When I was a graduate student I worked as a research assistant for one of the professors in the Anthropology Department. We were working on a big research paper that required countless hours in the library reading everything ever written on the Native American tribes of the Southwest. It was tedious, and sometimes I found myself reading material that perked up my interest even though it wasn’t relevant to our research. Here’s a story I came across that I still remember:
The Man Who Killed Santa Claus
Once an evangelist came to the Navajo reservation. He did all the usual things preachers do to earn the goodwill of the people, like helping out with renovations at the school, or getting better supplies to the local clinic. But whatever he did, attendance at his religious services remained low. Once Christmas time came around, he decided he needed to do something extra special, spectacular; something really impressive to get the people’s attention. So he hired a pilot and a plane to fly over the main square of the village on Christmas Eve, and he hired a skydiver to dress up like Santa Claus. The idea was, the skydiver Santa would jump out of the plane, parachute to the ground with a bag of toys, and then give the toys to all the village children.
Everything was set up, and the preacher made sure everyone knew about it so they would be there in the square, waiting for Santa to arrive. Then, early in the day of December 24th, the skydiver called the preacher and told him he was sick and he couldn’t make it. The preacher was frantic. He called everyone who could be a replacement in the whole Four Corners area, but it was Christmas Eve. No one was answering the phone. What was he going to do? He would really lose face if he couldn’t pull it off, now.
Finally, he got an idea. He took the Santa suit, and stuffed it with straw from a horse barn. By the time he got it completely stuffed, it looked good enough. From the air, surely no one could tell it wasn’t the real guy. So everything was set up. That evening, the pilot flew over the village, threw out the stuffed Santa suit, and then threw the bag of toys out after it.
KATHUMP!!! Without a parachute, the stuffed Santa suit hit the village square with a solid smack and lie there, spread-eagled and lifeless. KABANG!!! The bag of toys landed nearby. The Navajos all went home, unimpressed.
The preacher was really disappointed now. No one even bothered to pick any toys out of the bag. He went all over the village trying to get someone to talk to him, but everyone was busy. No one came to his next sermon. Finally, a week later, the preacher decided to leave.
“Why is everyone ignoring me?” he implored to the last Navajo he saw on his way out.
“Well,” the fellow answered matter-of-factly, “No one wants to associate with the man who killed Santa Claus.”