DAVID GREENE, HOST:
It's Friday. Time for Storycorp. Today we're going to check back with a man we heard from earlier in the year. His name is Boyd Applegate and he's a big rig truck driver. He was last on this program in November talking about volunteering at the polls on Election Day. On this Friday morning before Christmas, Boyd tells his sister, Rhonda Dixon, how he got started with another pastime, as one of Santa's helpers.
BOYD APPLEGATE: Santa Claus was a byproduct of truck driving. Because I drive a truck, I can have a beard that's a little bit longer than most people and one early November my head was cold and I didn't have a hat so I stopped at a Wal-Mart. They had a rack of Santa hats right inside the door and I picked one off and I put it in my head. And a little 4-year-old boy that was walking by with his mother yanked her to a stop and said, Look, it's Santa!
And I have not spent Christmas Eve or Christmas Day at home with my family for the last 18 years. I'm usually in a rented red convertible, and I do under-the-tree gift deliveries that are designed for children to wake up and catch me in the middle of the process.
RHONDA DIXON: What are some of your favorite moments doing Santa Claus over the years?
APPLEGATE: One young lady wanted me to be her new stepfather. One young lady wanted me to provide her a maid. I've gone down to Tijuana, Mexico and done it where I don't speak the language. In fact one year, when I was coming back, this young man comes running up to the side of the car. And when he saw me his eyes opened and his jaw dropped. I gave him a really jolly ho, ho, ho, and I handed him this gift.
And as I went across the border, the border guard had seen me handing something and he looked at me and he said, You really must be Santa, and tonight I can't possibly stop you, so go ahead. As a Santa Claus, one of the big mistakes you can make is to not believe yourself. When I walk out of the house in my suit, I cease being me and I absolutely am Santa.
And no matter whether it's a skeptical teenager or somebody that wants to yank on my beard, it doesn't matter. What matters the most to me is I believe. And Santa Claus is truly the most important thing in my life.
GREENE: That bearded big rig driver, Boyd Applegate, with his sister Rhonda Dixon in San Diego, California. Their conversation will be archived at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress and you can get the Storycorp podcast at our website, NPR.org.