A few years ago, a Dutch family was preparing for a reindeer sled ride on the yard of the Salla Reindeer Park. The family included the mother and father as well as their sons and daughters with their spouses. In other words, it was quite a big family.
Everything started well enough. The guide gave instructions to the family on how to drive the reindeer sled, and a suitable, domesticated and trained reindeer was selected for each member of the family. At the beginning of the trip, the guide once again repeated the safety instructions about what to do if something unexpected happened during the excursion.
The ride started peacefully, the guide leading the way with his own reindeer and the customers following him in single file, each being drawn by his or her own reindeer. Halfway through the route, that ‘something unexpected’ happened… For some reason that remains unknown today, the last reindeer in the line panicked and set off on its own path deep into the forest. The passenger jumped out of the sled, because, apparently, he did not trust the new choice of route his reindeer had made. As is well known, reindeer are herd animals, and thus the panic soon spread to the rest of the reindeer. After a while, the situation looked somewhat comical. The customers were jumping out of their sleds, and the reindeer took advantage of the situation and started running around.
After the panic had spread for about a minute, only three reindeer remained under the control of their drivers. Two of those belonged to the tour guide, and the third to a stocky Dutch gentleman, who had participated on a reindeer ride when he had visited Salla two winters earlier. Only one of the panicking reindeer had chosen the right route. This one did not want to stop and wait for the others, but continued to trot along the planned route. The person riding in its sled was the mother of the family.
The guides caught the other runaways and steered them back onto the track, but catching the reindeer driven by the mother of the family turned out to be more of a problem. Every time the guide caught up with the reindeer, it galloped off as fast as it could. At this point, the Dutch gentleman who had been able to control his reindeer all along remarked with a twinkle in his eye: “Just let her go. The longer her trip, the better for us. Maybe she’ll come back in a day or two…” The lady in question was the man’s mother-in-law.
However, we should warn those of you who are already planning a tour for your mother-in-law on the basis of this tale that such tours cannot be organised on order. Usually, the reindeer walk or gallop throughout the tour peacefully and routinely along the right track. But you can always find out whether this happens to be the occasion when the reindeer themselves decide to change the tour plan without consulting the guides!