Rangifer Santacus

Santa’s reindeer are thought to be a subspecies of the genus Rangifer. How and why this particular subset became genetically different from their free-range cousins is the focus of many scholarly tomes. What is known is that, imbued with magical powers involving flight (and in rare cases, a nose capable of bio-luminescence), they have found a safe haven with an enigmatic fat man who lives in an undisclosed location in the north. That he’s poker buddies with the Generalissimo comes as no surprise to anyone.

According to Wikipedia, the domestic reindeer, commonly seen in Scandinavia, Russia, and Iceland, are known to eat moss, leaves, and grasses, but from time to time are capable of digesting lemmings, eggs, and mushrooms. Females range from 130-370 pounds, and males from 220-700. At a height of nearly six feet (and in some cases more), reindeer have been domesticated for centuries, yielding milk, meat, and hides for clothing. Some have even been used for transportation, though Santa’s herd seems to be one of the few bred specifically for this purpose.

Santa’s current herd is descended from a group of eight reindeer found left on his doorstep in 1823. They spend most of their year in the lap of luxury, dining on fine baked goods and imported tequila. Santa lent us two of his more reliable off-season mounts, a sixty-year-old female named Montezuma’s Revenge and a much older bull named Rudy.

Generalissimo: Come, my comrade in arms! We ride! Literally!

Walter Thurman: Ah, crap.

(The author steps up to the female, named Montezuma’s Revenge. She’s much taller than her species should be, owing to her extended lifespan and her diet of caviar, Pop Rocks, and anabolic steroids. She’s been saddled by one of the caretakers, a small man named Egg whose command of English — any other language for that matter — seems to be minimal.)

GEN: Get on!

WT: (Struggling to get his foot in the stirrup) I’m trying.

GEN: We are burning daylight! And cab fare!

WT: Huh?

(The author gets in the saddle, only to remember why he hasn’t ridden a horse sine the disastrous High-ho Silver Incident of 1987.)

GEN: Let’s ride! Heeee-ahhhhh! (The Generalissimo and Rudy blast off into the night, a trail of yellow fairy dust in their wake.)

WT: Okay…Let’s go, Montezuma. (Nothing.) Do I have to use your full name? (Nothing.) Dammit, Monty, let’s go!

(Montezuma’s Revenge snorts, farts, then leaps into the sky. The author grapples with the reins, nearly tumbling backward onto the hard pack snow. Within seconds, they have caught up to the Generalissimo and Rudy, who are doing loops high above Anchorage.)

GEN: Let us play follow the leader! I’ll go first!

WT: Please, no.

GEN: You are pulling too hard on the reins! She requires a gentle touch, like a lover! It really is much easier with your eyes open!

WT: (Mumbles something that the tape doesn’t catch.)

GEN: Left! Right! Left again! Up! Down! Shake it all about!

WT: (Gurgling sound on tape.) Where’s that damn bag…

GEN: You are looking a little green, my young friend! You forgot to take your pill!

WT: I took four of them.

GEN: Quiet! Look! Below! A felony in progress!

WT: Where?

GEN: There!

WT: Those are kids playing in the snow.

GEN: They are fighting a great battle! We must assist them in this, their time of need!

WT: It’s a snowball fight. Didn’t you ever have a snowball fight when you were a kid?

GEN: Quickly! That one side is losing!

WT: They’re kids you nimrod!

GEN: Yeeeee-ha!

Two hours later, after posting bail…

WT: You owe me five grand.

GEN: I’m good for it!

WT: That’s on top of the ten grand you owe me from the last time.

GEN: Speak to payroll!

WT: Where are the reindeer?

GEN: Impounded!

WT: Impounded?

GEN: Indeed!

WT: Santa’s gonna kill us.

GEN: Not if he doesn’t find out!

WT: Uh, doesn’t he know who’s been naughty and nice?

GEN: Urban legend! He receives regular updates from the world’s parents, and of course, the CIA!

WT: The CIA sends Santa updates?

GEN: Of course!

WT: Let’s just get the reindeer and go back.

GEN: Indubitably! Come! The North Pole awaits! Ha-ha! And a Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!

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