O'Hara

O’Hara Hardware got in the Christmas spirit early this year. Residents got the opportunity to see Santa’s reindeer and get Leigh Michael’s newest book, “Second Regiment Encampment Iowa National Guard” at O’Hara Hardware store Saturday morning.

OTTUMWA — Santa’s reindeer are back in Ottumwa as O’Hara Hardware plays host again this season.

Some kids ran toward the reindeer Saturday, eager to see just how far Santa’s reindeer came. The kids weren’t allowed to pet the reindeer, but there’s still something to be said for getting close. Fred Cavin was the person in charge of tending to the reindeer and Christmas trees.

The hardware store has hosted reindeer for years; Cavin guessed 40 years. Cavin said they always put them out for one purpose: the kids.

“It’s for the kids to have fun,” Cavin said, “and for open house. They have all the care in the world when they hear that Santa Claus comes right over and drops them off and takes off.”

Cavin said in a world where imagination can be dismissed, it’s important to have an event where imagination can be preserved. Did Cavin believe the reindeer ever make it back to the North Pole?

“It’s just a lovely thing,” he said, “every year they come right in time for Christmas, then they take off flying and they make it to the North Pole.”

Inside the store, visitors had the chance to visit Leigh Michaels and get signed copies of her newest book, “Second Regiment Encampment Iowa National Guard.”

Michaels was inspired to write this book due to her love for history. She was fascinated with an old newspaper, The Daily Democrat, which put out a booklet for all the men who went out into the encampment. She said all those copies went home with them.

“Not very many of them were here in town,” she explained, “and very few of them survived and I was fortunate enough to have a copy. Because it had so much good basic information about the town, it would be good to reprint, so that was the inspiration.”

The first part of the book is reproduced and the other half is information about the newspaper, giving Ottumwans a look at the community during the late 1800s. Michaels said there were other fascinating points that stood out to her.

“You can pick up and read this at any point,” she said, “because there’s going to be something intriguing. Something that intrigued me was information about the railroads that came through town and some information about the National Guard itself because 18 months after this, they went off and served in the Spanish-American War.”

Michaels hoped residents will find the book captivating and take away some concepts that could be applicable in today’s age.

“Ottumwa was very interesting in 1896,” she said, “and still is in different ways. In some ways it’s better and in some ways it’s not. Sometimes we see some dissension in the community and some split in the community. I’m sure that was there, but it didn’t show as much, and it was much more enthusiastic and forward-looking and positive in some way in 1896.”

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

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