As The Hole Deepens: It’s Not Easy Being Santa for Ski Kids
By Tim Sandlin // Illustrations by birgitta sif
FOR SOME REASON known only to God and Nostradamas, Roger Ramsey scored the job of playing Santa Claus at Teton Village. Why the anti-toddler would let himself be kicked in the shins by children in ski boots is a mystery to those who know him.
My theory is his wife, Elsinore, demanded retribution for a serial social blunder Roger committed at last summer’s company barbecue. It must have been a doozy for Roger to don the Merry Costume and sit on a snowbank-molded throne (with a side table for his tequila slurpee) there behind the Mangy Moose.
Roger didn’t don the entire Merry Costume. Just the top half since the original trousers were large enough to hide a microwave oven in the seat. Roger wore orange snow pants from Dick’s Sporting Goods—the sort with the barf-resistant bib—and Tony Lama cowboy boots. The top half was straight Santa red velvet, lily white faux fur trimming, and a beard that smelled like cat box on account of where it is stored the rest of the year.
I rode the START bus out to the Village to document Roger’s original Grinch act for Instagram. Somebody had to. These days an action isn’t real if there’s no image of it.
I arrived as a little girl ran off, weeping, her mother screeching something about a formal complaint. Roger drank slurpee and called to the retreating figures. “The prom is over, lady. Tell your kid it’s a rough world.”
The next little boy to climb aboard was five or so and clothed in six layers of Gore-Tex.
Roger said, “You’re sticky.”
The kid said, “You smell.”
“Why are you sticky?”
The lad licked the gaps between his fingers. “Rhonda June showed me how to make ice cream from snow and Karo syrup.”
“You can’t do that anymore. Snow turned radioactive in the seventies, and who is Rhonda June?”
“My au pair.” The kid pointed to a girl facing away so she wouldn’t have to watch the child she was watching. Rhonda June had porpoise pod sleeve tattoos and more piercings than Saint Sebastian.
The kid asked Santa for a pair of Stockli Stormrider Pro skis. I Googled quickly and saw where they sell for a bit under $500.
Roger said, “You’ll outgrow them in six months.”
The kid said, “What is your point, Santa Claus?”
Roger spread his knees and the kid went down like a hung man falling through a trap door. At his scream, Rhonda June oozed over to pick him up out of the snow.
She said, “Smooth move, Ex-Lax.”
Roger said, “Where did you find Karo syrup in Jackson Hole?”
Next boy was older. He had a list on his iPad that he read off: “Uglydoll Swarovski watch, Makeblock mBot Smart Robot kit, KD Interactive Aura Drone with Glove Controller, Lego Hogwarts Castle, Tom Clancy’s Six: Siege,” which I think is an Xbox thing.
“And I demand a Nintendo 3DS, the same one Justin Bieber endorsed in his ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ video with Mariah Carey.”
Roger was almost but not quite speechless. I’d call him flabbergasted. He finally got out, “Is your name Trump?”
The kid went haughty. Six-year-olds can nail haughty. “My name is Xerxes. Write that in your book. Two Xs.”
Roger pretended to look for his book. Was he supposed to have a book? “Look Xerxes with two Xs. I decide who is naughty and who is nice and you are naughty at a bizarre level. For Christmas, I’m bringing you two Mandarin oranges and a #2.5 lead pencil, and if you don’t pass them on to the less fortunate …
“Which is everybody,” Xerxes said.
“… you won’t get squat next year either.”
Xerxes made a production of taking Roger’s picture with his iPad. “Okay, Santa, my dad can buy and sell the North Pole. In point of fact, he already has. When he gets through with you you’ll be living in a cardboard box in Myanmar, selling match sticks to monks.”
Roger said, “In point of fact, get off my snowbank.”
A small girl with red curls and a Greta Thunberg sweatshirt two-foot hopped onto Santa’s lap, spilling some of Roger’s slurpee. She asked for an end to environmental degradation.
Roger said, “You got it. What else?”
“Red flag background checks for wife abusers buying AR-15s.”
“I can do that. Anything more?”
The girl reached up and yanked on Roger’s white collar. “How many polar bears died so you could look like a Coca Cola commercial?”
My take is Roger was nonplussed. “This is polyester.”
“I don’t know what polyester is, kid …”
“It’s plastic, like your straw.”
“If you’d rather I kill a polar bear than wear fake fur that can be arranged.”
“Either way, the Santa Claus paradigm is a metaphor for the destruction of the Arctic.”
An LED-like light came on in Roger’s eyes. Something clicked.
“You’re a ringer, aren’t you, little girl? Somebody put you up to this.”
Roger stared my way. I shrugged. “Wasn’t me.”
He blasted on. “No end of depredation for you. No red flag checks of wife beaters. I’m bringing you a lump of soft coal.”
The girl gasped. “Soft coal is the root of all evil.”
“Love of money is the root of all evil. Don’t you tree huggers read the Bible? Nothing in the Bible about soft coal and fracking, but it’s real clear that you’ll go straight to hell if you love money.”
The girl’s eyes hardened into little black marbles of disdain. She jumped off Roger’s lap and turned to face him, fists on hips.
“Don’t ever trash money to someone of my generation, you dip,” she said. “I want a $5,000 wire transfer to my bank account on Christmas Eve or I will tell the kid who can ship you to Myanmar your real name. Roger.”
Roger grinned for the first time all afternoon. “That’s more like it.” JH