Santa Report

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Witnesses say Santa stopped for sleigh repair

By Billy Davis

A few lucky Batesville residents got a special treat last week when a special visitor, Santa Claus, descended on the town for an emergency repair to his Christmas sleigh.

“At first I didn’t know who it was. He wasn’t in his red suit,” said Ricky Swindle, owner of Batesville Tire & Muffler.

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Santa was making a “recon flight” across North Mississippi when the brakes on his sleigh were damaged in the heavy fog that had settled over the Panola County area, Swindle explained.

“Apparently he swung low over the Downtown Square and bumped into Gaines Baker’s tall building,” Swindle said.

Swindle admitted he was unaware of the identify of his customer, who gave his name as “Mr. Kringle,” though the sleigh and jingling reindeer that had landed in his parking lot made the shop owner suspicious.

With the damaged sleigh too dangerous to operate, Batesville Tire employee Mike Swindle took Santa to several part stores to find brakes for his sleigh.

At Quality Auto Parts, employee Brian McKay special-ordered Raybestos brand brake shoes from the Illinois-based company.

“They were some oddball brake shoes like I’ve never seen before,” McKay said. “I couldn’t find them in any book I had, and I went as far back as I could.”

Raybestos had only one set of brakes, which were made for a horse-drawn sleigh. McKay special-ordered the brakes, and Mike Swindle said he would pick them up the next day.

McKay described the mysterious customer as a “jolly fat man” with a long white beard and white hair.

“I was watching this fella leave when he turned and asked me how my daughter Kaylin is behaving. I said she’s not doing like she should,” McKay said.

“Then he said, ‘Ho, ho, ho, have a merry Christmas.’ Then I knew who he was: Santa Claus,” McKay said.

With the brakes on order, Santa stayed overnight in room 401 at the Holiday Inn, where he ordered a Cobb salad, ribeye steaks, and a supreme pizza from room service, said hotel manager Vijay Vaghela.

“It took three room service trays to get all the food to him,” Vaghela said. “I was told he tips well.”

By the time Santa was eating his meal, word of the stranded stranger had spread through Batesville and reached the hotel staff.

(The sleigh and reindeer were left in a bay at Batesville Tire, which drew a crowd.)

Vaghela compared the secrecy of the white-haired guest to the September presidential debate in Oxford, when the U.S. Secret Service camped out on all floors at the Holiday Inn.

“When people heard Santa was here, we couldn’t deny he was staying here because it was obvious who he was,” the hotel manager said.

“Plus, the Secret Service could have put me in jail. Santa could just withhold my presents,” he added.

Mike Swindle picked up the sleigh brakes by mid-morning the next day, and the sleigh was repaired by noon.

By the time the sleigh was repaired and ready, “Mr. K knew his cover had been blown,” Swindle said.

That’s when “Mr. K” revealed to Swindle that the pre-Christmas “recon flight” had been necessary because Santa was concerned that children in Panola County, with Christmas a week away, were not minding their parents.

“Santa showed me that he really had a list – and he really was checking it twice – when the sleigh got damaged,” Swindle explained. “He was checking a name on his Blackberry when he hit the Baker building.”

Santa’s list included two columns of children’s names – among them Allie, Kaylin, Shameka, Hunter, Mason, Darius, Payton, James, Emily, Michael, Austin, Bradley, Caleb, Bubba, Jeremy, Josh, Andy, Lydia, Summer, and Heather  – that Santa was double-checking before Christmas Day.

Swindle, concerned about the names on the list, put a warning on his shop sign to warn children. The sign reads, “Santa is watching you mean little heathens.”