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Riding with the Rangers: Busy Santa letter season

Dec 24, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

If there were a prize-winner for the ordinary word that Santa letter writers have the most trouble spelling, I nominate "would."

I slipped my coat on Monday morning before I went to the basement to look through the Ranger newspaper archive for some Christmas material from years gone by. It's cold down there this time of year. But it was a warming experience to sift through the 1959 photo file and peruse some Christmas season pages from that year.

That was the final Christmas before The Ranger went to daily publication. We were still a Tuesday/Thursday paper in '59 after the merger of the Riverton Times and Riverton Review six years earlier. Both those papers were Thursday publications, and the amalgamation led to the twice-weekly product renamed The Ranger.

In the basement, well-labeled and well-catalogued, was the manilla envelope from Christmas week 54 years ago, the glossy photographs still razor sharp and ready to reproduce today. You can see a couple of them on today's front page.

I wonder if, 54 years from now, any of the methods we are using to archive our photographs today will still be viable. Will that CD, that zip disk, that SD card, or that thumb drive be of any use to us?

I have my doubts.

But that 5x7-inch glossy photo of Santa Claus and the two Lynch kids from 1959 was still there, waiting to be rediscovered in its envelope, good as new, ready to use, and not the least bit out-of-date other than its subject matter.

That picture has never "crashed" once.

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Section B of today's Ranger features all the letters to Santa Claus we relayed to the Big Guy Up North. We hope we got them all.

Writing the little headlines for each letter tests our well-honed newspaper skills. The more original the letter, the easier the headline. Thus, the 79th letter reading "Dear Santa, How is Mrs. Claus? I want a Monster High doll" can challenge the headline writer. So it's fun once in awhile to come across a letter from a young correspondent named Darion, who wrote "Dear Santa, I want nothing for Christmas. Love, Darion."

It was tempting to headline that letter with "Got You Covered, Darion," but we settled for "Darion's List Should Be Easy For Santa."

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We aren't sure exactly how many letters we got, but the estimate here is 650, give or take a dozen. That's a big total. There have been heavier years, but this ranks right up there. And, as of this writing on "Christmas Eve eve" morning, there isn't a single straggler. Thanks for meeting the deadline, everyone. Santa's secretarial elves appreciate it.

If a few latecomers arrive, they will be somewhere in this section. The big Christmas Greetings section went to press Monday morning.

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If there were a prize-winner for the ordinary word that Santa letter writers have the most trouble spelling, I nominate "would." Clearly, it's a bugger. I wood like, I wud like, I wod like, I wude like and I wid like were the most popular variations. I typed up about 125 letters personally, and just one writer nailed "would."

Come to think of it, w-o-u-l-d is a pretty dumb way to spell it.

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The aforementioned Monster High dolls probably are the most-requested gift from this year's writers. And there must be a great new Nerf gun on the market this year, because lots of kids asked for it. Elf on a Shelf is a hot item, along with the many and varied electronic gizmos with the letter "i" in front of them -- iPhone, iPad, iBook, etc. In fact, if the kids wanted a phone or music player other than an Apple brand, they didn't say so. It was either iSomething or simply a generic "phone" or "laptop."

Sorry, Samsung, Sony, LG and the rest, but Apple's marketing is reaching kids better than yours -- at least in Fremont County. (The answer for the rest of you: More newspaper advertising!)

And is Barbie still holding her own? Oh, yes. Big time.

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When kids weren't asking for Nintendo DS and Xbox One (two other highly requested presents), the were getting creative in other ways. Many wanted something called a "borinrow," a "bowingero" or a "boewanrro," which the experienced Santa letter typist recognizes as "bow and arrow."

One boy asked for "three gallons of gold." Another suggested Santa bring "a ball full of money."

A couple of kids even asked for books. Books! Those are very good boys and girls. If you get a Christmas gift from me, chances are it's a book.

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As always, the earnestness of the little pen pals shines through.

"I have been saying nice words like 'wow,'" one girl wrote.

"I hope you are real, but I don't know," said another. Have faith, little one.

Sometimes the simple requests stick with me. One girl's list left out the fancy TV-commercial stuff. "I want a necklace with a heart on it," she wrote.

Are you listening, Santa? She's not asking for much. Get it done.

Other letters grab the heartstrings and pull hard. The kids ask for the revival of a grandparent, the return of a lost pet, or for dad to come home from a place he can't.

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As someone responsible -- regrettably -- for hundreds of typographical errors (or more) over the past 30 years, I am empathetic toward the youthful correspondent who doesn't catch all the boo-boos. In the case of Santa letter writers, who typically are 8 years old and younger, the typos are a great part of the fun.

Check out the pages of letters, and you'll see some hilarious whoppers. Truly, it's great, good-natured entertainment.

My favorite was from this 6-year-old: "Santa, I am being god for my dad."

Hmm ... Speaking from experience, that's usually the other way around, isn't it?

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In Santa's Ranger workshop, Eric Blom, Katie Roenigk, Wayne Nicholls, Jamie Drendel and Alejandra Silva all typed dozens of letters. Wayne, a Santa letter newcomer, did more than anybody else (don't worry, it was good for him).

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Santa letter season is done. This year's letters are well worth a few minutes around the Christmas Eve dinner table tonight. Read them and laugh, weep and remember. We wouldn't want to do this every week, but getting these epistolary gems in shape for publication is one of the seasonal joys of Riding with the Rangers.

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