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
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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