View Full Version : Of a Christmas Past.....

Dave McC
December 25, 2000, 03:37 PM
Maybe it was 1957, or 58, time dims some of the memories. Brother and I had gotten up early and unwrapped goodies, then dressed up warm and headed for the barn. The horses got a little extra feed that morn,and we returned to the house,with my glasses fogging up as soon as I walked in.
The Grands were driving up from B-more later on that day, but Mom told Pop that she needed the kitchen and to stay out of the way. Pop said we might go hunting for an hour or so,and I started to change into some brush pants and grabbed the old brown vest off the hook in the closet. Pop said,"How about carrying the pump today?" to me. I had been using the old H&R 16 singleshot that had been my first shotgun and Pop's before me, and the Remington 870 was practically new, shiny, and it was a repeater.So, I emptied the 16 ga shells out of my vest and restocked with some 12 ga high brass 5s or 6s.

Pop asked my brother, 3 years younger, if he wanted to go for the first time. Mom interjected that it was pretty cold,and Brother was getting over yet another cold,so he stayed in the warmth,while we whistled up Silver Venus Of Meadowview, Pop's Weimaraner and better than average bird dog. Around the house, she was called Babe, since Pop said Venus was a Babe.

Back then, Pop usually drove to another area, but while Howard County wasn't great pheasant country,it had some birds, and we could hear both cock birds cackle and quail call from our house. So, we headed across the road to Iager's corn field, and loaded up,me with the 870 and Pop with his treasured old Savage O/U.

A hundred yards into the cut corn, Babe got birdy as heck, and Pop reminded me that while I didn't have to cock the 870, I did have to take off the safety when a bird flew.
As we moved in,Pop also reminded me I had a full choke and to wait the bird out a bit. The bird kicked out in Pop's sector, and the shot was postscript. After that bird was added to Pop's vest, we worked over to the Parlette place without another bird. We worked through a little woods on a two track and stopped to answer Nature's call. As I zipped up, Pop said, "Mark" meaning a point or bird in sight. I snatched the 870 up and dropped in a round when all the quail in Howard County, it seemed, flushed. I forgot all about waiting out the shot,or that I had bigger shot than called for, and fired a salute rather than a real shot. Nothing fell, Pop hadn't a chance since they all went up in my segment. We did pick up two singles afterwards, but we is an honorific, Pop took them both...

A few hundreds yards further, and down a fence row loaded with blackberry vines and honeysuckle, Babe was telling us there was a bird close, and my grip tightened on the shotgun. As Babe locked into a point, Pop said, "This one's all yours" and stepped back as I walked in,conscious that this was a test of some kind.
I knew the road was behind us, nothing that would preclude a shot in front, and that Babe was locked into something serious, there was no waver to her.

Pheasant obscenities erupted as the ringneck did, a big old veteran cock outdone by Team McCracken. I waited it out, letting him rise and fly, swinging the bead up an imaginary line from tail to eye and firing as it passed his beak. No pheasant ever died faster, it was an instant turnoff,and Babe was but a few feet away as it hit the field edge with a soft but emphatic thump.

As Babe retrieved, Pop stood absolutely still. She brought the bird to him but he didn't reach out to take it. He said," Call her". I spoke her name, and she looked at me but returned her vision to Pop, as he stood there smiling. I called her again, she came over and I took the bird from her mouth as Pop would,said "Good dog", and then, "Hunt em up" just like Pop would have. She headed out, headed upwind for the next bird,and I looked at Pop. He was wiping his eyes. He said,"We should be heading back",in a voice that sounded a bit choked up, but stood there admiring the colors and size of that cock bird. It was a good one, not my first but certainly my biggest, a scarred old veteran rather than a soft spurred yearling. The tail was 2 feet long, and looked like it stretched on forever.

So,since the wind was wrong, we walked rather than hunted back, to Babe's disappointment, in harmony and few words. But as we got to the house, and as we unloaded, Pop said, "It looks like that pump likes you, go ahead and shoot it. Pat(Brother) can start in with the 16".

So,I walked into the house to show off the ringneck,and with two great Xmas presents,the 870 that's been my main shotgun for more than 40 years, and this memory.

Pop, Mom and the dogs are all gone now, but if there's a Just God,and I believe there is, his spirit and that of some mighty fine dogs get to work through some good cover in Heaven every now and then.

