you drive through Lufkin
during the holidays, be sure to take notice of one of East
Texas’ most unusual Christmas decorations.
For decades, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Pumping Unit,” the creation of
Lufkin Industries, Inc., the inventor of the balance-type oilfield
pumping unit, has helped East
Texas celebrate the season.
Rudolph, named for the reindeer made famous by the Gene
Autry song, is a fully-operational pumping unit standing about
45 feet high.
For about four days before Thanksgiving, an electrician installs 1,000
seven-watt light on a selected unit. Another work crew spends another
two and a half days putting Rudolph together at his holiday home on
the parking lot of Lufkin Mall beside Loop 287 and U.S. 59.
Rudolph is actually a fully-operational Lufkin Mark 640 oilfield pump
painted red for the season. At his holiday home, he is pulling a 38-foot
dump trailer, also made by Lufkin Industries, carrying Santa Claus
and a pile of Christmas gifts.
Rudolph, naturally, sports lighted antlers and a red nose.
On each Saturday before Thanksgiving, East Texans gather by the thousands
at the mall, Santa Claus arrives, a local band and choir fills the
air with Christmas music, and cookies and milk are passed out to the
children on hand.
Lufkin Industries selects a person or group each year to be the official
lighter of Rudolph. The crowd shouts out a countdown, a button is
pushed, and Rudolph comes to life.
origin of Rudolph goes back to the days when Guy Croom, a Lufkin Industries
employee, heard the Gene
Autry song and decided to decorate a small pumping unit with a
red electric light bulb and a red ribbon around his neck.
The Christmas decoration was placed at the back entrance of a company
machine shop where people driving down Raguet and Angelina streets
in downtown Lufkin
could see Rudolph bobbing up and down.
The site of Rudolph was often changed each year until it found a permanent
home beside Loop 287 in south Lufkin.
At the end of each holiday season, Rudolph is dismantled, repainted
and sold to an oil producing customer somewhere in the world. The
trailer is also sold to a customer to carry goods across America.
The same will happen to Rudolph this year and it’s not unlikely that
he could be placed in a foreign country where Christmas, as we know
it, is not celebrated.
December 17, 2007 Column
Published with permission