On a bright night in late December, in downtown Buies Creek a sparkle appeared in the night sky. A red sleigh, pulled by an assortment of reindeer came barreling into campus at a surprising rate, almost too fast.
As the sleigh spiraled towards the sleepy college town, the man at the helm was eerily calm. Each reindeer was trying to right the ship but unsuccessfully pulling against each other. Approaching 2000 feet, the sleigh lights started popping due to the pressure of gravity. Santa, still serenely calm, gave a short, unintelligible command to his steeds, knowing that they would not be able to completely right the sled but could possibly save them from major injury. Seemingly as one, the reindeer ceased their panic and quickly flew up, trying to right the runaway sleigh. The sled started to miraculously lose speed as it reached the top of the trees encircling the tiny college town that was Buies Creek. Still hurtling through the air, Santa snapped his fingers and a layer of snow nearly 10 feet deep appeared below the sleigh at the point of impact. A small explosion of snow cushioned the fall, and everything went black.
Santa awoke amid a pile of broken red sleigh and whining tangle of reindeer the first thing he saw after he got his whit about him was a large bronze statue of a man with a thick mustache and round glasses and coming into focus was a large figure, maybe 7 feet walking towards him. Santa had to blink the dizziness away to make sure what he saw. Suddenly the statue moved and extended its hand to pull Santa to its feet. As Santa regained his bearings, he noticed a small college community laid out about a small but sprawling campus. While nearly empty because of Christmas break, the town was still lit up to celebrate Christmas. A huge tree filled with ornaments in the middle of Academic circle brought a twinkle to Santa’s eyes. As he started to shake off the effects of his crash, reality set in for Santa realizing that his yearly trip had been stopped quite short due to an unforeseen crash. A sense of panic soon set in, but the larger-than-life stranger was quick to ease any stress. The big stranger spoke to Santa with respect and admiration, explaining that his name was J.A. Campbell. J.A. explained that all of Santa’s reindeer would be alright and were being tended to by university medical staff and asked Santa, “What can we do to help you?”. Santa had to take a second to comprehend the talking Camel in front of him, but quickly replied, “I need a way to deliver the rest of my presents tonight, I’ve only got a couple hours left”. J.A. replied, with a twinkle in his eye, “I’ve got just the thing, wait here!”.
Moments later, the doors of the Craig E. Gore Convocation Center swung wide open, and 8 full sized Bactrian Camels, each standing over 10ft tall at the tip of both humps walked over; Leading them, a huge furry Camel walking on 2 feet. Santa’s eyes lit up, realizing that all hope was not lost. J.A. said to Santa, “these are my most trusted friends, they will do all they can to help you bring Christmas cheer to all and love every second of it!”. The assembled Camels nodded their heads and snorted their approval of J.A.’s message, they all seemed eager to ride. Quickly, Santa sprung to action preparing for what was going to be a long night. First, he and J.A along with a little magical help from Santa quickly rebuilt his sleigh and as an homage to the crash location the painted red wood was replaced with a bright orange. As the final touches were done on his sleigh, Gaylord assembled his camel friends, in two lines of 4, and with a snap from Santa an orange halter was places along each of their necks and connecting the herd. Gaylord took the leading position in the camel line. Much to the J.A.’s surprise Santa extended a mittened hand from the orange sleigh and offered J.A. the passenger seat. Without even thinking, the bespeckled man jumped aboard with a huge smile on his face, almost like a kid on Christmas. Another whistle from Santa caused a stirring in his camel crew, like the movies, their feet started to float off the ground and an orange, glittery glow, and within a matter of seconds the camel caravan was airborne. As they reached their top altitude, J.A. admired the high-tech sleigh that brought joy to so many children over the years. He questioned Santa “how did you develop such an intricate piece of technology?”. All the big man said was, “Magic my friend, and some pretty impressive little elves”. And then, in a flash of orange and camel hooves, they were off.
J.A. yelled over the wind, “what’s the plan sir?”. Santa shouted, “luckily for us, our last couple stops are all along the east coast, but you do you see that?”. J.A. looked around the night sky confused. Santa pointed to the horizon and a faint orange glow in the sky and saying, “the sun is about to come up, were behind schedule. We need to go into double-time to make sure we get to every house and every child.” The camel caravan picked up their pace and made their first stop in Raleigh, where, with precision Santa was in and out of each house, in the blink of an eye, even sharing some cookies with Gaylord on the way out. A Raleigh house caught the pair’s eyes as they saw a black and orange flag flying outside the front stoop. Santa slowed from his hair-raising pace and saw the excitement on J.A.’s face, for it was not often that in Wolfpack and Tarheels country a Campbell flag was flown so proudly. “Would you like to come inside with me”, asked Santa. J.A. jumped at the opportunity and the pair ran past the waiting camels and slid down the chimney to a living room covered in Campbell paraphernalia, as Santa dashed around the room, almost moving superhumanly fast J.A. took in the scene and thought to himself, “I am probably the only person that has ever actually seen this fabled and historic man do his work on Christmas”. As Santa finished stuffing the stockings with care, he asked Gaylord if this family needed any extra Christmas, to which the huge, spectacled man said, “of course they do!”. With a snap of Santa’s fingers, bright orange tinsel shot around the room and black and orange ornaments swung from the tree. Even Camel shaped cookies appeared on Santa’s plate, one of which he took with a smile.
The pair returned to the awaiting Camel Sleigh and took off again, bestowing joy to many more towns and houses around the east coast. Sometimes stopping in cities that J.A. had never even heard of before but sensing the magical power that the jolly man dressed in red possessed. His nine camel steeds seemed to never tire, no matter how far and fast they flew; they had picked up the job a lot quicker than J.A. had expected. The only time the mismatched Christmas crew suffered any hiccups was the brief stop at some accompanying college towns across the east coast. Towns like Rock Hill, South Carolina and High Point, North Carolina proved to be a lot of strain on the nine camels because they were toting so much coal for all of Winthrop’s and High Point’s students’ stockings. But after leaving these towns the caravan had smooth sailing.
J.A. and Santa’s journey finally ended where it had started just a few short hours before. Sunshine broke through the early morning horizon and illuminated the beautiful campus of Campbell University as Santa and J.A. got the camel caravan unhitched from their orange tethers and each of them was given many gifts and a promise from Santa to come visit often and an invite to come check out the north pole. The camels seemed skeptical of the snow but very much wanted to take the big man up on his offer. After that discussion, the eight camels returned to Gore Arena and rested after what was an eventful night. This left Gaylord, J.A. and Santa alone. Gaylord excitedly burst out, “that was the most fun I’ve ever had, thank you so much for letting me tag along!”. Santa chuckled, “you’re quite welcome son, you’re the reason that Christmas came this year”. With a big grin, Gaylord gave Santa a hug and proclaimed, “Christmas looks better in Orange!”. The group laughed, Gaylord ran after his Camel friends, and Santa prepared to depart. Before he left, Santa created a big orange ornament that he hung on the Campbell Christmas Tree to signify the year that the Camel Saved Christmas! J.A. turned to Santa and proclaimed, “thank you so much for an incredible night, I’m so glad I woke up for that one”. The two shared a laugh and Santa mounted his orange sleigh and got his reindeer all hooked up and called one more time to J.A., “Thank you again friend, maybe next year I’ll use camels instead of reindeer, Merry Christmas”.
Ryan N. Chasse is a senior Sports Communication major from Apex.