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In One Ear: ‘A right salty old tar’

A new angle for an old story
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on December 22, 2017 12:01AM

Since Astoria is a fishing town — among other things bright and beautiful, of course — it’s only fitting that there should be a maritime version available of Clement Clarke Moore’s classic Christmas Eve poem, “The Night Before Christmas.”

And indeed, there is one: “The Bight Before Christmas,” by Alaskan fisherman and journalist, Will Swagel. A bight, if you didn’t know, can be a loop of rope, or a curve in the coastline, among other things.

Swagel’s version has Santa not in a sleigh, but in a “mythical skiff drawn by eight ocean creatures.” Santa, “a right salty old tar,” is dressed in red and green rubber. He’s also quite aromatic, since he’s “all covered with slime and remains of fish heads.” This Santa doesn’t need milk and cookies, he needs a bath.

You can hear Swagel reading his poem online, and enjoy the clever illustrations by Sitka, Alaska, artist Colin Herforth (one of which is shown), on Swagel’s website,


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