The Grinch who stole Christmas has apparently visited Christopher Creek.
Evidence the grouchy gremlin had made a holiday sojourn into the tiny mountain hamlet turned up early Christmas morning when Christopher Creek Lodge owner Glenn Ashby awoke to find a Santa Claus that had graced the grounds for the past 10 years had been stolen.
"That was a shock to us," Ashby said. "You don't expect something like that to happen in Christopher Creek.
"What kind of a person would steal Santa Claus?"
The Kris Kringle display, which stood near a windmill in front of the lodge, was crafted by Ashby and his wife, Rebecca.
"We used some old (fishing) waders, overalls, boots, stuffed him and gave him a fishing pole," Ashby said. "It was a labor of love."
Because Santa Claus stood high off the ground on the windmill, Ashby reasons that whoever swiped St. Nick apparently had a ladder, or else the display would have been destroyed during the theft.
"We had him hung up with wire and it took the two of us to put him up each year," he said. "Stealing him took some effort."
Directly below the jolly fellow was a Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer replica constructed of small ponderosa pine logs.
"Rudolph was looking up at Santa, and he's still there. They didn't take him," Ashby said.
Immediately after seeing Santa had been kidnapped, Ashby reported the jolly fellow's disappearance to the Gila County Sheriff's Department.
"They sent a deputy out and she was very concerned," Ashby said. "I hope she can find out who did this."
Ashby admits the Santa display was not worth much -- he estimated to the deputy about $100 -- but says the theft is an indication a scoundrel is lurking in Christopher Creek.
"This is such a fine place to live, it's hard to believe there is someone out there who would steal Santa," he said. "He's always been a big part of the holiday cheer here in Christopher Creek.
"We'll miss him."
Anyone with information about the theft should report it to the Gila County Sheriff's office at (928) 474-2208.