Monday, 11 December 2017

C Columns

Outdoors With Dougherty: Childhood memories from Christmases past


By Dan Dougherty

Photo: Members of the Dougherty family in 1955. The parents are Jim and Doris; Brothers left to right David 11, Danny 6, Tommy 6mo, and Doug 9. (Photo provided by Dan Dougherty)

Winter is here and, soon, another new year. I pray God will bless you and have His hand of protection over you. May you feel His presence and may 2018 be a year of peace and contentment.

I always enjoy this time of year, with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the beginning of the New Year. A time to be with family and friends, party and play, and watch the bowl games. (That's more of a man thing.) 

Watching the excitement of the grandkids brings a smile to my face. Where have the years gone? I can vividly remember all those times of anticipation, excitement and wonderment growing up. Do you remember being a Santa-believing child? Those times were magical.

Like everybody else back then we always had a “real” tree. We would decorate it, and the presents would start collecting under it. Presents from parents, grandparents, friends, family, and church members (perks of having a pastor dad). I always had to wait for the one special present — the Big One. It came from Santa. With my brothers I would hang my Christmas stocking and go to bed. I would rush down Christmas morning with expectation. Santa never disappointed me.

My kindergarten year, Mike Jones, my neighbor and friend, tried to educate me. He was older, a first grader. He informed me that Santa was really my parents. They put the gifts out after I was asleep. I was crushed. I went home and asked my mom. She told me as long as I believed in him, he would come.

A couple days later there was a knock at our door. For some unknown reason I beat my brothers to the door to answer it. They just sat there smiling...weird. At the door, in a snowstorm, was Santa bundled in an overcoat. He said my name and asked if he could come in. I got to sit on his lap and tell him everything I wanted. As he left, my mother handed him his overcoat. I said, “Wow, that's neat, Santa! You got a coat just like my dad!” With a “Ho! Ho! Ho!” he shuffled off into the storm.

That Christmas we were in Portland at my Grandpa and Grandma Johnsons'. I was turning 6; Christmas is my birthday. Brother David was 11, Doug 9, and baby brother Tommy 6 months. Igot just what I asked for — a Davy Crockett outfit, coonskin hat, and a flintlock plastic rifle. You old timers will remember Davy Crockett was a big deal. Fess Parker played him on Disney, and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” was a hit song.

We weren't supposed to play with guns around Grandma. She didn't think kids should have guns as a toy. She grew up quite conservative. Her dad was a Free Methodist minister and five of her six brothers were either pastors or missionaries. My dad was a minster and conservative, but realistic! 

My grandpa took me aside and with a smile told me to keep out of her sight when I played with the toy gun and not to point it at people. He said if she accidentally saw me and asked what I was pointing at, “Tell her a bear with rabies.” 

The next day I was in the kitchen pointing my rifle at my reflection in the window. Grandpa was getting a glass of buttermilk out of the fridge. Grandma walked in and gave me a troubled look. I had not yet learned to keep my mouth shut and to only volunteer information if asked. I blurted out, “It's okay, Grandma, I'm shooting a bear with 'babies.'” Grandpa about choked on his milk. Grandma gave him a disgusted look and walked out.

Grandpa came over to me and said, “Rabies, r-rabies.” I asked, “What is that?” He said a disease that makes animals foam at the mouth and die. If they bite another animal, that animal will have it too. I didn't say anything, but it scared me. I had thoughts of vampire animals.

That was my last Santa-believing Christmas. I think with the help of my brothers and my increased reasoning power, I figured it out. I still got Christmas stockings and, as I got older, they were often filled with a box of shotgun shells, a knife, duck call, or something else hunting- or fishing-related. My large Santa presents were items like duck decoys, shell vests, ordown coats.

An activity I enjoyed over the years to promote the Christmas spirit was caroling. Our churchyouth group used to go to old folks homes and senior retirement centers for a sing-and-greet. We would sing, read the scriptures of the Christmas story, and mingle. Not all of our songs were religious. I haven't found any Bible verses relating to “Frosty the Snowman” or “Jingle Bells.” They were not our grandparents, nor we their grandkids, but for an hour it seemed like it. It not only made their day, it made ours too. 

Two years ago our church choir went out one evening in the Cloverdale area of Boise. (Prevented by weather last year.) We split into two groups and caroled. The weather was not bad for the time of year. Luckily it was not windy. Everyone was so nice. As we sang, some would sing along with us. We left a 10 dollar Fred Meyer gift coupon at each house.

This year when the Christmas season returns, celebrate it. Never forget the Reason for the Season. Without the birth, there would have been no resurrection. I hope “Merry Christmas” remains your key phrase for the season. May the holidays be a true time of thankfulness and celebration. Make sure you attend your church's Christmas service or program. If you do not have a home church, ask friends for recommendations, or choose a church near you and check it out. If you still need to get in the Christmas mood, come over some evening to Caldwell and view the lights on Indian Creek or take in the annual Light Parade. 



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