Just before 4 p.m. on Oct. 10, Steven Wise pulled his rental car in front of a multiacre compound on State Highway 30 near the tiny Adirondack hamlet of Gloversville, N.Y., and considered his next move. For the past 15 minutes, Wise had been slowly driving the perimeter of the property, trying to get a better read on the place. An assortment of transport trailers — for horses and livestock, cars, boats and snowmobiles — cluttered a front lot beside a single-story business office with the sign “Circle L Trailer Sales” set above the door. At the rear of the grounds was a barn-size, aluminum-sided shed, all its doors closed, the few small windows covered in thick plastic.
With each pass, he looked to see if anybody was on the grounds but could find no one. A number of times Wise pulled off the road and called his office to check whether he had the right place. It wasn’t until he finally spotted a distant filigree of deer antlers that he knew for certain. The owner of Circle L Trailer, Wise had read, runs a side enterprise known as Santa’s Hitching Post, which rents out a herd of reindeer for holiday events and TV spots, including commercials for Macy’s and Mercedes-Benz.
After spotting a man tightening bolts on one of the trailer hitches, Wise paused to explain his strategy to me and the documentary filmmaker Chris Hegedus, who had a video camera. “I’m just going to say that I heard their reindeer were on TV,” Wise said. “I happened to be driving by and thought I might be able to see them in person.”