Christmas hunts and their essences
Dec. 22, 2000
We tend to attach a lot of meanings to Christmas, though I believe we live in a part of the world where most remember its origin and celebrate its real meaning.
These "attachments" are by and large good Christmas being a sort of center for good around which we gather other good things. Like family
togetherness and gift sharing and giving to the less fortunate.
Hunters enjoy getting together with loved ones and going out to the woods and fields and marshes at Christmas when family members muster, usually at the parents' home where the "kids" were raised. Going home for Christmas and making a traditional hunt with family is often the highlight of the year.
So it was with me for over 30 years that I lived outside Mississippi.
Each year, I came back to East Mississippi and hunted deer with my father and later with one of my brothers, missing only one season when my aunt was critically ill. These hunts strengthen family bonds. The single most important activity responsible for the close relationship I had with my father was hunting during the latter part of his life.
The reader is invited to reminisce about a cherished outing that strengthened their family ties as I call back one of mine.
The commonplace event happened to me on a cold, overcast winter afternoon in Kemper County many years ago during Christmas vacation. I sat in the freezing woods surrounded by a thick growth of vines and pine seedlings.
As dark approached, a huge 9-point buck walked past me and I dropped him with a neck shot at a range of about 15 feet. My dad, who had taken a stand on the next ridge, heard my shot and came to help.
Together we started dragging the big buck toward the gravel road where we could get a vehicle to it. We dragged it down the ridge and rested often as we climbed the next slope. In short order we began to sweat and puff and on the second hill we sat down on the cold pine straw to rest, our breaths forming white clouds in the cold air of twilight.
As we rested, I took note of my dad's fatigue and said to him, "Daddy, just let me drag the deer. You could have a heart attack." After puffing a couple more white clouds, he turned to me and said, "We'll both drag. You know, you could have a heart attack, too."
What was just a predictable reply to my urging said a lot to me that winter evening in the deer woods. We rested several minutes in silence as I absorbed his words. They said to me that he was as concerned about me as I was about him. Mutual caring here; mutual love. But there was something else heavy in his words that hit me hard. Daddy made me realize I was old enough to have a heart attack now.
In that moment I realized that I was no longer a youngster. I was now a man. Certified by my father. And it didn't feel bad at all.
Otha Barham is Outdoors Editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.