Why is Rudolph’s Nose so Red?

Ahh, yes. My little buddy Rudolph. I’m glad you asked why his nose is so red.

Rudolph, (BTW, he hates being called Rudy…I’m just letting you know) is the permanent Lead for our Ice and Snow Special Team.

He showed up back in 1939. A real gangly kid. Did you ever know a kid that always seemed to have a cold? I won’t say he was a ‘snot-nosed-brat,’ but in fact, he was not very popular with his peers.

Back then we were developing some new techniques for the distribution system. We realized we needed more sleigh speed. Airmen know that more altitude equals more speed. I contributed a little Pixie Dust and we could get to altitudes exceeding 60,000 ft for parts of our routes. That puts us at about double the height of the Jet Stream, so, effectively, we’re above the weather.

But that kind of cruising altitude necessitated a steep high-speed dive through the Jet Stream to get down to street level, where our work happens. To complicate things, Delta had just discovered that their west to east trans-continental flights could tap into the Jet Stream if they could get up to about 32,000 feet. A 250 mph tail-wind means a lot to an airliner.

But for us, it meant we had to contend with airborne traffic for the first time in 300 years.

I’d been seeing those aircraft lights for a few years when one day I noticed Rudolph and his red nose; as usual, he had a cold in his nose. I put 2 and 2 together and came up with a great ‘avoidance’ system. A little Pixie Dust enhanced his nose and really lit it up. BTW, it also cured his propensity for catching colds. His ‘light’ served us well around air traffic.

Rudolph worked on the Ice and Snow Special Team for about 10 years before my alumni-buddy Gene came to visit. He fell in love with Rudolph; he sang and made popular the song you’ve heard about a gazillion times. It was written by another visiting alumni-buddy, Johnny about a decade earlier.

I used Rudolph every trip for about 10 years from about 1957 to about 1967. That’s when some US Airmen teamed up with some Canuck geeks and created NORAD. The North American Air Defense Command, They were really concerned about weapons coming at the North American continent ‘over the pole’ and that could have meant us, since we were originating at the pole, flying extra high and making a steep dive toward US cities. If one of those enthusiastic geeks tripped an alarm on us, the consequences could have been devastating. Turns out, Rudolph’s nose reflects RADAR quite well.

After a while, NORAD learned our usual routes and came to expect us. Nowadays they even broadcast on TV sometimes when they get a fix on us. These days we use some effective modern transponders.

So, Rudolph is the Lead and Lead Trainer for our Ice and Snow Special Team. He picked his own team from the herd and they run practice drills with every snowstorm. For Lead, I usually pair him up with his daddy, Blixem (the German version of Blitzen). A pair on my original team was Dunder and Blixen (Thunder and Lightening), nowadays, Donder and Blitzen.

Overly verbose answer as usual.

The Short answer to why Rudolph’s nose is so red–Pixie Dust.


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