Man of the hour

Santa, taking a 10-minute break between deliveries.

Santa Claus lives in Baxley now; he moved down here with Mrs. Carrie Claus in 2016 from their northern home. They find the weather much more agreeable and easier to deal with. His favorite time of the year is Christmas of course, but it was a sad Santa who spoke with me this week. His favorite activity of the year is visiting with the children at Appling County Primary School and having pictures made with them. No, it wasn’t the Grinch that interfered with his plans this year; it was a monster much worse - COVID-19. No one knows for certain how old Santa is, but he’s certainly old enough to be recorded on the high-risk list this year that the CDC put out. Besides, the schools are locked down to visitors, even Santa. What a Grinchy year this has been.

Santa is feeling hopeful though. One of those anchors on television told him that there’s a vaccine now, actually two of them, and the New Year, which is just a few days away, may solve some of his problems. Maybe he’ll be right back over at the primary school come Christmas 2021, right where he belongs. In the meantime, he’s had breakfast with the children at a church and privately made some pictures with some children. After all, he must do something to alleviate his boredom. And tell the children not to worry. Come December 24, he’ll be in his sleigh and on his route. He’s healthy as are the reindeer. They’re ready to fly. Reindeer do not get COVID. He’ll be social distancing, too, high up in the sky. He says the elves are tired and asking for a vacation. He told them they could prop up their feet and have hot chocolate while he and the reindeer are gone.

“My only real worry,” Santa said, “is that I’ll have some trouble fitting through those smaller chimneys this year. I’m afraid I’ve put on a few pounds during quarantine. I may have to use a door or two. Don’t worry. I have a magic key for emergencies. I do really wish I could have visited with those ACPS kids just once though before Christmas is over for this year.”

Chuck Keuster looks a lot like Santa, and Santa looks a lot like him. He lives in Baxley, too, and his wife is named Carrie. Ironically enough, they moved to Baxley in 2016 from North Carolina. Chuck has even on occasion impersonated Old Saint Nick for the kids’ sake. The very first time was in 1978 in Seattle for the Epileptic Society.

“I’m not sure why they invited me,” Chuck said. “I guess someone just volunteered the information that he knew a jolly fat man who just might fit the role and could possibly be talked into actually playing it. The next thing I knew I was in a Santa suit with a kid on my lap. I loved it and that started a long vocation for me. Children are wonderful little people and I love them all.”

Here in Baxley’s red fuzzy suit, he was Santa for the City. By the time he went to the primary school, he had his own red duds, which Carrie had found in a Goodwill Store in North Carolina. She paid $8.00 for them and altered them as necessary. Mrs. Santa. . . uh, Keuster, that is, has a few talents of her own. Mrs. Keuster does look a lot like Mrs. Claus though. I certainly see the resemblance.

Chuck asked that I relay his appreciation to this community for opening its arms to him and Carrie from the moment they arrived. They became very much a part of it from day one.

“We moved into a new place and felt right at home,” he said.

And Santa/Chuck (Sorry if I’ve confused the two of them) says Merry Christmas to all, especially all those kids at Appling County Primary. May this be their best Christmas ever.