at night

Might happen—like Ma says it might.


(Ef Trip wuz big, I bet you he

'Uz best watch-dog you ever see!)

An' so last winter—ist before

It's go' be Chris'mus-Day,—w'y, shore

Enough, Pa had to haf to go

To 'tend a lawsuit—"An' the snow

Ist right fer Santy Claus!" Pa said,

As he clumb in old Ayersuz' sled,

An' said he's sorry he can't be

With us that night—"'Cause," he-says-ee,

"Old Santy might be comin' here—

This very night of all the year




I' got to be away!—so all

You kids must tell him—ef he call—

He's mighty welcome, an' yer Pa

He left his love with you an' Ma


An' Uncle Sid!" An' clucked, an' leant

Back, laughin'—an' away they went!

An' Uncle wave' his hands an' yells

"Yer old horse ort to have on bells!"

But Pa yell back an' laugh an' say

"I 'spect when Santy come this way

It's time enough fer sleighbells nen!"

An' holler back "Good-by!" again,

An' reach out with the driver's whip

An' cut behind an' drive back Trip.

An' so all day it snowed an' snowed!

An' Lee-Bob he ist watched the road,




In his high-chair; an' Etty she

U'd play with Uncle Sid an' me—

Like she wuz he'ppin' fetch in wood

An' keepin' old fire goin' good,


Where Ma she wuz a-cookin' there

An' kitchen, too, an' ever'where!

An' Uncle say, "'At's ist the way

Yer Ma's b'en workin', night an' day,

Sence she hain't big as Etty is

Er Lee-Bob in that chair o' his!"

Nen Ma she'd laugh 't what Uncle said,

An' smack an' smoove his old bald head

An' say "Clear out the way till I

Can keep that pot from b'ilin' dry!"

Nen Uncle, when she's gone back to

The kitchen, says, "We ust to do




Some cookin' in the ashes.—Say,

S'posin' we try some, thataway!"

An' nen he send us to tell Ma

Send two big 'taters in he saw


Pa's b'en a-keepin' 'cause they got

The premiun at the Fair. An' what

You think?—He rake a grea'-big hole

In the hot ashes, an' he roll

Them old big 'taters in the place

An' rake the coals back—an' his face

Ist swettin' so's he purt'-nigh swear

'Cause it's so hot! An' when they're there

'Bout time 'at we fergit 'em, he

Ist rake 'em out again—an' gee!—

He bu'st 'em with his fist wite on

A' old stove-led, while Etty's gone




To git the salt, an' butter, too—

Ist like he said she haf to do,

No matter what Ma say! An' so

He salt an' butter 'em, an' blow


'Em cool enough fer us to eat—

An' me-o-my! they're hard to beat!

An' Trip 'ud ist lay there an' pant

Like he'd laugh out loud, but he can't.

Nen Uncle fill his pipe—an' we

'Ud he'p him light it—Sis an' me,—

But mostly little Lee-Bob, 'cause

"He's the best Lighter ever wuz!"

Like Uncle telled him wunst when Lee-

Bob cried an' jerked the light from me,

He wuz so mad! So Uncle pat

An' pet him. (Lee-Bob's ust to that—




'Cause he's the little-est, you know,

An' allus has b'en humored so!)

Nen Uncle gits the flat-arn out,

An', while he's tellin' us all 'bout


Old Chris'mus-times when he's a kid,

He ist cracked hickernuts, he did,

Till they's a crockful, mighty nigh!

An' when they're all done by an' by,

He raked the red coals out again

An' telled me, "Fetch that popcorn in,

An' old three-leggud skillut—an'

The led an' all now, little man,—

An' yer old Uncle here 'ull show

You how corn's popped, long years ago

When me an' Santy Claus wuz boys

On Pap's old place in Illinoise!—




An' your Pa, too, wuz chums, all through,

With Santy!—Wisht Pa'd be here, too!"

Nen Uncle sigh at Ma, an' she

Pat him again, an' say to me


An' Etty,—"You take warning fair!—

Don't talk too much, like Uncle there,

Ner don't fergit, like him, my dears,

That 'little pitchers has big ears!'"

But Uncle say to her, "Clear out!—

Yer brother knows what he's about.—

You git your Chris'mus-cookin' done

Er these pore childern won't have none!"

Nen Trip wake up an' raise, an' nen

Turn roun' an' nen lay down again.

