LAKEVIEW — You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen; Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen … but how many times have you actually met a reindeer face to face?
Students at Lakeview Elementary School had a chance to do just that last Thursday when two reindeer visited the children courtesy of Anderson & Girls Orchards in Stanton. The two reindeer (grown and juvenile) came to the school at the request of Lakeview preschool teacher Carmen Anderson, whose father, Terry, owns the business.
According to Carmen, the family got into the “critter business” when she was still in high school, around 2000.
“We started out with just goats,” Carmen said. “It grew from there.”
The farm’s current retinue boasts zebras, monkeys, camels, llamas and a host of other species. Throughout the year, the family shows the animals at various events around the area. This time of year, however, the reindeer are, understandably, the most popular.
In the weekends leading up to Christmas, the Anderson’s transport the reindeer to the small town of Ashley, where they take part in that town’s holiday festivities, which include a steam engine train ride from Ashley to Owosso.
“We’re there every Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Carmen said. “And dad does take the reindeer to other places throughout Michigan, but just in the wintertime. People usually hire us to bring the baby goats or the camel to their festivals or whatever in the summertime.”
The Lakeview students, particularly the younger crowd, had many questions for Terry Anderson regarding his reindeer, which — seen up close — appeared considerably larger than most of them were expecting. Once that initial surprise in size wore off, however, the kids managed to voice the question foremost on their minds: Can reindeer really fly?
“Well, of course they can fly,” said Terry, without a moment’s hesitation. “But I can never get them to do it. Only Santa’s magic can make them fly. We can’t do it.”
More than one first-grader nodded thoughtfully over this bit of useful information.
Terry went on to share news even more shocking: Santa’s reindeer, he figures, must be females, since male reindeer typically lose their antlers by November.
“The boys all lose their antlers long before Christmas,” he explained. “That’s why we think all Santa’s reindeer must be girls.”
According to Carmen, the reindeer visit could become an annual event at Lakeview Elementary School.
“We’ll bring them again as long as the administration is willing to let us,” Carmen said. “Although, the superintendent originally requested the marmosets. They’re really small monkeys and they don’t travel well. We really wouldn’t be able to travel here with them.”
Considering the fact monkeys never helped deliver a single sleigh-full of Christmas presents, that might just have been for the best, as far as the kids were concerned.