A lot of people get their thrills from fast cars, motorcycles, hang gliding, parachute jumping and everything else that starts fast and gets faster.

Not me. I had the best ride of my lifetime on Christmas Eve, as I was accepted to be a volunteer Santa Claus riding atop a Harker Heights fire truck out of Station No. 2 on Route 3.

I had been looking forward with excitement to this Santa Claus gig and I was not disappointed. It proved to me there’s a lot to sharing with others and the only reward you might get is a hug, a thank you, lots of smiles and a Merry Christmas!

There aren’t any gifts better than these. I didn’t want anything for Christmas after that experience. My cup was full.

Thanks to my friends at the Harker Heights Fire Department for trusting a guy with no experience riding a fire truck. They’re much taller than I thought. I would begin naming people but I would forget some.

I must mention my crew on the truck. It was the fireman/driver’s first time to drive the route, but he quickly got into the swing of things. I was impressed that it took all four of us doing our jobs to make it work. Riding shotgun was our navigator, who kept watch on the GPS and my other companion, who had a master list of every street where we would be traveling. This group was masterful.

The two other Santas were on trucks with buckets, but my engine had a space behind the cab where I could stand and move from side to side. That was a good thing because in many locations, the families came out on both sides of the street. They came in droves of 30 to 40 and in some spots only four or five.

As I mentioned, the engine I rode gave me the chance to jump down from the truck when it stopped and meet the crowds face to face. I didn’t keep count, but I had to have been in contact with at least 500 people on that route.

The children were delightful and the parents elated.

Cameras flashed nonstop, and my Santa face is now on so many iPhones it is unbelievable.

I took this whole thing seriously, and my 31-year- old daughter helped me prepare.

We’re talking expert makeup that helped match the fake hair with my real beard. I did get caught, though, as one little girl asked, “You’re wearing makeup aren’t you?”

Well, it’s most effective from a distance and I told her my elf put it on for me.

I loved the one-on-one greetings so much I’m the one that HHFD can blame for eating up the clock and extending the time of the route until almost 10:30 p.m.

I don’t apologize for the fun I was having but for the inconvenience I might have caused. The other guys had done the Santa gig for five years. My first year really stretched the learning curve. I want to do this again next year but some tutoring might be in order before we hit the road again.

The most humorous moment should have told me to settle down for a while when I mistakenly shared a Merry Christmas greeting with a mailbox. It was dark out there, folks.

The moment I will never forget, however, is while I stood in the midst of a large crowd and a mom wanted to get a photo of me with her son and daughter. The son was a special-needs child, and he looked at me with this huge smile and while hugging me said, “I’ve really missed you ... Now here you are!” I’ll never forget that.

Thanks again to anyone who had anything to do with getting me on that fire truck and being Santa Claus for a night. I learned that you could volunteer in lots of ways even in a red suit and white beard.

Have a wonderful new year!

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