An' one time Uncle Sidney say,—

"When dogs is sleepin' thataway,




Like Trip, an' whimpers, it's a sign

He'll ketch eight rabbits—mayby nine

Afore his fleas'll wake him—nen

He'll bite hisse'f to sleep again


An try to dream he's go' ketch ten."

An' when Ma's gone again back in

The kitchen, Uncle scratch his chin

An' say, "When Santy Claus an' Pa

An' me wuz little boys—an' Ma,

When she's 'bout big as Etty there;—

W'y,—'When we're growed—no matter where,'

Santy he cross' his heart an' say,—

'I'll come to see you, all, some day

When you' got childerns—all but me

An' pore old Sid!'" Nen Uncle he

Ist kindo' shade his eyes an' pour'




'Bout forty-'leven bushels more

O' popcorn out the skillut there

In Ma's new basket on the chair.

An' nen he telled us—an' talk' low,


"So Ma can't hear," he say:—"You know

Yer Pa know', when he drived away,

Tomorry's go' be Chris'mus-Day;—

Well, nen tonight," he whisper, "see?—

It's go' be Chris'mus-Eve," says-ee,

"An', like yer Pa hint, when he went,

Old Santy Claus (now hush!) he's sent

Yer Pa a postul-card, an' write

He's shorely go' be here tonight....

That's why yer Pa's so bored to be

Away tonight, when Santy he

Is go' be here, sleighbells an' all,




To make you kids a Chris'mus-call!"

An' we're so glad to know fer shore

He's comin', I roll on the floor—

An' here come Trip a-waller'n' roun'


An' purt'-nigh knock the clo'eshorse down!—

An' Etty grab Lee-Bob an' prance

All roun' the room like it's a dance—

Till Ma she come an' march us nen

To dinner, where we're still again,

But tickled so we ist can't eat

But pie, an' ist the hot mincemeat

With raisins in.—But Uncle et,

An' Ma. An' there they set an' set

Till purt'-nigh supper-time; nen we

Tell him he's got to fix the Tree

'Fore Santy gits here, like he said.




We go nen to the old woodshed—

All bundled up, through the deep snow—

"An' snowin' yet, jee-rooshy-O!"

Uncle he said, an' he'p us wade


Back where's the Chris'mus-Tree he's made

Out of a little jackoak-top

He git down at the sawmill-shop—

An' Trip 'ud run ahead, you know,

An' 'tend-like he 'uz eatin' snow—

When we all waddle back with it;

An' Uncle set it up—an' git

It wite in front the fireplace—'cause

He says "'Tain't so 'at Santy Claus

Comes down all chimblies,—least, tonight

He's comin' in this house all right—

By the front-door, as ort to be!—




We'll all be hid where we can see!"

Nen he look up, an' he see Ma

An' say, "It's ist too bad their Pa

Can't be here, so's to see the fun


The childern will have, ever' one!"

Well, we!—We hardly couldn't wait

Till it wuz dusk, an' dark an' late

Enough to light the lamp!—An' Lee-

Bob light a candle on the Tree—

"Ist one—'cause I'm 'The Lighter'!"—Nen

He clumb on Uncle's knee again

An' hug us bofe;—an' Etty git

Her little chist an' set on it

Wite clos't, while Uncle telled some more

'Bout Santy Claus, an' clo'es he wore

"All maked o' furs, an' trimmed as white




As cotton is, er snow at night!"

An' nen, all sudden-like, he say,—

"Hush! Listen there! Hain't that a sleigh

An' sleighbells jinglin'?" Trip go "whooh!"


Like he hear bells an' smell 'em, too.

Nen we all listen.... An'-sir, shore

Enough, we hear bells—more an' more

A-jinglin' clos'ter—clos'ter still

Down the old crook-road roun' the hill.

An' Uncle he jumps up, an' all

The chairs he jerks back by the wall

An' th'ows a' overcoat an' pair

O' winder-curtains over there

An' says, "Hide quick, er you're too late!—

Them bells is stoppin' at the gate!—

Git back o' them-'air chairs an' hide,




'Cause I hear Santy's voice outside!"

