A 2023 RevolverGuy Christmas Story

The flashing ambers of the tow truck slowly faded into the distance in his side mirror, as Trooper Guy Sullivan punched the accelerator on the powerful Dodge sedan, and rejoined the flow of traffic on the highway. There weren’t many cars left on the road at this hour, since most everyone had already reached their destination and begun their holiday festivities with family and friends, but the wreck he’d just cleared had plugged things up for a while, and left a few travelers behind schedule on their journeys.

As he deftly threaded his way into the remaining flow of cars, Sullivan let out a deep breath, and let his mind drift for a second. Thank God it wasn’t a fatal, this time, he thought, reflecting back on the events of the prior year’s Christmas Eve. That crash had sadly claimed several lives, leaving Sullivan with the gut-wrenching burden of notifying two families that their loved ones were gone, on the holiest of nights. He was relieved that this one only resulted in minor injuries, but the thought didn’t comfort the young, but grizzled, Trooper too much. It was early in the shift, and there was still time for things to turn deadly later in the evening, when all those drivers who’d enjoyed too many Christmas spirits were back on the road, migrating home.

But for now, he was content that everyone would still be alive to see Christmas morning, 1976, and his accident report wouldn’t be too difficult to complete. He’d finish the diagrams back at the barracks, later on, because it was easier to do them at a proper table than it was on the clipboard cover of his aluminum form box. The Sergeant liked it when Guy used his plastic traffic stencil to make the figures look neat, and Guy wanted to keep him happy.

A few exits down the highway, Sullivan had reached the southern end of his beat and the coffee shop where he might normally stop to get off the road, out of the cold, and sit down for a decent meal (and a better cup of coffee). The diner was closed tonight, on account of the holiday, but Sullivan thought he might back into his normal spot in corner of the parking lot, and finish the rest of the narrative on his accident report, since the radio was quiet for now.

Like any good graveyard shift Trooper, Sullivan kept a Thermos full of coffee in his patrol bag, and it was early enough that it was still really hot. He unscrewed the cover that also served as a cup, poured it full of liquid lifesaver, then carefully set it on top of the dashboard to rest, as he screwed the bottle’s stopper back in place. The steam which rose from the cup fogged the inside of the windshield, and filled his nose with a more pleasant aroma than the usual blend of smells that define the inside of a police car. Between the sips of the hot liquid, and the runout Dodge’s heater, his frozen feet were starting to thaw, and his fingers were getting nimble enough that Sarge wouldn’t complain about his handwriting on the report.

The cruiser’s engine idled–smoothly, for the most part, but with an occasional gallop that caused him to look up and check the instruments–and the radio crackled a bit, as Sullivan worked through the entries on the form. His mind wandered to the little boy who had been in the back seat during the accident, and Guy said a quiet prayer of thanks that the parents had been smart enough to belt him into the seat. As it was, the little fella got a small bump on his head and a bit of a bloody nose from the impact, but it could have been much worse. A lot of parents still weren’t in the habit of using seatbelts–for themselves, or for their kids–even though all the new cars were being delivered with them, now. If that little boy—Let’s see, how old was he? Six? Seven? Um . . . yep, Seven years old, according to my notes— hadn’t been restrained, he probably would have been hurt very badly. Guy saw it happen a lot, and the grisly sights had turned him into a true believer, a fervent spokesman for the value of lap belts.

Seven, he thought. That’s how old Guy was when his dad got orders to Norfolk, and the family had to pack up and move cross country from San Diego. His dad was a Chief, and the Navy needed him to get a green crew ready for their combat deployment to the new war in Korea, so the Sullivans loaded up the family car and went East. Guy didn’t remember any seatbelts in that car. Good thing we didn’t crash it.

Having already taken a few steps down the path, Guy’s mind drifted back to that year of changes, as he took another warming sip of coffee. Like any kid, he wasn’t happy about leaving his friends behind, and the new home in Norfolk didn’t compare to the little bungalow on the beach that he’d been raised in, back in California.  They’d moved in November, so that holiday season was a little more memorable than some of the others that followed—the “firsts” are always easier to remember.

On this night, all those years ago, Guy was sure he’d wake up the next morning and find the gun under the tree. His heart burned for the gun he’d seen in the catalog, and he just knew it would be there when he sneaked out to raid the pile of gifts.

