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The Gift Worth Giving

John Higley author badge for myoutdoorbuddy.com

t seems like only yesterday when a local radio announcer joked that there were only 200 more shopping days until Christmas. Already the holiday season is upon us, reminding me how fast time flies whether we’re having fun or not.

Traditionally, Sharon and I, along with her grandson Harrison and my daughter Meredith with her husband Rob and their brood of four, venture into the mountains of eastern Shasta County in quest of fitting Christmas trees for our respective homes. We take along all the necessities, of course, including hot chocolate, cookies, warm clothing, hand saws and Christmas tree cutting permits. I’m happy to say squabbles among the kids are few, the snowballs they throw, assuming it has snowed recently, are usually powdery and the trees we cut are always just right.

Merry Christmas from Higley, wife Sharon and grandson Harrison seen here on a Christmas tree hunt near Shingletown.
Merry Christmas from Higley, wife Sharon and grandson Harrison seen here on a Christmas tree hunt near Shingletown.

Combined, Sharon and I have five grown kids and, at last count, 10 grandchildren ranging in age from young adults to three years old.

Thanks to my granddaughter Megan, I am also the great grandfather to three young girls. My gosh, that makes my oldest son Mark a grandfather too! The old man, me, really is from the Stone Age after all. Like I said earlier, time does fly.

Robert Feamster with a trout caught by his son Johnny, age 4-1/2. John Higley
Robert Feamster with a trout caught by his son Johnny, age 4-1/2. Time spent with kids in the outdoors is worth every minute.

The adults in our clan draw single names when it comes to buying gifts so that is under control. However, there will be plenty of presents under the tree for the youngsters, all of whom, as is our tradition, will drop by with their parents in time for dinner. Among the presents will be such things as hiking boots, fishing rods and reels and assorted camping gear. I suppose it’s no surprise that each of the kids will, at one time or another, be exposed to the outdoor way of life that ties us all together. It’s a way of living that includes fishing, hunting, camping and most everything in-between.

Outdoor folks often form bonds that last for years. Some of these friends can be compared to an old familiar pair of boots. That may not seem to be a flattering comparison until you remember that well broken-in boots don’t pinch or cause blisters, even if you put them on only once a year.

Author’s son Mark with his son Raven, at age 3-1/2, on a backpack, fishing expedition. Lake in background sporting clear crisp pine and cypress reflections, John Higley
Author’s son Mark with his son Raven, at age 3-1/2, on a backpack, fishing expedition 17 years ago. Raven is now 20, proving that time does fly whether we admit it or not. Did I mention that Mark is now a grandfather? I can’t believe it either.

Old friends know your voice on the phone even if you call them once in six months. They know how you hunt and fish and whether you cook or wash dishes in camp--or snore like a hung over bear. When things are good for them, you know it. When things are tough, you know that too.

Good-natured ribbing is part of the package. When the phone rings and it’s one of the old guard, the conversation picks up automatically wherever it left off days, weeks, or months ago. It’s like the embers in your last shared campfire brought back to life with a little kindling and a puff of air.

“Hi, this is Al.”

“I was afraid of that, what do you want?”

“C’mon now, we’re supposed to be friends.”

“Do you think I’d talk this way to someone I didn’t like?”

Sooner or later the conversation will get more serious. “Hey, I called for a reason. I think we should plan a trip to some place new next year.

How about a deer hunt out of state?”

“I don’t know if I can afford it.”

“Me either, but we only live once, and time is flying.”

It seems as if we go through similar stages of planning practically every year, and the end result is always the same--more unaffordable expense that we somehow manage to afford, and memories to dwell on until next year comes around.

Author’s daughter Meredith with her brood, four tired kids and husband Rob, after a day of outdoor activity and family togetherness. John Higley, myoutdoorbuddy.com

Author’s daughter Meredith with her brood, four tired kids and husband Rob, after a day of outdoor activity and family togetherness. Time together is one gift well worth giving this holiday season and all year long.

The scary part is looking back at all the good and not so good times spent with family and friends in a variety of places and conditions. It is hard to fathom how fast the years go, how fast the kids grow and how quickly we fade from the scene. My sons are both over 50, and daughter Meredith, born 14 years after the boys, now has a home of her own and, as I mentioned earlier, four kids to raise.

My first wife, Judie, passed away nearly 17 years ago after 39 years of marriage, and it still seems like yesterday. A few good friends have also gone on to invisible camps where I suspect the deer are always trophies, the fish always bite and the sun, never too hot, always shines.

As I sit here looking at a blank computer screen, I realize that 2015 is bearing down like a log truck on a dirt road. You can’t stop it or slow it down, but you can hitch a ride and hope for the best around every bend.

I don’t know what lies ahead for myself, Sharon or our families, but I intend to hang around for the journey at least for a while longer. In this season of love and giving and, for that matter, every day of the years yet to come, what really counts is the amount of time we spend together and how we spend it.

I note again how quickly the calendar pages turn. Days become weeks, weeks turn into months and months add up to years. Only a blink ago I was teaching my kids how to fish and now they’re teaching theirs. Time truly is akin to an Olympic sprinter who doesn’t look back.

Today, when I look in the mirror, I see an old man who asks questions about just about everything in place of the smug, know-everything youth I once was. My joints ache sometimes, a pacemaker keeps my heart regular and I blame gravity for the lack of spring in my legs. Hey, you’ve got to blame someone or something, don’t you? Anyway, you can’t stop time, or wrap it, and yet, to my way of thinking, it is the best gift of all.

Author and writer John Higley is a resident of Palo Cedro, CA. His articles have appeared in Outdoor California and other fishing and hunting journals. He is the author of two books: “Hunting Wild Turkeys In the West” and “Hunting Blacktail Deer.”

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