A Minnesota farmer and his 12 cows really deliver in the original Substitute Santa Claus tale!
If you hear “clomp, clomp, clomp” on the rooftop this Christmas, it might not be Santa’s reindeer. Instead, it might be a dozen cows owned by a chubby farmer named Gonopolis.
“Mr. Gonopolis And His 12 Holsteins — A Christmas Story,” is a book about when Santa Claus gets sick, and an old farmer and his dozen prize milk cows pitch in and deliver the presents. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixon are replaced with black and white spotted cows with names like Bessie, Bossie, Gertrude, Jessie, Sally, Mary, Karma, Clara, Hulda, Carrie, Oprah and Sigrid.
Written in vivid verse and illustrated with full color illustrations, it has become a seasonal Christmas gift standard in Minnesota, where it was first published in 1985.
In this bovine version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” the herd survives a series of misadventures including a 12-cow pileup on a roof, an encounter with a family’s attack dogfish and a rescue from near-drowning by a group of heroic barnflies. Mr. Gonopolis doesn’t get Santa’s instructions on how to deliver the Christmas gifts quite right — in fact, he really messes things up! But in the process he discovers the true meaning of Christmas isn’t the Christmas gifts themselves, but the gift of caring.
Author and illustrator Uncle Hyggly (aka Charles Smith-Dewey) first wrote “Mr. Gonopolis And His 12 Holsteins” as a Christmas gift for his six nephews and nieces. Soon all their classmates wanted to get Mr. Gonopolis as a gift the next Christmas and it quickly developed a following. He has written and illustrated three other books under the pseudonym of “Uncle Hyggly.”.
Uncle Hyggly in collaboration with composer and performer George Maurer, has created audio versions of the tale. The original audio version was played on more than 50 radio stations coast-to-coast, and the duo has performed the story on stage in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The story’s gentle humor and strong midwestern values have inspired several elementary schools in states including Minnesota, Iowa and Maryland to base their Christmas pageants on it.