Christmas Eve, 1981
I was seven years old the year that I saw Santa almost get killed. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.
1981 was a very special year. I had asked Santa, the Big Man, for the gift to end all gifts. I had even made a special trip to Austin to see him at Barton Creek Square Mall to request it.
The gift I was asking for was the absolute pinnacle of a Kid’s dream Christmas. Every kid down through the years has had one of these. For Ralphie in the Christmas Story it was the Official Red Rider Carbine Action 200 shot Range Model Air Rifle with the Compass in the Stock. But for me in 1981 it was the Atari 2600 Video Game System Bundle that included two controllers and two games, Asteroids and Space Invaders.
It was a tradition in our household that on Christmas Eve everybody got to open their presents under the tree and then on Christmas Morning all the kids had their “Santa”. Well, this year, my parents had a surprise. After we had all opened our gifts and were sitting around drinking hot cocoa and eating some of mom’s scrumptious treats, suddenly our dog, Sugar, could be heard barking loudly outside. The barking continued for a while and then we could hear her growling and snarling. My dad got up quickly and went outside to investigate. For some reason, I was not allowed to go with him and was told to stay put and drink my cocoa. After about ten minutes, my dad returned, saying that Sugar had treed a possum, a very common occurrence for us since we lived far out in the country. Suddenly, there was a loud knock at the door. I can remember paying no attention to the knock, thinking it was one of my parents friends arriving late to the party. After the second knock my mom looked over at me and said “Why don’t you see who it is?” I casually walked to the door and opened it. There before me, stood a large, fat man dressed in a torn and tattered red and white outfit. He had a big band-aid on his leg ( I could see clearly through the shredded pant leg) and under his arm he carried a box wrapped in gift paper. His fake white beard was out-of-place and his hat sat crooked on his head. Out of breath, the man said “HO, HO, HO Merry Christmas Little Boy!” Of course, being just seven years old, my eyes got wide and I started jumping up and down with excitement, ignoring the flaws in Santa’s costume for the more important subject of GIFTS! Santa limped into the house, shut the door and was greeted by everybody in the living room. For some reason all the adults, including my mom and dad were stifling hysterical laughter, like a secret joke had just been told and I was the only one who did not get the punch line. We will come back to that. “I understand you wanted something very special for Christmas this year, is that right, little boy?” Santa asked. Of course I was still jumping up and down like a monkey on crack, but managed to blurt out “Yes! I asked for an Atari 2600 Video game System Santa!!” “Well since you have been a good little boy, here is something my elves managed to make just for you.” Santa replied. Hysterically, I took the package and immediately began tearing into it. Looking back now, the man’s outfit literally looked like it had been put through a wood chipper! Tearing through the wrapping paper, I gleefully and carefully removed the gaming system. My dad had already pre-connected everything, so in just a few minutes I was blasting away the universe with Space Invaders. The fact that Santa had looked like he had just been in a near fatal car crash quickly faded from my mind as gaming euphoria set in….
It was not until I was around age 10 that my parents actually told me the complete story of that night. A friend of my dad’s, from work, Louie, who was unmarried and sported a nice “beer belly” year around, had agreed to play Santa and make the special delivery. He had been told to come around to the front door, but for some reason had decided to go around to the back door, through the back yard where our dog, Sugar was kept. Bad Mistake. Sugar was a blue lacy hunting dog, about 50 pounds and snow-white in color. She was not a mean or vicious dog, but was extremely protective and a very good watch dog, especially against strangers dressed in red and white outfits!! Louie told my Dad as soon as he came through the gate, he saw a white blur and was immediately was being bit on the leg by Sugar. By the time my dad got out there, Sugar had managed to tear apart Louie’s entire Santa’s outfit and give him a nice bite on his leg to remember her by. My dad cleaned up the wound, which was not bad and put a band-aid on it. Since Sugar had got all her shots, there was no need for any further medical attention. Of course my dad apologized to his friend, but the man said it was his fault since he forgot to come around to the front door.
So that was the year Santa got attacked by my dog Sugar.
Our Dog Sugar was shot and killed in 1985 by a rancher, who thought she was running his cattle.
My dad’s friend, Louie, who played Santa that year, passed away in 2003 from Cancer.
My Mom, who made Christmas so magical every year for us kids, passed away in 2011 from emphysema.
But my Dad and my Brothers are still here and now I have my Own Family, and every Christmas we remember and tell this story to my Kids.
I Thank God for the ultimate gift, which is Christ Jesus the Lord and Family and memories like this!
From my Family to Yours, I Wish All of You a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.