December 1949 – As the year was coming to a close, I decided it was time to trade in my Levis and boots for Brooks Brothers suits … I left my wrangler job on the Flying M.E. dude ranch in Nevada, and with my new bride in tow (who I met on the ranch a year earlier) together we went to her hometown in New Jersey so she could introduce her cowboy husband to her East Coast family and friends at a round of holiday cocktail parties. The first family member I met was my new father-in-law, Jack Allison. Despite our very different backgrounds (he was what was called an Eastern blueblood), he took an immediate liking to me and made me feel comfortable. Like a lot of Easterners, Jack had a fascination with the West and wanted to know everything about cowboying. He was a man of many artistic talents … painting, musician, singer, songwriter. At that first lunch meeting, before I knew what happened, Jack had tapped me to play Santa Claus at the upcoming Christmas party for members’ grandchildren at the Englewood Men’s Club (see photo) … Every Christmas since then, when I see a Santa, I’m reminded of this gentleman of the old school and his kindness to a stranger.
Merry Christmas to one and all!