Even Santa's helpers sometimes run afoul of the law.

A farmer and his family towing Santa's sleigh to a Christmas ceremony in Annapolis last weekend were pulled over by a Maryland state trooper and given a $250 ticket for towing a wagon without a license.

Elbert Tucker, 65, a farmer from West River in Anne Arundel County, said his son-in-law, Michael Brady, was pulling the wagon, which was decked out like a sleigh, behind a pickup truck Saturday afternoon while Tucker was following in a truck carrying two horses. They were pulled over by Trooper Jacqueline Whitaker on Rte. 2 in Parole, outside Annapolis.

"I've never been in such a mess as this in all my life," Tucker said. "She pulled us over and defied us to move any farther." They tried to tell her why they were towing the wagon, he said, "but we couldn't tell her nothing because she knew it all."

Tucker, who has been donating use of the wagon and horses for the annual Annapolis Christmas tree lighting ceremony for five years, said local police always have told him he did not need a license for the wagon because it is a farm vehicle. He said the incident had upset his wife to the point yesterday where he took her to the hospital for tests. "It's just nerves, I think," he said.

The incident, which delayed the start of the city ceremony and a similar event outside the governor's mansion for more than half an hour, has caused a stir in the state capital. An editorial in yesterday's editions of The Annapolis Capital called Whitaker a "grinch in a trooper's uniform."

State police spokesman Chuck Jackson called the incident "unfortunate," and said if police had been informed of the family's plans ahead of time, "I'm sure we would have been able to accommodate them." He said the matter was under review. Trooper Whitaker was unavailable for comment.

Gov. Harry Hughes' press secretary, Lou Panos, said, "It would be neither necessary nor appropriate" for the governor to intervene in the case. "If Santa Claus needs a character witness, I'm sure there'll be thousands of children of all ages more than willing to testify." CAPTION: Picture, At his Anne Arundel farm, Elbert Tucker rests on wagon that led to $250 ticket. The Washington Post