It had all started with the spring floods, when the Dauphin River First Nations band community had been almost entirely wiped out. The access road was washed out and most were evacuated. Only a very few were able to stay, and they ended up without supplies of food, water and medical supplies. It was then that all the Scouting and Guiding groups in Winnipeg got together and started raising donations of clothing, blankets, and non-perishable foods. Furniture and household items had been donated by other organizations when the rebuilding had begun. But now it was almost Christmas, the people were moving back, and help was needed.
So the idea of the ‘Santa Special’ was suggested by Winnipeg bus drivers, and Arwin was selected to drive. With her in the well packed bus were the Commissioners of the combined Scouting and Guiding organizations, two Queen’s Venturers, one girl one boy aged 17, and one Cub Scout and one Brownie, aged 10. All the rest of the bus was filled with securely netted supplies. . During the last month, perishable foods had been offered by grocery chains, and on the day before the trip was to start, all of the promised food was brought to the gathering place.
Everyone in the bus had backpacks containing their own supplies for at least a week. Arwin also had her own, and carefully secured at the front of the bus was a box of sterno and four folding sterno stove kits, as hot food and drinks, as well as some heating would be needed.
The bus left the gathering point amid loud cheers from a large crowd of dignitaries, Scouts and families. The Scout band was playing songs usually sung around campfires, and seasonal tunes. Flags were flying, banners flapping and everyone was shouting ‘goodbye, have a good trip,’ and the like. It was a grand send off, and those in the bus were affected by it to the point where it was impossible for them to sit down.
However, once they had gone a few blocks, Arwin slowed the bus and insisted that everyone sit down and buckle up. “I can’t drive safely with all of you hopping around,” she said. They obeyed and soon the bus was moving along, heading for the highway. It wasn’t long before they were singing some of the songs the band had been playing.
“Ah!” Arwin sighed, “On the highway at last, now we can really move.” The bus sped along, the passengers quite now, watching the scenery flow past. Billy Jones, the cub, excitedly pointed out the moose in the snowy field below the highway. “Boy, this is going to be so much fun!” Brownie Annabeth Mitchell exclaimed. “I can hardly wait to get to Dauphin Lake. They are going to be so happy with all the great stuff we’re bringing.”
Commissioner Ted Young laughed. “Yes, Annabeth, it will be great. I’m looking forward to it, too. Everyone worked so hard to gather all these things, and we are honoured to be chosen for the delivery. In a way, we are all Santa Clauses.” Billy broke up in a fit of giggles. “You even kind of look like him!” he said. Ted was short and rounded, and had white hair and beard. He grinned. “Ho Ho Ho!” he went. Everyone laughed.
It had started snowing, and soon it was snowing heavily, and the wind was picking up. Arwin slowed, as visibility was getting bad. The others were having too much fun to notice that the weather was deteriorating.
Elizabeth Thomas, one of the Venturers, stated singing. Before she was through the first line, everyone, including Arwin, was singing along.
“Up on the housetop reindeer pause
Out jumps good old Santa Claus
Down through the chimney with lots of toys
All for the little ones, Christmas joys
Ho, ho ho! Who wouldn't go?
Ho, ho ho! Who wouldn't go?
Up on the housetop, click, click, click
Down through the chimney with old Saint Nick”
They were happily, loudly, singing the second verse: “First comes the stocking of little Nell Oh, dear Santa fill it well…” when they were surprised as Arwin pulled the bus off the road. They looked around, and only then saw how bad the weather had become.
“Sorry, folks,” Arwin said. “I don’t dare drive any more, I can’t see two inches in front of the bus.”
“No,” Ted Young said. “Well, we have supplies, and heat, and a washroom at the back, we’ll be ok. Did you radio back?”
“Yes, I did. They will advise the Chief. I only hope this doesn’t last too long! We want to get these things delivered – they really need them – more now than ever!”
“To true!” Ted exclaimed. Everyone agreed, and then they started making plans to keep warm, safe and well.
The blizzard lasted three days, and it was another two days before snow plows were able to reach them and dig the bus out. Scout leaders came out, too, on snowmobiles, and brought supplies to replenish what was used, and make sure the young folks were all fine.
“Well,” Arwin said after the plows had gone ahead and the snowmobiles returned to Winnipeg. “That was not exactly what I expected. I wonder what else can happen between here and Dauphin Lake?”