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Salvation Army Guys Get All The Chicks!
by Chris Minnick

The Salvation Army Guy on Liberty Street really knows how to ring that bell. He's got it all worked out. He stands there in front of Borders, dressed in an old tie-die shirt, beads, dirty blue jeans, wool socks and sandals. He's listening to the Grateful Dead and ringing along with the beat.

(editor's note: Let me make it perfectly clear that I've only seen this guy once, and I didn't care too much about him at the time. Therefore, I'm making up all the details here, except that there was a man standing there in front of Borders, on Liberty, ringing a bell along with some music that was provided by a portable tape player. I didn't pay attention to what he was wearing. I don't give a damn. For the sake of your enjoyment, and because I want to make some sort of point, I'm lying.)

According to local officials (I'm lying again), "Mr. Christmas Cheer", as he calls himself, has been ringing his bell on Liberty every Christmas season for twenty years.

Mr. Christmas Cheer's real name is Eddy Carpenter. Born in St. Louis in 1950, he graduated from the University of Michigan School of Music in 1975 with a P.H.D. in music composition. Carpenter stayed in Ann Arbor after he graduated because he "was crazy about the Christmas fever in this town - the greatest place on earth". After working for Domino's Pizza for ten years, Carpenter decided that he needed a change. He walked into the Salvation Army in Ypsilanti on his way home from work one day and said that he wanted to enlist. Unfortunately, Carpenter parked his car across the alley from the Salvation Army, in a spot clearly marked "Authorized Parking Only. Violators Will Be Towed." After enlisting in the Salvation Army, he spent five minutes too long trying to decide which of the numerous paintings hanging on the walls above the green and blue dishes would look best above his fire place. His car was indeed towed.

Disheartened, but still reeling from Christmas fever, Mr. Christmas Cheer began the journey that has made him a local legend. Bell in hand, he trudged out into the six feet of snow and headed for Ann Arbor.

About a mile away from the Salvation Army, Carpenter came upon a baby chicken with a broken wing. "I couldn't stand to see that bird die in the cold," he says, "so I wrapped him in my coat and vowed that from that day on I would dedicate my life to helping all of God's creatures." He named the bird Jerry, and for five years he spent most of his time between holiday seasons teaching Jerry to play the bell - a skill that won Jerry a first prize award on "America's Funniest Home Videos."

Jerry passed away five years ago, but Eddy Carpenter has not lost any of his Christmas spirit. He still rings his bell with the same tremendous skill and emotion as when Jerry stood next to him, proud as an eagle to be the only Salvation Army Chicken.

Mr. Christmas Cheer is beginning to feel the cold of the winters more these days. He admits that this may be the last year that he has the strength to dance, sing and ring the bell for twelve hours each day. As a long-time admirer and supporter of his art, I will miss him if he doesn't return next year. For those who have never seen him perform, Mr. Christmas Cheer promises that this year will be his best ever.

(editor's note: I will be writing a number of similar columns about Christmas in your local newspapers this year - under a number of pen names of course. Unfortunately, I am not the editor of any of these other publications, so I won't be able to insert notes to help you sort out the parts that I have to lie about. Please read them anyway.)

 

 

For the sake of your enjoyment, and because I want to make some sort of point, I'm lying.


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