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The Sassy Sandpiper:  Deconstructing Rudolph

Sassy Sandpiper | M.R. Wilson | Santa Claus

By M.R. WILSON, TB Reporter

Here’s the truth about the most famous reindeer of them all. 

I have it on good authority that reindeer really do know how to fly.

Santa himself told me, in 1957. I asked for a Bride Doll, and he delivered the goods. I named her “Cynthia.”

I also saw Santa’s sleigh, streaking across the black sky like a meteor on Christmas Eve, and soon thereafter heard the unmistakable jingle of sleigh bells.

The sleigh bells were genuine; my Dad packed them for our move to Florida in 1956. They were mounted on red leather (or perhaps it was plastic) straps and made some of the gentlest music I’ve ever heard. I wish I knew what happened to those bells.

Many a time I’ve wished I could believe like my 5-year-old self believed. Education and experience are wondrous, but—drat it all—they dilute magic and myth.

Take the classic Christmas song, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.” Knowledge is power, and there are real issues here.

All reindeer running around in arctic temperatures have red noses, or pink ones at the very least, because reindeer have a special adaptation to keep their noses from freezing. It’s known as nasal microcirculation:  masses of tiny blood vessels that ensure an adequate oxygen supply for all that rigorous exercise pulling Santa and a sleigh full of toys around the globe. These unique vessels also regulate the reindeer brain. . Don’t want any hot heads flying around with my Christmas presents, I’ll tell you.

You may also have heard the outlandish claim that Santa’s reindeer team must be all female. Turns out, it’s true: Only girl-reindeer have Christmas antlers, until birthing season in the spring. The males literally drop their best sets late November to mid-December. Rudolpha, the red-nosed reindeer, leads the glorious journey.

Leave it to physics to totally and unapologetically demolish the last shreds of fun.

Starting at the International Date Line, traveling west, and factoring in the advantage of time zones, reindeer would have a maximum of 48 hours to pull the Jolly Old Elf and his gigantic bag of gifts around the world, delivering to 10,000 homes every second. At that speed, the entire crew would burn up due to atmospheric friction.

Obviously, there is no time to stop and sample the goodies offered Santa, but far be it from me to explain that to a 4-year-old. And the 4-year-old I have in mind would want equal consideration for reindeer snacks, too. I will try to convince her that I did indeed look up recipes for Reindeer Chow but all I found were sticky human treats. We’ll have to venture into the woods for lichens, mosses, ferns and herbs to set out next to Santa’s cookies and milk.

Photos courtesy of M.R. Wilson

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The Sassy Sandpiper:  Deconstructing Rudolph
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The Sassy Sandpiper:  Deconstructing Rudolph
Here's the truth about the most famous reindeer of them all.
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TB Reporter
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