Ah, welcome, welcome, dear visitors. Welcome to the Hunter’s Lodge. So nice to see fresh faces again around this place.

Let me introduce myself, I am Mo, Head of Decorations here. I’ve had this position for over fifty years already. Yes sir, that is a long time! I have seen the place change, seen the people come and go. Do you know I even remember the first TV brought in? It was one of those old antenna types, where you never got a clear image on the screen unless someone held it in one hand, balancing on the edge of the cupboard. I’ve also seen Mister make a tumble down from it. Of course, he would tell his friends he had a serious skiing accident afterwards.

Don’t worry ma’am, there is a dish on the roof now, so you don’t have to worry about missing your favorite TV shows. The Hunter’s Lodge has all the modern comfort you can dream of.

Ah, the times… I have seen it all. Fifty years already. You’d think it was my first job, won’t you? But surprisingly, it wasn’t. No, ole Mo was an explorer in his younger days. I roamed the woods around here, and was afraid of nothing. I was pretty handsome, back then. I still am, hehehe.

But then there was the hunting accident. Yes, they shot me. Not deliberately of course, these guys are really professionals. But you know how it goes, a little distraction, the sun in their eyes…

I don’t blame the guy who did it. He even drove me away himself, to one of those taxi thingies. To get me all fixed up and better again. The amputation was a surprise, I must admit, but Mo doesn’t let such a thing get him down. The hunter guy, Tanner was his name, he took his responsibility and brought me to his home, and later to the cabin he owned, up here in the mountains. He let me stay here, and installed me as the new Head of Decorations. I was so proud!

The Tanners came to visit me up here during all of their vacations. They loved the woods and the mountains. I was especially fond of their daughter, little Miss Katy.

Miss Katy was only a baby when I first saw her. But the bond we grew was a special one. Don’t get any ideas now, I have never felt anything romantically for her. I’m not a perv! Miss Katy and me… we just hit it off well. We seemed to understand each other.

It started when she was alone with me in the living room one day, and she looked at me in that funny way. Every three year old looks funny, I hear you say. Well true, but only she could look at me like that, I really miss it. Anyway, she told me, “KaKa make Rudolf pwetty” – she always called me Rudolf, you know – and then she colored my nose with a red marker.

Now, the markers in those days were nothing like the junk they are making these days. No, when you colored something back then, it was colored. Unerasable. Permanent. Even the taxi dude couldn’t fix it. But I never regretted it, it made me proud when little Miss Katy had made me up like that. It’s that special bond I told you about. I have always carried it as a Medal of Honor.

Mister Tanner had not been so happy though. And he had given Miss Katy a good spanking for it. You could still do that back in those days, without getting arrested for it or getting sued by your child. Some kids nowadays could use one too, if you’d ask me – not that anyone ever does. But I’m drifting off…

Mister had told little Miss that he had spent a lot of money on me, and that she had ruined me. Now, I didn’t felt ruined at all, but that Mister had spent so much money on me, that was news to me.

Miss Katy considered me her special friend since that day though. She put a Christmas hat on my head every December, and sang songs about me and my pretty red nose. She also put balls in my antlers, and said I was the prettiest Rudolf in the world. It gave my phantom heart a warm feeling.

I adored Miss Katy. I watched how she had grown every vacation, and how she couldn’t wait to show me everything she had learned at school during their absence. She also shared me all of her secrets. First they were the naughty things she had done around the house, but later also about the boys she liked. She even confessed me there was a girl once, but I think that wasn’t very serious. Little Miss was always so full of life…

When she was a teen and started going out during their stays, she always asked me how she looked, and if her behind didn’t look fat in the dresses she had picked out. I always was the smart one and didn’t say a word, as you can never know what the correct answer is to those questions. But she was always gorgeous. My precious little Miss Katy, growing so big. And so fast.

But then one December night, Miss Katy didn’t return home after a night out. There was panic around the Lodge. Mister yelled at the phone and Misses cried the whole time. They kept pacing around below me, which made me nervous and made my phantom hooves ache. Until the phone rang, and they both cried and screamed at the same time.

Little Miss Katy didn’t come home anymore. A slippery road, they had said. No one’s fault really. No one to blame either. Maybe if I had my hooves still, I could have done something. Maybe not.

They cremated her a week later. They didn’t put her on the chimney, like they had done with Aunt Theresa. They don’t do that anymore, I heard Misses tell me. She used to seek comfort from her little girl’s friend, I think. I never could find the words to give it to her.

The Tanners never were the same again. They lost joy in their life, and came to visit me less and less. Too much memories, I’m afraid. Pretty soon, the real estate lady started visiting me, and showed strangers around. Several people stayed for a few days, but no one ever talked to me again.

But please, enjoy your visit. And don’t mind old Mo. I just watch over the cabin. And the fireplace. And the chimney, with the urn still there, containing the little bags of marihuana.

Little Miss had made me promise never to say a word about them.