Christmas Down South

I am ashamed to admit, several years ago I almost quit believing in Santa. That year, he and I had a misunderstanding involving a Yeti cooler and a scratch-off ticket. 

I’m holding a letter from Newt (7 years old, Olney, Illinois). “Dear Sean of the South,” Newt writes. “Can you to tell me if Santa is real?”

The letter is signed, “Newt of the North.”

Here’s what I know, Newt:

I am ashamed to admit, several years ago I almost quit believing in Santa. That year, he and I had a misunderstanding involving a Yeti cooler and a scratch-off ticket.

He mistakenly brought me a pair of khaki Dockers instead.

But that has all changed, Newt.

Last Christmas Eve, I stayed up late watching “A Christmas Story”—a movie which was a classic before it got remade it into a live-for-TV-musical hosted by Ferris Bueller.

Then, I heard something.

It was a loud crash on my roof. I went outside. I live in the woods, so it gets dark here. But I could see him. The Man in Red. On MY roof.

Before I go any further, Newt, it’s important to realize something about my house. It’s on wheels. Your parents might call this a “mobile home,” or a “single-wide.”

Those are outdated, non-politically-correct terms, and in some circles, offensive. We prefer to call them “tornado magnets.”

Anyway, Santa had—get ready for this, Newt—mistakenly thought my bathroom air-vent was a chimney. He had tried to jump through it. Bad idea. His lower half was dangling in the skylight above our john.

Kris Kringle, you’ll note, is a big boy. And my home is a ‘93 model—not built to withstand hurricane-force windbearing loads.

So, I did what any sensible man would do, I called my buddy Lamar.

Lamar is a part-time eBay seller who lives up the road in the ‘87 Fleetwood Mobile Manor. He’s good people. He came over immediately. He brought his deer spotlight and a stocked cooler.

We tried to pull Santa free, Newt. But nothing worked.

“That boy ain’t goin’ nowhere,” observed razor-sharp Lamar.

So, we waited.

Santa borrowed Lamar’s phone and called Mrs. Claus for help. And since we didn’t have any milk and cookies, Lamar offered Santa a cold one and some potato chips.

Santa declined. He was on duty.

So, we talked for hours. We talked about what this world was like long ago, before technology. It was a golden age, Newt, long before you could flush toilets from outer space with smartphones. Board games ruled. So did G.I. Joe dolls.

We asked Santa lots of questions, too.

I asked why he never brought me a Yeti cooler. Lamar asked him why, out of all the colors in the universe, did Santa wear crimson and white.

And Santa reminded us of something, Newt. He told us there were more important questions to worry about in this life.

Such as: why are some people mean to each other? Why aren’t there more dog rescues? Why do some people feel sad at Christmas? And, how can we make them feel better?

Anyway, don’t worry, Newt. The North-Pole rescue team saved the day. They broke him free without causing much damage to my “tin can Taj Mahal.”

In the process, however, they ripped the seat of Santa’s britches. But Santa was in luck. Lamar had a pair of camouflage waders in his truck. They were snug, but they fit.

Then, we watched Santa climb into his gold-leafed sleigh. He gave us a wink, laid a finger aside his nose, and into a purple sky he arose.

And Newt—if I’m lying, may God himself strike a tree in my backyard dead—Santa gave us gifts.

We were left in the glow of his childhood magic and kindness. It was quite a night. One I’ll never forget. Long live Santa. And may he continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Lamar got a duck call.

I got a pair of Dockers.

Thanks for the letter. Merry Christmas, Newt.


  1. Ava - December 20, 2017 3:17 pm

    Good ole Santa. He needs to be more careful. You can’t ever stop believing.

  2. B.e. Blue - December 20, 2017 3:24 pm

    “We were left in the glow of his childhood magic and kindness. It was quite a night. One I’ll never forget. Long live Santa. And may he continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

    Amen, brother. Merry Christmas.

    • ALICE RYAN - December 20, 2017 3:38 pm

      Hope you get your Yeti Cooler this year Sean. Thanks for your sweet story. MERRY CHRISTMAS. GOD USES YOU THROUGH YOUR STORIES.

  3. Diane - December 20, 2017 3:45 pm

    Usually I’m semi-hysterically sobbing as I read your column. Today I was crossing my legs to keep from wetting myself. This is funny stuff, man.

    Last year my husband wanted an electric keyboard and he got some camo work pants. This year he’s getting Johnny Lang CDs and tickets. Santa lives on and digs the blues.

  4. Connie - December 20, 2017 3:47 pm

    Merry Christmas Sean.

  5. Jerenell Gorbutt - December 20, 2017 3:55 pm

    Love this and thank you again this Christmas for making a difference in the lives of those around you with your magical pen~ tornado magnet indeed- never heard them described that way and I thought I had heard everything! Merry Christmas to you and Jamie <3

  6. Sandi in FL - December 20, 2017 3:56 pm

    Loved your delightful reply to Newt! When my three children were young,and started asking questions about Santa Claus, I told them, “If you believe, you’ll receive, and if you don’t, you won’t.” That settled that.

  7. Buck Godwin - December 20, 2017 3:57 pm

    Another GOOD one Sean of the South! I would love to see the Big Boy in a nice pair of camouflage waders! Much nicer than that “crimson and white” thing he normally wears.

  8. ponder304 - December 20, 2017 4:57 pm

    This ole retired, believing school marm is in love with you!!!! Long live Santa and loving folks!!!!!

  9. Jack Darnell - December 20, 2017 7:25 pm

    Thanks a lot Sean. You put a lot of wonder to bet. I needed that! 😉

  10. Van Payne - December 20, 2017 7:38 pm

    This beats the heck out of– “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

  11. Janet Mary Lee - December 20, 2017 8:18 pm

    Perfect for today! I needed a break from the Christmas Chaos that has descended in spite of my best efforts! (Dog emergency! They know the week to pick!!) Your story is touching and funny! And so true! May the spirit of Christmas be yours and also reach to your beautiful family! You sure reach us!

  12. bewell40 - December 20, 2017 8:37 pm

    Thanks, Sean. And thank Lamar, too.

  13. Jim - December 21, 2017 2:04 am

    You are too good my friend, too good! Merry Christmas!!

  14. Roger Woods - December 21, 2017 2:28 am

    Merry Christmas, to all. And, to all, a good night!

  15. Carla from Tampa - December 21, 2017 6:34 am

    Sean, of all the emails I receive daily, YOURS is the one I look forward to the most. Your musings bring back warm memories of my childhood, and I’m reminded that Birmingham was once a safe haven of good manners, politeness, neighbors helping neighbors, and nickel candy bars at Grimes grocery in Forestdale. I miss the innocence. I miss that it was safe for my mother to drop me off downtown, and I could walk around all day at age 10. Thank you for bringing back the simple life…as the world SHOULD be!

  16. Tara - December 22, 2017 2:18 am

    Loved the Santa story! I was a single Mom way back when and my daughter asked me on Christmas Eve if there really was a Santa cause all her friends said there wasn’t. I told her that we all need to believe in nice things because sometimes life is not as we wish and to believe in something special makes things better when needed. She thought for a minute, looked at me and said, “Ok, but please tell Santa thank you and that I love her.” I kissed her goodnight and left her room before she could see my tears, very thankful that I still believe in Santa….


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