By SLIM RANDLES
For years now, Herb Collins has been helping Santa by donning the red and the beard and the tassels and waving to passing cars on Christmas Eve out at the Old Fort Road crossing.
He takes a bag of candy along, in case anyone cares to stop, and he also takes his daughter Cindy along, because she’s always been his head elf. Cindy’s grown now and has helpers of her own, but this has been a daddy/daughter event for a long time and neither sees any reason to quit.
He had done it a few years and was wondering why he was doing it when one special Christmas Eve, as it snowed, he found his reason.
While he and Cindy stood in full-blown elf gear alongside the road, a pickup pulling a moving trailer pulled up and stopped. Cindy brought the candy over to the truck and Herb reached his hands through the window to shake hands with the young boy and girl who were in there with their dad. Both kids were crying and grinning and grabbing his hands.
“Santa,” the father said, “we’re moving across the country tonight, and the kids were sure you wouldn’t be able to find them since they were between homes.”
Herb swallowed. “Now kids,” he said, “you know Santa will find you no matter where you are tonight.”
“Really?” the girl said.
“Why, sure. So you just be good and help your dad, and I’ll find you, don’t you worry.”
“Oh thank you, Santa!” they said.
Their father mouthed a silent “thank you,” and everyone waved as the truck went on down the road toward Christmas. It must have been the raw wind that made Herb wipe the tears away.
“That made the whole thing worth it,” Herb says when he tells of that special night. “That’s why I keep going back out there.”