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Mysterious Ways: Is That You, Santa?

When my dad was little, he had a Christmas experience he never would forget.

Santa hat and bootprints in the snow
Credit: Wim Lanclus
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My dad’s story about what happened one Christmas when he was just a boy sounds like a fairytale. But I’m inclined to believe him. After all, he told the same tale since he was six years old, and never wavered in the details.

That Christmas, my grandpa and great-grandpa took my dad, Luke, into the Tennessee backwoods to cut down a tree for the holiday. Little Luke’s feet were cold. He was impatient. After traveling more than 400 miles to his Papa and Nana’s house for the celebration, he didn’t want to be shivering and watching his elders discuss the merits and flaws of each tree.

While his dad and grandpa debated their choice, Luke spied a big buck in the distance. He’d only seen a real deer before at the zoo! What if this was one of Santa’s reindeer? Maybe Donner and Dasher and Blitzen and even Rudolph were close by! He slipped away to get a closer look

The buck turned and dashed into the woods. Luke ran after it as fast as his rubber boots could carry him. Every so often, the deer paused and allowed him to catch up before darting off again. Their game continued for a while, taking Luke farther and farther into the darkening woods. Then, the buck disappeared.

Luke realized he didn’t know where he was or which direction would bring him to his dad and grandpa. A light snow began to fall. Panic set in. He stumbled along, yelling, “Dad! Papa! Dad! Papa!” Scared, freezing, he collapsed under a huge tree and began to cry.

“Luke, Luke,” a gentle, deep voice called, growing nearer. “Luke!”

He looked up to see a giant man with a long white beard. “Santa?” he asked.

With a wide grin, the man answered, “I am your friend.”

He reached down for Luke's hand and lifted him to his feet. Then he picked the boy up and carried him. Feeling safe, and tired from his ordeal, my dad fell asleep.

“Luke! Luke! Where are you!”

He opened his eyes. He was sitting under a tree—a different one from before. He could see his dad and grandpa searching. “Dad! Papa!” They quickly ran over, so happy that my dad was okay.

When my dad told everyone at Papa and Nana’s house what had happened, my grandpa called neighboring farms to see if anyone fit the description of the white-bearded rescuer. But no one knew who the man was.

No one, that is, except Dad.

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