Christmas is a special time of year for all of us. It's a time when friends and family get together to celebrate and honor our Lord. We give each other gifts as a tradition because the wise men brought gifts to Bethlehem.
Our homes and neighborhoods are lit up with colorful lights and decorations, manger scenes and angels. Santa Claus promises excitement for the little children. We put up Christmas trees in our homes and decorate them with lights, candy canes and ornaments that are special to us.
The schools take a two-week break at Christmas time. Many businesses give their employees extra time off for the holidays. We have the time to go shopping, visit with friends and even do some of the other things we enjoy.
Back when I was in high school the Christmas break was a hunting vacation. We hunted ducks and deer, squirrels and rabbits - even managed to slip in a little fishing. My brother David and I spent a whole week camping in Sparkleberry Swamp with my cousin Wayne Potter and a friend of his. We made that trip for several years.
I've taken time off the week before Christmas to go to Arkansas with a group of friends to hunt ducks in the greentree timber of Bayou Meto. One year I took my brother Matt and his friend Charles "Skooter" Wilkes to Arkansas the week after Christmas. We got caught in a terrible snow storm on the way home and sat in a traffic jam on the interstate in Alabama for more than 10 hours.
Actually my first duck hunt was with my Daddy and older brother David on Christmas Day in 1960. I was six years old. We hunted the Williams Furniture Co. property on Pocataligo Swamp, near Twelve Bridges Road. Back then Daddy bought a $5 "pass" that granted hunting rights on the property.
My friend Donnie Brown and I made a duck hunting trip on Christmas Day, to the upper Sparkleberry Swamp, back in the late '80s. We had motor trouble and had to paddle the boat a long way before someone came along and towed us back to the landing. Didn't matter - it was a beautiful day.
Those are the only actual Christmas Day hunts that I've ever had. Nearly 30 years apart.
When I was in the Army I came home one year at Christmas and was invited on a deer drive held at Fort Jackson. The Military Police stopped me and searched my truck out in the woods. I was ejected from the base for transporting a loaded weapon. They sent a copy of the citation to my commanding officer at Fort Carson, Colorado.
The citation didn't mention that I was deer hunting. On my return to the base, my CO asked me about the citation, and I replied that "I didn't know that you couldn't hunt there with a loaded gun." During my four years in the infantry, I also spent a Christmas Day standing guard on the DMZ between North Korea and South Korea.
This year I've got three days off from work at Christmas time. Friday, Monday and Tuesday. Then the next Monday at New Year's. I've made plans to deer hunt Friday and duck hunt Saturday. I'll stay home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Of course the weather is also a factor now. I don't care about the cold, but the rain will keep me in the house. Maybe I'm older and wiser now - and have enough sense to stay out of the bad weather.
One day I'll retire and can hunt and fish all I want to, but for now I have to go when I can. One of the gifts of Christmas for a lot of us is some extra time off to do some of the things we love, then come home to our family and friends.
Reach Dan Geddings at firstname.lastname@example.org.