A bit of Christmas came early to the Tehachapi area as Santa Claus himself paid a visit to inspect the reindeer at Windswept Ranch.
"We have the largest herd of reindeer in the western United States," said Diane Frieling of Windswept Ranch. "So we thought we would give Santa a chance to come out and look them over."
Frieling explained that Dasher, Donner, Cupid, Blitzen and the others on Santa's sleigh team are in no danger of being replaced.
"Our reindeer are the standby sleigh-pullers," she said. "Just in case one of the main team comes down with a cold or something."
Santa has been spreading Christmas cheer and gifts for as long as anyone could remember, but it wasn't until the mid 1800s that he began to use reindeer, specially trained to fly, to pull his sleigh full of gifts around the world on the night before Christmas.
"You just can't beat reindeer for pulling a sleigh," said Claus. "Not only can you teach them to fly, but the ride is really smooth."
Santa Claus stopped by Windswept to inspect several of the reindeer at the facility in hopes of selecting a stand-in to fill out his team when needed, and several hopeful candidates strutted their stuff for him.
"These are all fine-looking reindeer," said Santa as he looked them over. "But it takes a special kind of reindeer to make my team."
One by one, Santa checked over the reindeer, leading them around in a circle, and inspecting their antlers.
At the end of the day, one reindeer made the grade. A four-year-old male, named Tundra.
"This fellow has just the right spirit," exclaimed Santa as he led Tundra around the grounds of the ranch, "And he has a fine set of antlers."
Of course Tundra will have to be taught how to fly before he can take his place alongside Comet, Dancer and the rest, but Santa seemed confident that he would pass flight school with flying colors.
"This one will do fine," said Santa, as he patted the reindeer's scruffy neck. "Yes, this one will do just fine."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Windswept Ranch for inviting our photographer to be present for Santa's visit. We hope the children of Tehachapi will enjoy this story and might be watching for Tundra, the Tehachapi Reindeer, to help Santa out sometime.