The mad dash to rip open carefully wrapped Christmas presents has come and gone.
Today, there should be peace across the land, except where deer and duck hunters burst out the door well before first light to find their way to a blind.
I have to confess. I was one of those kids. I never understood why presents were wrapped in the first place. It just slowed the process of getting to the good stuff.
Fortunately, Santa didn’t wrap presents at our house. Only the clothes came wrapped, and those could wait.
On a day when the weather is going to be more fall-like than early winter and kids will be breaking in new bikes and BB guns, I remember one of the worst Christmases ever. After I had gone to sleep, Santa and his brother elves slipped out the back door and put together an awesome swing set. I remember hearing the noise, but probably chalked it up to Santa being on the roof. Now I know it may have been too much egg nog.
When sunrise came the next morning there was no sun. There was no snow. There was only rain, and it was raining so hard you could just barely make out the silhouette of the swing set with its slide and monkey bars 50 feet away.
My parents were pretty good about seeing that Santa Claus arrived with the presents I asked for. OK, it may not have always been the exact brand like the year I got the Huffy stingray bike instead of the Schwinn, but it still had that banana seat, big handle bars and got me from point A to point B as fast as my legs could peddle.
They also never got me that horse, but I guess that was a little much since we were living in the city.
I never got a BB gun either. Actually, that was genius on their part. I would have stayed in trouble.
As I got older and got into hunting they tried to get me things I needed. By then there weren’t a lot of surprises. My dad didn’t deer hunt so he let me pick out exactly what I wanted, up to a certain financial point.
The recent ice storm made me think about some of those presents like a pair of Sears insulated hunting boots. I am really not sure what constituted insulation in the boots because my feet still haven’t thawed. I do know what made them sort of waterproof, globs of Sno Seal baked into the boots as they sat on an open oven door.
As bad as they were, they beat the cowboy boots that I had been using.
I also got a green insulated jump suit. It was insulated with something called Hollofil, which had the insulation properties newspaper pages would as home insulation. To stay warm you had to wear enough clothes under it that you looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy.
And don’t even start on what was called long-handle underwear. Those cotton britches and top didn’t do anything to keep you warm. In fact, since cotton holds moisture, they may have made you colder than you would have been without them.
I did get a Coleman mushroomed shape heater. It was great at home in the house. Not so much in a tent when the conditions were 20 or below, which I remember it being on at least one occasion.
And then there was the rifle. A Remington 700 BDL in .30-06 caliber with a Leupold 3X9 scope. With the dark wood and checkered stocking of the BDL, it was a rifle that would make anyone proud. And I was.
It was the greatest Christmas present ever, until the year Santa left rifles for my sons.
There are going to be a lot of kids getting first guns this year. A bunch are going to be a lot younger than I am.
So here is my wish to those great parents who are introducing their kids to hunting with a gun this year, don’t put the ammo with gun. Keep it separate and keep it safe. If you live in the country and have a safe place to shoot, wait until you get outside to show them how to load it. Start them off right by teaching them to hold the barrel downward when loading it.
If you live in town, wait to give them ammo until you are somewhere they can safely use the gun. You can still start them off right by teaching them how to point the gun away from people whether it is loaded or not, and to always keep the bolt or magazine open so everyone else knows the gun is safe.
Follow a few rules and this will be a safe and Merry Christmas.
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