But it wasn’t. There was a host of other wonderful gifts for him and his sister, but the gun was not among them.

He was disappointed, but there were other treasures to keep him occupied, and kids are resilient, anyhow. He thought about asking for his birthday, but . . .

The memory was interrupted by the radio.

Sullivan was being called to check out an unknown disturbance at an address that was new to him. He knew the street, because one of his “regulars” lived a few blocks down, but he’d never had a call for service at this address, which was in a quiet part of town. He picked up the hand mic and acknowledged the assignment, carefully poured the rest of the precious brew back into the Thermos (that throwing the coffee out the window stuff was Hollywood nonsense, he mused. If I did that every time I got a call, I’d need to pack a few gallons every night), and set out for the two-hundred block of Maple Street.

The dispatcher fleshed out the call as he was enroute. The reporting party (RP) had seen a flash of light through the curtains, and had heard some kind of commotion outside, but there was no trace of anyone when he went outside to look. Two more calls had come in from surrounding residences, so it sounded like it was legit, and not the result of too much Christmas wine.

As Sullivan neared the neighborhood, he killed the lights and drove north on Redwood Street, which paralleled Maple to the East. He slowly drove past the back of the RP’s house on Redwood with the window cracked, looking and listening for clues, then crossed over to Maple and drove south, back in the direction of the RP’s address. He parked his car up the street, a few houses north, and got out quietly, controlling the door so it wouldn’t slam shut. With the hand mic stretched through the open driver’s window and dangling outside, where he could get to it in a hurry, he stood in the dark for a few moments, just listening and looking.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

With his heavy Kel-Lite in his left hand, carried with the lamp off and his thumb riding the switch, Sullivan started towards the home. As he worked his way down the street, his eyes and ears were alert, scanning the neighborhood for signs of a disturbance or an unwelcomed trespasser. The thumb of his right hand reflexively brushed against the safety strap on his holster as he walked, reminding him where he could find it in a hurry, to unleash the .357 Magnum that rested inside.

Sounds of laughter and celebration leaked out of a home on his right, as his eyes strained to see past the colorful glow of the Christmas lights on homes up and down the block. Well, it’s obviously not a downed power line, he thought.

He occasionally flicked the Kel-Lite on, to illuminate the shadows beyond, and the five D-Cells did a good job of lighting things up. He’d worn out a set of them at the accident scene earlier, but had been smart enough to replace them with a fresh set from his bag before he went 10-8. He was glad that he didn’t have to do this search with a dying beam, and gave himself a mental pat on the back for his preparation.

Everything looked normal, so Sullivan approached the home and knocked on the door. The man who called it in didn’t have anything else to add to the initial report.  He’d seen the flash of light through the curtains, and heard some kind of noise, but couldn’t say what it was all about. He hadn’t seen or heard anything else since he called the police.  The neighbors who called from the surrounding homes told the same story—a flash, some noise (someone thought they might have heard a “jingle” in the mix), then nothing.

Sullivan promised them he’d take another look around, and report back before he left the scene. He searched diligently, but didn’t find anything, outside of some animal footprints—Made by a couple of deer? Maybe some dogs?–on a few of the lawns, which were visible in the frost when the flashlight’s beam hit them just right. He also saw a set of wheel or skid tracks that he wasn’t sure about. They were spaced kinda wide for a wagon, but he couldn’t figure out what else they would be. Probably wheeled some stuff over to the neighbor’s place, he thought. Maybe hiding some Christmas gifts in their garage, so the kids wouldn’t discover them too early.

The search complete, Trooper Sullivan checked out with the neighbors, telling them all was well, and wishing them a Merry Christmas. He walked back to the cruiser with a few extras from the grateful families, who made sure to send him on his way with some leftovers from the Christmas dinner table, including a good-looking turkey sandwich wrapped in wax paper, a Styrofoam cup of hot gravy to dip it in, and a big slice of pie that crowded the small paper plate that it sat on. He planned to enjoy the meal with a delayed cup of coffee from his Thermos.

Reaching the car, he set the food on the hood for a sec, and grabbed the dangling mic to tell Dispatch everything was Code 4. As he leaned into the car through the open window, to toss the hand mic back onto the bench seat for now, he was surprised to see a long, narrow box, on the passenger side of the car. Its bottom rested on the rubber floorboard, and its top leaned up against the shotgun in the locking cradle, attached to the dash.

