LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – An East Texas man is responsible for guarding a 40-year-old Lufkin tradition.
While it may seem mundane to watch over Rudolph the Red-Nosed Pumping Unit 12 hours at a time, one Lufkin Industries security officer is thrilled to be a part of spreading Christmas cheer.
Larry Byrd is on assignment to protect Santa's lead 45-foot reindeer.
"They asked me if I wanted to work Rudolph this year and I said absolutely," said Larry Byrd.
Twelve hours a day, Byrd makes sure Rudolph is secure.
"Mostly I just watch Rudolph and make sure everything stays operational with Rudolph and also I get out and greet the people some as they come up, and [I] wish them a Merry Christmas," explained Byrd.
However, he said there's more to his job than just making sure Rudolph doesn't go anywhere.
"We are prepared," Byrd said. "We have the gate around here that's locked because we don't want anybody to get in and get hurt."
When it takes a service crew two and a half days to put him together, it's important he's watched with a careful eye.
"Nobody vandalizes while I'm here and the people are safe," said Byrd.
However, he doesn't spend his entire shift in the guard house.
"I don't sit still for 12 hours," laughed Byrd. "I get out and I walk around and I try to stay active and do something."
Usually that something is greeting the famous reindeer's fans.
"They really enjoy Rudolph," he said. "They come up and they take pictures and the children really gleam when they see him and the adults too."
Although Rudolph's movement is pretty consistent, with more than 1,000 7-watt lights the view doesn't get old.
"I enjoy being a part of something that does make people happy and brings smiles on their face and brings some hope," he said.
Byrd can't help but admit, the heavyweight he guards is impressive.
"He's a magnificent creation," Byrd said as he watched the reindeer bob up and down.
It's a creation Byrd is thrilled to protect.
The pumping unit is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the lights on Rudolph and Santa's sleigh stay on around the clock.