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AN OUTDOORS CHRISTMAS: Readers share favorite outdoor Christmas memories

A hunter with rifle standing on snowy road and holding dog on a leash as bright sunlight shines in the background. [COURTESY PHOTO]

A hunter with rifle standing on snowy road and holding dog on a leash as bright sunlight shines in the background. [COURTESY PHOTO]

A gift from grandpa

My grandfather passed away in early December of 1985 not long after deer season. He passed a love for hunting down through my dad to me.

I treasure the memory of our last hunting trip together, a pheasant hunt in Liberal, Kansas. We were still mourning him when Christmas rolled around.

Surprisingly, there was a gift under the tree with a label that read, "To: Lance. From: PawPaw." Inside was a "Genuine Buffalo Skinner" knife that he had picked up for me that summer in Branson, Missouri.

My dad said that he had talked to him, wondering if I was old enough for such a knife. Apparently, dad said that I was, because there it was under the tree.

I have treasured that knife since 1985, keeping up with it even through my teenage and college years. It has been my companion on ever single deer hunt I've been on since then.

I appreciate the gift my "PawPaw" gave me every time I harvest a deer. Not only the knife, but the love for hunting.

-Lance Meek, Bethany

The gift that keeps giving

Even at 15 years old, Christmas morning was a very anticipated and special event in my life.

My brother would sleep in my room. We would wake up and prepare for the Christmas tree assault. A near military maneuver where we would run at tactical velocity down the advance corridor we called the hallway.

As we flew past the snack bar covered in breakfast goodies, the aroma of bacon attacked our senses attempting to distract our focus, but not on this day.

Not by operational tactic, but pure instinct, we opened smaller boxes first then moved on to the ultimate big box.

This particular Christmas we knew something was a little different because as we both reached the "big gift" both Mr. and Mrs. Claus stopped and paid unnatural attention.

Simultaneously, we pulled the box to ourselves immediately noticing the heft of the present. Shredding the paper like "possums tearing into persimmons" we opened the box almost to the millisecond of each other.

Inside, snuggled into the box was another box, then another, then another. Finally, opening the shoe box at the bottom, we found a BRICK. Oh, what cruel parents we had. Uh, I mean the Claus's.

Mom then said, "Turn it over." Taped to the bottom of the red Ada Brick Co. block was the greatest Christmas gift in the history of the Lillard boys. An Oklahoma Department of Wildlife combination lifetime hunting and fishing license.

No gift has meant more. No gift has even come close to lasting and remaining relevant so long as Lifetime License 1049 for me and Lifetime License 1050 for my brother.

-Robert Lillard, Duncan

The gift of responsibility

It was 1961, my 17th year on this earth. I already owned a powder blue 1953 Ford two-door with no jack in the trunk, a Stevens bolt action .22 rifle, an Eastern Arms single shot 12 gauge shotgun, and two beautiful liver and white English pointers, Doc and Smokey.

I had everything a 16-year-old Oklahoma boy could want. But just like Ralphie from the classic “A Christmas Story,” I assailed my mom and dad, night and day, with my request for a new gun.

Just like Ralphie my request was not for just any gun. I wanted a Mossberg Model 500 pump action 12 gauge with a 28-inch modified choke barrel and real American walnut stock.

My father was a very frugal man and assured me every time I made my Christmas wish known to him that I needed many other things for Christmas rather than a repeating shotgun.

But at this time in Oklahoma, a man could find 10 or more coveys of bobwhite quail with 30 or more birds per covey in the Panhandle National Grasslands because of government hunters killing predators, coon hunters running dogs every night, and farmers shooting every “chicken hawk” on sight.

I was convinced that I needed firepower, six shots on a covey rise rather than two. Some of you might ask how I got two shots on a covey rise rather than one. I carried one shell in the barrel and one shell between my index and middle fingers of my left hand.

Like an old west gunslinger I practiced shooting, breakdown, extract, insert, close and cock until I was lightning fast with two shots. My father believed that I had an unfair advantage on the quail with two shots, let alone having the capability to fire four or five shots on one covey rise. We were at an impasse.

I turned my efforts to mom so much so that she once screamed over a steaming bowl of oatmeal, “I never want to hear about a “28-inch modified whatever again.” Which by the way set off my little brother's chant of “Donnie's not getting his gun for Christmas.”

This was very disturbing since I had already told all of my high school buddies, acquaintances, and anyone who would listen that I was getting a Mossberg Model 500 pump action 12 gauge with a 28-inch modified choke barrel and real American walnut stock.

Then what I assumed was a true Christmas miracle happened. One week before Christmas the tree went up in our living room and Christmas joy abounded in my heart.

There under that little Douglas fir tree was a present for me in a heavy package, the same heft as a pump shotgun, about 2 ½ feet long by 10 inches wide. It had to be my shotgun.

My father, always the poker-faced Christmas trickster, told me not to get my hopes up. Seven days until Christmas morning was agony on earth. Somehow, I endured the wait.

It was 6 a.m. on Christmas Day when I drug mom, dad and my bratty little brother out of bed. I raced to the tree, ripped open the package and sat dumbfounded.

It couldn't be! All my father said was, “I told you that you had to have a jack in your car.” I was staring at a brand-new Western Auto bumper jack.

From the day that I bought that old Ford he told me it was my responsibility to get a jack. Every payday for three months he asked if I had purchased the $18 jack. It is 56 years later and I still remember this gift as if it were yesterday.

Dad never missed a teaching moment in my life.

-Donald Claypool, Oklahoma City

Editor's Note: For his birthday in February 1962, Donald's parents bought him a Remington Wingmaster Model 870 20 gauge shotgun. Five years later, Donald bought himself the Mossberg Model 500 pump action 12 gauge shotgun with 28-inch modified choke barrel and real American walnut stock. He still owns it today.

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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