The curious Trooper went around the other side and opened the door, to investigate. The beam of his flashlight showed the box was wrapped in Christmas gift paper, and it settled on a piece of folded paper, which was carefully tucked underneath the bright red ribbon that criss-crossed around the box, and was tied off in a simple bow.

The note bore a simple address: “To Guy,” it said.

With fingers that were getting a little numb again, from the cold night, Guy plucked the note from the box, unfolded it, and began to read by the light of the flashlight, which was now tucked under his left armpit, in a maneuver that he’d done thousands and thousands of times by the side of the road.

With great curiosity, and more than a little confusion, he read:

Dear Guy,

I’m sorry to say there was a mix up with your letter to me, dated November 1950. Somehow, it got misplaced—probably when the elves set it aside to verify your new address in Virginia—and we just rediscovered it last month, when we were doing some overdue cleaning at the workshop.

I wish I’d delivered this gun to you when you first asked for it, and I’m really sorry I didn’t, but I figured you’d still want it. To help make it up to you, I had the elves do a little custom work on it. The action is slick and the engraving turned out real nice. I hope you’ll like it.

Merry Christmas son. Be careful out there on the road, and God Bless!


P.S. Sorry about the ruckus tonight. It was the only way I could figure to sneak this into your car.

Guy had seen a lot of things during his time on the State Police, and there wasn’t much that surprised him anymore, but he was left absolutely dumbfounded by the letter.

He started to look around, for a partner hiding in the shadows. Was it Franco? He’s always pulling pranks like this. But how could he have known the details about the family’s move, and the unanswered letter to Santa, penned by a young boy with his first case of gun fever? How in the world? thought the Trooper, as he stood mouth agape, his eyes fixed on the brightly colored box in the patrol car.

His thoughts raced. Should he open it now? Hide it in the trunk and take it home? Open it in the garage, where Ellen and the kids wouldn’t see? What was in there? Could it really be a gun? The gun? “Custom work done by elves?” What could that possibly mean? Could it really be the gun?

As his head spun, and his hopeful, joyous heart leapt, the seven-year-old boy with the coffee breath, dressed in the State Trooper’s uniform, heard a jingle overhead. His eyes shot skyward, giving him just enough time to see the reindeer, with their belled harnesses, pull the heavily-laden sleigh across the winter sky in his flashlight’s beam.

With his gun hand, he waved at the right jolly old elf, himself, who briefly returned the gesture, then flashed four fingers at Guy before he went out of sight, as the sleigh banked away.

Guy watched in stunned silence as it faded into the distance, his trance broken only by a pair of rear deck flashing ambers that winked at him a few times, then went dark again, in a final Christmas salute to the road-weary Trooper.


The RevolverGuy team wishes all of you a very, Merry Christmas, and looks forward to another year of fun and friendship, ahead. May God bless you and your families! We’ll see you here in 2024, with more revolving goodness.

Author: Mike

Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood is a bonafide revolver nut, a certified law enforcement instructor in handgun, shotgun, patrol rifle, less-lethal, and diversionary device disciplines, and the author of Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, the definitive study of the infamous, 1970 California Highway Patrol shootout in Newhall, California. Mike wrote the "Tactical Analysis" column at Police1.com for 8 years, and enjoys teaching both armed citizens and law enforcement officers.

35 thoughts on “A 2023 RevolverGuy Christmas Story”

      1. Mike, you are very a gifted writer with a true feel for the life of a patrol cop in those days. I started in 1980 and worked 11 years of straight graveyard shift, and you NAILED every detail. See you on the range real soon! It’s time for another revolver or carbine class. Merry Christmas!
        Capt. Nick

  1. 1976 . . . I was in year 4 of my career. It was my 4th Christmas Eve pulling 2200-0800 shift. Being single with no family to go home to, it was easy to volunteer to relieve any of the married troopers for them to have Christmas Eve (and even Christmas Day) off.

