Editor’s Note: I was fortunate enough to see Santa take off on his journey around the world this year, watching from deep cover and in a deep freeze.

My years in the Marine Corps taught me how to slink and snoop with the best of ‘em.

And just how did I pull off this “sneak and peek, hide and seek” deal?

Well, you wouldn’t want me to give away all the tricks of the trade, would you?

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NORTH POLE: Santa’s badly overloaded sleigh slides slowly, ponderously down the North Pole Runway on Christmas Eve night.

Sleigh runners hiss against hard packed ice. The sleigh is towed by puffing reindeer with bulging eyes and newly aggravated hernias, their breath thick silver plumes in the sub-zero temperatures.

From a distance the reindeer look like ants dragging a bumblebee.

The reindeer strain mightily, the end of the runway coming back at them like a snapped rubber band.

Finally, dangerously far down the runway, the sled breaks free of the frozen ground, inching into the black Arctic sky.

A powdery white explosion erupts as the struggling reindeer drag the sleigh and Jolly Ole Elf sitting atop it through the top of a snow pile at the end of the runway.

The reindeer and the huge sled finally, miraculously, vanish into the night, the sound of sleigh bells fading into the black silence atop the world.

Watching from the kitchen window of a snug little cottage nearby, Mrs. Claus lets her breath out.

She silently thanks God again for sparing the life of this bold airman to whom she has been married for low these hundreds of years.

He’s also the CEO of a major operation producing toys for boys and girls around the world.

His operation is computer heavy, and lets him keep track with what’s hot and what’s not, keep up with production and supplies.

She remembers one pre-computer year when Santa got it wrong, misjudging the hula-hoop trend. The fad fizzled one July and by December he had warehouses full of the blasted things.

How he recycled them into more desirable gifts is a story in itself, for another day.

Her husband is also a world-class fundraiser. Few have heard of the Santa Network, but it exists and it works, even in this year of widespread economic doldrums.

The money his messengers quietly finagle from countless countries around the world finances his whole operation, from reindeer feed to raw materials for toys to operating a helicopter fleet which airdrops the supplies he needs at the North Pole.

Few countries agree on much any more, but all agree on the need for Santa Claus, and one way or another they come up with the money to keep him in operation.

He just does too much good, makes too many people happy, to let him go broke.

As one world leader put it, “If he didn’t exist it would be necessary to invent him.

There‘s a special warm place in Mrs. Claus’ heart for the United States, which contributes a great deal more than just money to her husband.

One year the U. S. military flew a C-5 jumbo cargo plane to the North Pole, loaded Santa, his sleigh and reindeer in it, and flew to Area 51, which you may recall is the top secret military facility in the western U. S.

To make a long story short, Santa, the sleigh and reindeer are the recipients of the latest Stealth technology, which is why they’re invisible on radar, unless they choose to be otherwise.

Santa had to go to Stealth. He flies all over the world, and in many cases, the skies aren’t friendly.

There are too many MIGs, SAMs, anti-aircraft guns and air-to-air missiles these days, not to mention the odd native armed with an ancient ‘03 Springfield rifle or a spear and a ton of luck.

Stealth aside, many of the letters Santa gets inquires after his health. Santa needs to inquire after his own health, and get some answers fast, Mrs. Claus thinks.

What the old boy really needs is less milk and cookies and more carrots and ice water, and a “sweating to the oldies” workout video.

Right now, he buys his clothes by the pound, and his feet don’t get wet when he showers. He needs more cookies set out by wide-eyed children around the world the way Custer needed more Indians.

Little wonder the reindeer can barely drag him into the sky each year. Next year it may be an ‘either or’ proposition: Either lose weight, or retire the reindeer and strap a surplus NASA booster to the sled.

Or to Santa’s tail.

Once again, Mrs. Claus vows to get Santa to lose some of the bulk. Despite circling the globe in an open sleigh all night, it’s a testament to the power of children’s love that a guy with these medical issues has survived for hundreds of years, beat Covid-19 and the Spanish Flu and the Plague, lived long enough to bury scores of doctors who told him to lose weight or else.

Mrs. Claus quietly steals off to bed. After all, like children around the world on Christmas Eve, she awaits Christmas morning with great anticipation, but for an entirely different reason.

She is awakened by the sound of sleigh bells drifting down from the black sky. She can see nothing above, however. The darkest time of year at the North Pole is the Winter Solstice, approximately Dec. 21. There has been no sunlight or even twilight since early October. The darkness lasts until the beginning of dawn in early March.

The sound of the bells tells her Santa and the reindeer are on short final, seconds away from touchdown on the lighted runway.

She thanks God, then walks with a light step into the kitchen and turns the heat up a notch on a pot of soup which has simmering all night.

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