The six reindeer at Disher’s Buckeye Reindeer Farm near Waterville will spend Christmas Eve quietly munching on hay and pellets and no doubt hoping for snow.
They have had their share of public appearances this Christmas season and have hobnobbed with a few Santas in their travels, but they have Dec. 24 and 25 off.
The pride and joy of their owner Ron Disher, Jingle, Punkin, Dancer, Dasher, Olentangy, and Scioto range from 4 to 14 years old. They are all females, and Mr. Disher considers it to be a small herd. In 2002 he had 33 reindeer before selling them and rebuilding the herd.
Usually he takes only two of the six for showings and the ones that are selected depend on how they behaved at the last show. If they become rambunctious they are grounded.
Olgentangy and Scioto, named for Ohio rivers, behaved so well last week in Willoughby, Ohio, that they got to go last Sunday to a Christmas party in Toledo. Mr. Disher also recently took some of the herd to the holiday festival in Pemberville.
Mr. Disher taught science and biology in Liberty Center, Sylvania, and Toledo for 31 years, but he always found time for his first love of farming. He traces his ancestral history to Switzerland and credits it to the family’s agricultural background.
“If my poultry and livestock hadn’t brought me pleasure all my life I wouldn’t have done it," he said. He holds degrees in animal science from Ohio State University and Bowling Green State University and a master’s degree in vocational education from the University of Toledo. His extensive community service includes eight years on the Providence Township board of trustees. His many honors include being elected to the Anthony Wayne Alumni Hall of Fame. He was a member of the school’s first graduating class in 1951.
The reindeer are a big part of Mr. Disher’s year-round Christmas observance that began when he was a youngster selling Christmas trees at the Disher family farm near Whitehouse.
“Christmas has always meant a lot to our family through generations,” he said. “I am simply reliving what they did.”
I visited Mr. Disher and the reindeer after receiving copies of a book, Santa Claus and Claudine, the Happiest Reindeer Ever, Mr. Disher’s latest project. The book combines the Disher family’s Christmas enthusiasm and loyalty to reindeer into a delightful fantasy written for children by Mr. Disher and his daughter, Megan. The father-daughter story is published in five books from small to large. The largest is a coloring book for children.
The story begins on Christmas Day at the North Pole when Santa reports that he and his reindeer are tired after their all night deliveries and that something will be needed next year to give them more energy.
That need was granted by Claudine, an abandoned baby reindeer that Santa found in a snow drift and that grew up to join the sleigh team and make everyone happy, but only after the Wicked Witch of the North Pole and the Queen of the Snow are involved in the fantasy.
The books are beautifully illustrated by artist Leslie Kay Hertzfeld of Grand Rapids.
Megan has a degree in science and biology from Bowling Green State University and is now studying at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus to be a physician assistant.
There is a Claudine in the herd, but she is mounted and is used for photos only and is kept wrapped and under cover. Mr. Disher said that it is dangerous for children to have their pictures taken with live reindeer if they are not in a pen. Claudine, the mounted reindeer that is in costume is from Fairbanks, Alaska. Before being shipped to a taxidermist, the meat went into the Alaskan reindeer meat program.
Mr. Disher is active in the Reindeer Owners and Breeders Association and founded the Reindeer Research Project Endowment with a purpose of bettering the quality of life for Alaskan reindeer. He estimates that there are about 10 reindeer herds in Ohio.
The prices of Santa and Claudine, the Happiest Reindeer Ever range from $3.50 to $10 depending on the size, plus postage, and are available by calling Mr. Disher, 419-877-5129.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: email@example.com