On a crisp December morning, Santa and his elves are out early delivering Christmas cheer – from horseback.
Cayla Norris, her husband and three other couples started Cowboys For Christmas several years ago in Powell.
“It was literally just like on a whim,” Norris told Cowboy State Daily. “Let’s just do something for the community.”
Now in year four, Santa, the Grinch, a wagon driver and several outriders deliver presents and Christmas trees to needy families throughout the Big Horn Basin.
And the number of families they help each year has grown, from just eight in Powell the first year to 25 families this year in Powell and Cody, as well as smaller towns in the Bighorn Basin.
“We have 13 in Powell, 12 in Cody, and then we have Burlington, Basin, Byron, Lovell, Deaver, Greybull,” said Norris. “So, we’ve expanded a lot over the last four years and it’s just been an absolute blast.”
Norris said families can nominate themselves for a visit from the Christmas Cowboys, or others can on their behalf, often as a surprise.
The gifts, she said, are all donated.
“Either people are donating to us and bringing us gifts or they donate money and then we go shopping,” said Norris. “Without the donations, we couldn’t do it. Without all the people supporting us it would not happen.”
On this Saturday morning in Powell, the gang surprised a young couple and their two young children, whose mother led them out to the curb to say thank you to Santa, the Grinch and his elves.
“You guys all ready for Christmas?” Santa asked the young ones.
“Yes!” piped up a neighbor boy, who couldn’t help but join in the fun.
The More, the Merrier
Norris says the families plan to expand next year’s outings for Cowboys for Christmas.
“Our hope is to expand, not just in the Bighorn basin, but throughout the state and maybe in the future, multi-state,” said Norris. “But right now we want to expand throughout the state, hopefully.”
They’ve already enlisted help in other towns around the Bighorn Basin.
“We have two couples over in Cody that have stepped up and decided to help us,” said Norris, “so they now deliver in Cody the same day we deliver in Powell.”
And Cowboys For Christmas is a family affair. Young Wade Hill said he loves being Santa’s elf.
“It’s for people in need,” Hill said, “and we get to carry Christmas trees all around town.”
Norris said the best part of Cowboys For Christmas is seeing the faces – and the gratitude – of the families they help.
“Our favorite is when we go to deliver, and the family has been nominated by somebody else and they don’t know,” said Norris. “And they tear up, and they’re like ‘Oh my gosh, thank you guys so much.’”
The horses are a big hit with the little ones, Norris said.
“The kids see the horses outside, and they’re just elated, and they’re like, ‘Can we please go pet the horses?’” Norris said.
The Christmas cheer they spread is reciprocated, she said, bringing the cowboys and cowgirls joy as well.
“It just warms our hearts to be able to help everybody,” said Norris, “and it’s amazing, we love it.”
Anyone interested in helping out the Cowboys For Christmas effort can find out more about the group on their Facebook page.