2013-12-25 / Editorial

THE SOUTHERN SAINT NICK

Don Lively

There’s a little known tale about Christmas in the South that has been lost to history.

Through exhaustive research I am able to share it with you as we celebrate the Season once again.

As World War II drew to a close millions of American servicemen returned to civilian life. The Baby Boom occurred. We know all about that. 1946 saw moreAmerican couples get married than in any other year before or since and the result was millions of babies born in the next few years.

That’s documented history.

What’s not so well known is the calamity that the birth explosion caused.

The Catastrophic Christmas Crisis.

In the years following The War, the jolly old man at the North Pole suddenly found himself so far behind that he was forced to hire subcontractor Santas all over the world. The man chosen for the job in the Blessed South, a trusted distant cousin of the true Santa, was born on the floodplains between two great rivers in South Carolina. His parents were proud Low Country natives of Germanic origins so they named their firstborn son accordingly.

Santee Cooper Claus.

When Santee was first approached by the real Santa to take on the enormous task, he was skeptical. There were no reindeer in the South. No snow. No sleighs. How could he possibly get the job done?

Santa, impatient to get back to the North Pole, bestowed on Santee, for a period of one year, all the magic that he would need to carry out his mission.

So, he set forth.

For transportation, instead of eight tiny reindeer he tried eight huge whitetail bucks but before the Christmas Season arrived, many of the deer had been served up in steaks and roasts.

He tried Thoroughbred horses from Kentucky but they proved to be too prissy.

He settled on eight Mississippi mules, ornery but reliable, just like the folks from the state where they were bred.

He finally located an old sleigh at an auction barn in Ludowici but the runners kept getting stuck in the red clay, so he settled for a flat bottomed pirogue boat from the Louisiana Cajun country. Utilizing the famed Dixie ingenuity he rigged the boat, which had endured only a few gator chomps, behind the mules and took a test flight.

It actually worked.

There being a shortage of elves in the South, Santee hired Georgia

Tech engineers to design the new toys.

Skilled craftsmen from the University of Georgia built the toys.

South Carolina grads mapped out the routes and planned Santee’s schedule.

Clemson and Auburn folks were brought in to clean up after the mules.

To carry all of the gifts to the millions of homes throughout Dixie, Santee, once again called on the magic of Christmas. He turned a common Piggly Wiggly grocery bag into a sack big enough to accomplish the task. The cute little pig logo could be seen for miles. The enormous sack was secured to the pirogue boat with a thousand rolls of duct tape.

Possessing not one shred of red clothing, Santee convinced his wife, Peggy Jo Claus, who he’d met at a Cracker Barrel in Tennessee, to dye his best pair of Sears and Roebuck overalls crimson.

It made a passable Santa suit if you didn’t look too close.

When the big night arrived Santee kissed Peggy Jo and boarded his boat. On command the mules rose into the air and the Southern leg of that memorable Christmas was underway.

The only problem occurred when the mules tried to fly over a stand of exceptionally tall Georgia pines. The weight of the toys was too much. Santee had anticipated such a possibility. He immediately tossed out three Claxton fruit cakes which lightened the load by approximately half a ton.

The rest of the trip was uneventful as Santee delivered millions of presents down thousands of chimneys, mostly Daisy BB guns and Barbie dolls. After all this was still the South when boys were still boys and girls were still girls.

At every home, instead of finding cookies and milk left by the kids, Santee found barbecue sandwiches from North Carolina, pralines from Charleston or Savannah and homemade sweet tea.

How the Southern folks knew that something was different that Christmas remains a mystery for the ages.

After that year the true Santa was able to catch up and Santee Claus went back to his real job driving a Coca Cola truck, but to this day, many folks remember that year as the one when they heard the call from the skies on Christmas Eve:

“Merry Christmas to all o’ yall, and to all o’ yall a good night.”

My sentiments exactly, from my house to yours.

(The is a re-print and was originally published in 2009.)

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of Howlin’ At The Dixie Moon. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com and visit www.DonLively.com.

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