    There were three of us on the road this night, not counting county deputies scattered about. Every time the radio spoke, and called my ID number, there was this gut sinking moment where I hoped that dispatch was only checking on me, and not calling in another Signal 4 (MVA). During the silence of the night, every half hour, dispatch would call out all three ID numbers, and we’d each respond with our location. We had AM radios in the cars and at that time of night, WOWO 1190 AM out of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, came through like it was 10 miles away. It was ‘trucker country’ radio, but it beat crickets and the exhaust rumble of Chrysler’s 440 engine.

    These were the days before even cages, before body armor and long before GPS location in patrol cars. We felt like we had arrived having Motorola HT-220 portables to go along with our vehicle radio. It was that little extra tether you had to Troop dispatch, and it was more comforting knowing our 100 watt car radios acted as repeaters for the portables.

    I spent most of this night sitting in the median of the expressway, with my headlights on, and WOWO 1190 groaning in the background. The tractor-trailer rigs would sail on by, with most of them showing up on my radar doing about 5 to 10 over the posted limit, intermixed with four-wheeler traffic. Every so often, I’d pull out from the median as if I’m going after someone, go for a few miles, then pull back into the median, and do the same thing in the other direction. No doubt the CB radio traffic in my area was having a good bit of chatter, but at least they knew I was there – which was the object of the exercise. There was that one car; however, that was going almost 20 over. Yep, I finally tagged him. He was a sailor, in uniform, with proper I.D., registration and insurance, stationed in Pensacola, trying to get back to his family in the southern part of the state. He readily admitted to going faster than he should, and even acknowledged he was getting a ticket. I went back to my car and ran his name and plates as procedure. Nothing on either one came back. I gave him his paperwork back, and told him that I never let someone going that far over the posted limit to get away without a court invitation, but, it was Christmas morning, so he got an admonition to slow the you-know-what down because I didn’t want to find him wrapped around a guard rail.

    It always floated about in our minds whether there would there ever be a year where motor vehicle collisions didn’t take the lives of young family members trying to get to their destination in time for Christmas day ? Not really. The best you could hope for is those Signal 4 calls were merely bender fenders and not having to call it in as a Signal 7 (fatality). In four years I had one fatal MVA on a Christmas Eve, and that was two fatalities too many in my book.

    The long night’s hours gradually, slowly, slipped away into dawn. The traffic had thinned out considerably. Presumably everyone made it safely to their destinations. I was called back into the Troop station around 0700 as the day shift was coming on the road. I was lucky that night, only the one speeder, and no vehicle collisions. My other two compadres had a couple of fender benders between them, and thankfully, nothing more serious. It was almost miraculous, and for me, probably the best Christmas ‘present’ a trooper could get.

    I never got any visits from a Santa, but our sergeant slipped the three of us a new box of Federal 125gr JHP .357 cartridges (our duty load) as a bonus for working Christmas Eve . . . hey, what else could you ask for, right ?

    1. I think the wrong guy wrote this year’s story—shoulda been your tasking, Sir, as you did a much better job of it!

      I’m sure that Signal 4-free night was the best Christmas present ever!

      That young sailor didn’t know Santa wore a campaign hat, did he? Ho, Ho, Ho, now take it slow . . .

      1. Kel-Lite . . thanks for the flashback, Mike! LOL, but seriously, you definitely wrote the Right story. You covered Guy’s youth to that moment. As I read it with the ‘flash of light’, all I could think of was a domestic shooting, or worse, a lonely retired police officer who in solitary depression swallowed his revolver barrel. That happens far more than most of us would realize.

        You threw a terrific curve ball with the gift wrapped box in Guy Sullivan’s patrol car. But what was that custom work performed on? ummm Let’s call it a mint pre-64 Winchester Model 70 chambered for .308 Winchester.

        Ho, Ho, Take it Slow sure beats Jingle Bells, Mortar Shells, VC in the grass . . . ; )

        May all y’all have a great Christmas.

        1. Hahaha! Yes, that’s a MUCH better jingle! The youngsters who haven’t heard that one will have to do some research at ttheir local VFW to get the rest . . .

          I was surprised and pleased to find the Kel Lite link. It’s hard to tell if it’s still active, but it’s neat to think there’s still someone out there with parts, who can keep them running.

  2. Saw it coming. Still loved it.

    Not all dreams come true. Some come true later.

    Merry Christmas to all here.

    P.S.: Once again you’ve managed to convey the mixed blessings of solo patrol. Keep the shiny side up, Mike.

