In recalling Christmas pasts, there are many fond memories. Most aren’t about gifts, but there are a couple of presents that helped spark this old writers interest in the outdoors.
One Christmas there was a shinny red bike, and another year Santa left a Red Ryder BB gun. There were many other thoughtful gifts over the years, but these two top the list and expedited outdoor exploration.
Money was scarce when I was growing up. We always had plenty to eat and a warm house, but not a lot more. I didn’t know we were poor.
Somewhere, my dad found a used Western Flyer bike. He cleaned, painted and polished the old bike, It also had new tires, It looked brand new, beautiful. And to me, it was my ticket to the world. It was my transportation to frog ponds, fishin'’ holes, woods, and other neighborhood kid’s homes and outdoor games.
I was blessed, electronic games had not been invented. There was no Twitter, Facebook, or other computer stuff I don’t understand. What we had was capture the flag, kick the can, hide and seek, and when we could find a new kid, we let him participate in a snipe hunt.
Besides the bike, another year’s special gift was a Red Ryder BB gun. It came with a package of BB’s.
I spent many hours shooting targets and cans down by the old railroad tracks. It was where I learned some of the early fundamentals of target shooting and hunting. It also helped teach me the value of saving money so I could make trips to Goodwin’s store to purchase more BB’s.
For many old-timers like me, Christmas is a special time -- a time for nostalgia about bikes, BB guns, Christmas Eve church services and trips to Grandma’s house.
Growing up, Christmas Eve started with a trip to a little German country church in rural Clark County, Illinois. The kids of the church practiced for weeks in advice on a special Christmas program.
The programs were short, probably no more than an hour. But, they seemed an eternity as we had fun things to do afterwards at grandma’s house.
There was a big valley and hill near the church, and it always seemed like it was slick with snow and ice. One farmer kept his tractor at ready to help pull stranded cars up the hill after leaving the church
After the service, our family all gathered at Grandma and Grandpa Junker’s house. It was small, but we all managed to pack inside.
There was oyster soup and chili, plus sandwiches and homemade Christmas cookies. As a youngster, I disliked (mild words) the oyster stew, but would love to have a bowl today.
Kids were later told to be quiet and listen for Santa’s sleigh bells. Hearing the bells, we were told that Santa had made an early visit to the closed off living room. There we found gifts under the tree One for each youngster. There also were gifts for adults, who following Thanksgiving dinner had drawn names. Later, we kids received the remainder of our Christmas gifts at our homes.
My Christmas memories still fill my head at this time of year, and I have a special recollection of that red bike. It was my access to the wonderful outdoors.