I’ve got a friend everybody calls El Cheepo. He got the nickname after he tried to bargain with a bunch of kids during his senior class trip to Mexico. Everyday he’d try to buy something from the kids and they wouldn’t budge on the price. After a couple of days, they started calling him El Cheepo and it stuck.
Thirty-something years later, people still call him El Cheepo.
Well, one year his grandmother, Mrs. Lummie, put in that she wanted to go see Christmas City before she died. For some reason, Christmas City was on her bucket list. So, she nagged El Cheepo for weeks to go see Christmas City.
Christmas City was a tourist attraction in the little town of Ariton, just a few miles north of Dothan. Christmas City started out small; just some guy decorating his house with a few lights.
Each year, the guy added more lights and more lights and more lights. I guess it became an obsession for the guy because he had more lights on his house than Chevy Chase in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”
Eventually he started decorating the woods around his house, and that was when Christmas City was born. Well, everybody in the surrounding counties would come see this guy’s house.
You couldn’t miss it. I’m pretty sure you could see it from orbit. As you were driving toward Ariton, you could see the glow from all the lights five miles away.
At some point, the guy put up a booth and started charging $5 per car.
I guess he had to start charging. He had about five million lights and every time he turned them on they had to fire up an extra reactor at Farley Nuclear Plant.
Well, Mrs. Lummie just had to see all the lights. But, she was to old to drive, so she needed somebody to take her. Since El Cheepo was her favorite grandson, he got the honor.
Well, El Cheepo picked her up and she wanted him to drive her car. It was a big Cadillac that was left over from the 1960s and it was about twice the size of a normal car.
When they arrived at Christmas city, Mrs. Lummie put in to drive through Christmas City. Well, El Cheepo gave in and put Mrs. Lummie behind the wheel.
He said the minute he closed the door, she took off. El Cheepo said it was the first time he ever wore a seat belt.
Well, they were tearing trough Christmas City and Mrs. Lummie was talking about all the lights and where the man got them. El Cheepo said he thought he could hear someone screaming and turned around and there was a guy on a golf cart behind them.
El Cheepo said he didn’t pay any attention and they kept driving. Finally, Mrs. Lummie decided to slow down to get a better look at Baby Jesus in the manger.
When she slowed down the man on the golf cart cut in front of her and stopped. He jumped out of the cart and started screaming “What are you doing?”
Mrs. Lummie said, “I came to see Christmas City.”
The man yelled out, “Well you can’t take it with you.”
El Cheepo said he looked behind the car and Mrs. Lummie had gotten some lights hung on the back bumper and was dragging half the lights in Christmas City behind her.
Huck Treadwell’s column appears Tuesdays.