Santa Claus seen in Pagosa


By Betty Slade

We identify September with changing colors, football games at Golden Peaks Stadium and ColorFest. In our family, there is one who starts his journey in September and ends with his midnight ride on Christmas Eve.

When I saw my son-in-law’s grizzly face and a full head of white hair, I chuckled, “It looks like you’re getting ready for Christmas.”

He nodded and grinned. My daughter rolled her eyes, shook her head and formed a scowl. “He promised me he’d shave and get a haircut the day after Christmas.”

Al Wylie, my son-in-law, joined our family in 1986 when he married our daughter Allison. I have said many times, “He’s the best thing that’s happened to our family. He’s the family peacemaker. He’s good to our daughter and all of us.”

Some of you know him as Al, the propane man. He visits your home and hundreds of other homes during the year. He keeps you warm, turns on the pilot lights for helpless widows and older people. He stays to visit for a few minutes, makes sure they’re OK, then he’s off to another home. He is called out in the night hours when someone runs out of propane. He leaves his warm home to take care of someone else’s home.

You might know him as the treasurer of the Pagosa Springs Athletic Booster Club. For 11 years, he has budgeted funds that provide uniforms and sports equipment for the junior high and high schools. Our daughter makes sure your banner is seen in the gym and on the football field so you will get recognition for your support. They give a team effort and always have.

He served our country for 26 years and retired as LCDR (retired). Every prayer he utters from his lips is for the men and women overseas who put their lives in danger for our freedom. He prays for their families at home. He is truly a man of God who loves his family, country and community. 

When he retired from the military, Al and our daughter wanted a better life for their children — the place where Allison grew up. They made the long trip from Virginia to Colorado, where his North Pole Workshop awaited him. It’s fitting they would end up in Pagosa.

In September, he throws away his razor and puts up the scissors. Not in a telephone booth, not immediately, but as an ordinary Clark Kent, aka Al Wylie, the propane man, starts his transformation into Santa Claus, aka Super Claus.

After Thanksgiving, he can be seen in a red velvet hat. Soon he brings out his red velvet suit with the white trim. For years, he stuffed a big pillow in his trousers. The pillow is no longer necessary. His Santa Claus suit fits just fine. He no longer needs a fake beard and hair. He’s become the real thing.

Each Christmas since I’ve known him, our family, and military and community children, get a visit from Santa Claus. The day after Christmas, his suit is sent to the dry cleaners and stored away for another year. But, his good deeds continue throughout the year.

One lady proudly showed her child’s picture on her phone screen. “Look at my son with Santa Claus.” My daughter gulped “Oh my gosh, that’s Al with your son.” The lady didn’t recognize him.

It is strange I’m writing about Santa Claus in September when you won’t see him until December. Maybe I should save this article for a Christmas deadline. Why do we think of Jesus at Christmas time when he’s in our hearts all year long?

And yes, during the year, we see the spirit of Jesus in every baby’s smile, a kind man filling your propane tank to keep your home warm or a store clerk standing on her feet all day to make sure you have food on your table.

I read today in the first chapter of John. “Now out of Jesus’ fullness, we are fulfilled, and from him we receive grace heaped upon more grace … Now he has unfolded to us the full explanation of who God truly is” (TPT). Our son-in-law demonstrates the fullness of Jesus. He continues to give grace to anyone he meets and every house he visits.

Final brushstroke: I’ve blown his cover. I’ve spilled the beans. I’m a proud mother-in-law, maybe a little too much in-your-face. It’s my way of saying thank you for sticking with this family all these years. If Santa Claus wants to remain incognito, he’s going to have to be twice as cautious.

When you arrive at your home, your lawn is cut and a hot meal is waiting for you, you might wonder if Santa Claus showed up early. He has a habit of doing that.

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