An' Bang! bang! bang! we heerd the door—

Nen it flewed open, an' the floor

Blowed full o' snow—that's first we saw,


Till little Lee-Bob shriek' at Ma

"There's Santy Claus!—I know him by

His big white mufftash!"—an' ist cry

An' laugh an' squeal an' dance an' yell

Till, when he quiet down a spell,

Old Santy bow an' th'ow a kiss

To him—an' one to me an' Sis—

An' nen go clos't to Ma an' stoop

An' kiss her—An' nen give a whoop

That fainted her!—'Cause when he bent

An' kiss her, he ist backed an' went

Wite 'ginst the Chris'mus-Tree ist where




The candle's at Lee-Bob lit there!—

An' set his white-fur belt afire—

An' blaze streaked roun' his waist an' higher

Wite up his old white beard an' th'oat!—


Nen Uncle grabs th' old overcoat

An' flops it over Santy's head,

An' swing the door wide back an' said,

"Come out, old man!—an' quick about

It!—I've ist got to put you out!"

An' out he sprawled him in the snow—

"Now roll!" he says—"Hi-roll-ee-O!"—

An' Santy, sputter'n' "Ouch! Gee-whiz!"

Ist roll an' roll fer all they is!

An' Trip he's out there, too,—I know,

'Cause I could hear him yappin' so—

An' I heerd Santy, wunst er twic't,




Say, as he's rollin', "Drat the fice't!"

Nen Uncle come back in, an' shake

Ma up, an' say, "Fer mercy-sake!—

He hain't hurt none!" An' nen he said,—


"You youngsters h'ist up-stairs to bed!—

Here! kiss yer Ma 'Good-night,' an' me,—

We'll he'p old Santy fix the Tree—

An' all yer whistles, horns an' drums

I'll he'p you toot when morning comes!"

It's long while 'fore we go to sleep,—

'Cause down-stairs, all-time somepin' keep

A-kindo' scufflin' roun' the floors—

An' openin' doors, an' shettin' doors—

An' could hear Trip a-whinin', too,

Like he don't know ist what to do—




An' tongs a-clankin' down k'thump!—

Nen some one squonkin' the old pump—

An' Wooh! how cold it soun' out there!

I could ist see the pump-spout where


It's got ice chin-whiskers all wet

An' drippy—An' I see it yet!

An' nen, seem-like, I hear some mens

A-talkin' out there by the fence,

An' one says, "Oh, 'bout twelve o'clock!"

"Nen," 'nother'n says, "Here's to you, Doc!—

God bless us ever' one!" An' nen

I heerd the old pump squonk again.

An' nen I say my prayer all through

Like Uncle Sidney learn' me to,—

"O Father mine, e'en as Thine own,

This child looks up to Thee alone:




Asleep or waking, give him still

His Elder Brother's wish and will."

An' that's the last I know.... Till Ma

She's callin' us—an' so is Pa,—


He holler "Chris'mus-gif'!" an' say,—

"I'm got back home fer Chris'mus-Day!—

An' Uncle Sid's here, too—an' he

Is nibblin' 'roun' yer Chris'mus-Tree!"

Nen Uncle holler, "I suppose

Yer Pa's so proud he's froze his nose

He wants to turn it up at us,

'Cause Santy kick' up such a fuss—

Tetchin' hisse'f off same as ef

He wuz his own fireworks hisse'f!"

An' when we're down-stairs,—shore enough,

Pa's nose is froze an' salve an' stuff




All on it—an' one hand's froze, too,

An' got a old yarn red-and-blue

Mitt on it—"An' he's froze some more

Acrost his chist, an' kindo' sore


All roun' his dy-fram," Uncle say.—

"But Pa he'd ort a-seen the way

Santy bear up last night when that-

Air fire break out, an' quicker'n scat

He's all a-blazin', an' them-'air

Gun-cotton whiskers that he wear

Ist flashin'!—till I burn a hole

In the snow with him, and he roll

The front-yard dry as Chris'mus jokes

Old parents plays on little folks!

But, long's a smell o' tow er wool,

I kep' him rollin' beautiful!—




Till I wuz shore I shorely see

He's squenched! W'y, hadn't b'en fer me,

That old man might a-burnt clear down

Clean—plum'—level with the groun'!"


Nen Ma say, "There, Sid; that'll do!—

Breakfast is ready—Chris'mus, too.—

Your voice 'ud soun' best, sayin' Grace

Say it." An' Uncle bow' his face

An' say so long a Blessing nen,

Trip bark' two times 'fore it's "A-men!"