Monday, December 26, 2016

A Most Unusual Christmas Present

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, a seasonal favorite written in 1946, was a far cry from the present, Bruce Tolhurst, my neighbor and best friend growing up on East High Street, his sisters Kathy and Misty and cousins David and John Purple, received in 1951. Imagine the most unusual Christmas gift you might ever receive. Theirs topped it. Shipped by train from Texas in a wooden crate was a Mexican Burro - Uncle Buster!

Uncle Buster ca. 1956

 As the story goes, aunt Mary Purple Newhall hadn't called Bruce's father or mother, Allen or Eleanor (her sister) of the impending arrival. The good news arrived when the Hartford Station Master called Allen asking him to "come pick up his ass!" Allen arranged with his best friend Jack Peters, owner of a pickup truck, to transport the burro back to East Hampton where a stable was created from an old shed at the rear of the property. I remember Uncle Buster fondly as his pen enclosure of over two acres came up to our family's property line. In the summer after shucking corn husks, we would feed them to a very happy burro - a nice variety from dry oats. Apples and carrots were other favorites. That Christmas, Mr. and Mrs. Tolhurst decided that Uncle Buster was going to be a real surprise. Besides not telling the children, they also kept the secret from Louise and Nelson Purple, David and John's parents, and grandmother Eleanor Purple. On Christmas morning the families gathered together for 'presents and dinner.' After opening presents, Bruce's father retrieved Uncle Buster from the shed and brought him to the kitchen door of his grandparents apartment, announcing "surprise, another present." The kids were thrilled. Aunt Louise apparently not so much. She was quoted as saying: "Oh no, not another mouth to feed!"

Allan Markham feeding Uncle Buster ca. 1956

Mark Condon, Kathy Tolhurst, Bruce Tolhurst with dad Allen Tolhurst holding reins

Peter, Bruce, Kathy & Misty (holding Buster)

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