    1. Thank you Sir, and thanks to all those men and women in uniform who will be out there this week, just as they are every week, doing their best to keep us all safe. God bless them all!

  3. Excellent, Mike. You may have missed your calling! You write great technical pieces on handguns, but you (and S. Bond!) have a gift for this type of tale. I could smell the coffee in the patrol unit, and it took me back. A safe and blessed Christmas and holiday season to the Revolver Guy Clan.

  4. I’ll be working Christmas Day on a time trade, for a young guy with a new family… And feel pretty good about it. Solo patrol, hoping it’s boring and without domestics or fatalities. Great story Mike, thank you! Merry Christmas and God bless everyone.

  5. Mike you going to have to start your 3rd( ?) career soon.
    Author extraordinaire!
    Well done. Technical, non- fiction and fiction.
    Thank you.

  6. Today was my Friday and I get the next three days off. The kids are grown and moved out, but I am taking my Christmas this year regardless. I worked thanksgiving this year so it’s a fair trade-off. However, I am working News Year to help out those officers who want to ring in the new year.

  7. Most readers here no doubt recall their first “firearm”, which often was a BB gun. In my case, it was a Daisy modeled after the Winchester 94. Made of pot metal and spring-powered, the thing shot copper-colored BBs in a somewhat flat trajectory for about fifteen feet, and then they rapidly arced to the ground and bounced. At very close distances it was hell on June bugs and roaches, though.

  8. WOW Mike,
    It’s like you’ve been in a patrol car on Christmas. That was so accurate, it took me back. It made me think of Christmas Day, getting home just in time to see what Santa brought with the kids, my wife driving to and from my parents house so I could have a nap and the two additional pots of coffee so I could enjoy it all.
    Great article!

    1. Thanks BC, much appreciated! I remember watching my dad go through that same routine—cops spread themselves pretty thin sometimes, trying to keep up with the family.

      I haven’t pushed a B&W around on Christmas, but spent a number of them deployed and/or flying during my career, so I’ve got those experiences to tap into when I write. One of our most memorable Christmas celebrations took place in March, one year. ; ^ )

      A “share your pain” story: There was a time I arrived home at 0600, after flying in from overseas. I’d probably been up about 18 hours at that point, and my teacher wife asked if I could help chaperone a school trip to the zoo, because they needed help. I must have looked pretty sorry, trying to keep up with all those rambunctious kids with my butt dragging! Good thing I was young, back then!

  9. Mike,
    Great story! It brought back a lot of memories of working nights on patrol during the holidays!
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

  10. Mike,
    You and S. Bond really know how to reach out to an audience! I’m so fortunate to have found Revolver Guy and have the opportunity to learn from the best in the business!
    Please allow me to share a brief Christmas story: As a young sergeant, with the least seniority, I worked the 4×12 on Thanksgiving Day and the 8×4 on Christmas morning. As I left my house around 0520 hrs that Christmas Day back in 1988 I saw that Santa left several presents for our children. I wouldn’t get to witness the joy and excitement of seeing them open their gifts, but that comes with the turf. For some reason, I took an unopened box of candy canes that was on kitchen counter and brought them with me to the precinct.
    I conducted roll call to turn out the troops, then my rookie chauffeur and I went out on patrol.
    As we slowly cruised through the unusually quiet streets of the South Bronx I noticed a young lad kicking an empty can down the sidewalk. I called out, “Merry Christmas” to the kid but he turned to me with a scowl. I asked what was the matter?
    He said that Santa forgot about him. “I didn’t get anything for Christmas!” Man,
    I thought, this is terrible for any kid.
    I called out and asked the kid to come over to my RMP. I reached into the rear seat (no metal cages!) and handed him the box of candy canes. I said, “Santa asked me to bring this present to you when I left the precinct this morning. You know how busy he is today!” The smile on that kid could light up Yankee Stadium! He scurried away as happy as if he received a pile of toys. Hopefully he had some better Christmas mornings later in his life. I can only wonder what force prompted me to bring those candy canes for that youngster 35 years ago.

    1. Outstanding!! You sure made a difference in that young man’s life. He will never forget the experience or your kindness.

      If you asked me, I’d say God had a plan for you that day. I think He talks to us frequently, and you heard Him that morning.

      Thank you for sharing that uplifting story with us. Happy New Year to you and your family!

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