May you all be blessed this Holiday season...

December 25, 2000, 06:12 PM
Thanks Dave, (sniff) nice story.
As a youngster, I hunted with my Dad and Grandfather. They're both gone but some of the memories remain vivid and a couple of the old guns are still serviceable.
All priceless.

Dave McC
December 26, 2000, 08:23 PM
You're welcome,Kingcreek. From the Emailbox, this touched a lot of folks....

Dave McC
December 25, 2001, 05:34 AM
Back up for this year, the best to all of you...

December 25, 2001, 06:27 AM
(sniff)..........Thanks Dave. For that and many others.

They are gone now but the memories are forever.

Merry Christmas to all.


December 25, 2001, 07:06 AM
I tremble, and my eyes water when I read this kind of stuff.

Then I grow angry, almost.

This city boy never had none of these experiences; with close kin at a young age. How I envy each and every one of you that did.
Thank you for sharing.
Despite my denial, every passing year raises the yearning for my deceased younger brother. I keep that door closed as best I can.

Rejoice in your memories, and bequeth your tradition; a moment is worth all eternity.

Merry Christmas, and God's Good Blessing on you.

Dave McC
December 25, 2001, 07:43 AM
Thanks, I'm glad I decided to share it.

Citizen, while we remember them, they're not far away....

December 25, 2001, 08:31 PM
Great story, wish I was raised around guns and hunting like you were. Two guys I know (who are brothers) just got there first gun today so their mom hinted to me I should call around 11AM and see if they wanted to go shooting. It was a Win 1300 Ranger in 12 ga. and I've never seen two people more pround of a gun in my life. It was there first time shooting a shotgun so they missed more clay pigeons than they hit but they loved every second of it. Hopefully they'll remember this christmas like you remembered yours Dave.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year guys/gals.


December 26, 2001, 01:44 AM
Excellent read!! I wish that I had similar stories to share.
My father left when I was two and we moved from Michigan to San Diego California. I didnt pick up my first gun till I was 30 years old. I often wonder, how different could my life have been?
Thanks for sharing that memory with all of us.

Dave McC
December 26, 2001, 07:39 AM

Adam, I hope you gave those brothers a URL for this BB. There's a wealth of good info in the Archives and some folks that are quite helpful.

And kudoes to you for sharing your Christmas and taking them shooting.

Paul,life takes strange turns, but it's the only game in town. If there's a universal Credo, it's do what you can with what you have, for the time alloted to you.

And again, Happy Holidays to all....

Jack R-NJ
December 26, 2001, 09:54 PM
Dave......thanks for sharing a real nice story....Best Wishes for the Holidays to you and yours

December 26, 2001, 09:54 PM
That really was a fine memoir, Dave -- prompted me to give Dad a call and reminisce a little :) Thanks!

December 30, 2001, 07:08 PM
Dave, I thank you for that story.

It brought back memories of my grandaddy (my mom's father) and my dad. Both were quail hunters, and both kept dogs. Because of my young age when my grandaddy died, I only got to go hunting with the two of them together a single time.

The day before we were to go, my grandaddy asked if I had any hunting boots. An embarassed "no" prompted an immediate trip to the local general store, and before I knew it, I had a brand new pair of leather boots. I'd never been prouder of anything in my life. The next day, I spent breaking them in, lugging an old .410, and watching my grandaddy and dad work the dogs. My feet hurt like hell from the new boots, but I wasn't about to complain. We only flushed two coveys that day, and I never even got to fire off a shot. But I treasure the fact that I got to see my grandfather in his element. He'd kept the family fed during hard times by either running corn liquor or hunting, and he was the best shot I ever saw. My dad was no slouch himself. They took birds that day, and my grandaddy commented that I had the makings of a good hunter. Did I say the boots made me proud? Well, that comment outshone those boots by a mile.

Dave McC
December 19, 2002, 05:46 PM
And up for the last time, may Blessings come this Holiday....

Dave McCracken....

December 19, 2002, 06:00 PM
Awwwww Dave ya old softy.

Great story. Thanks for sharing with us today, and over the years. And have a very Merry Christmas.

Ron L
December 19, 2002, 09:49 PM
Citizen, as a fellow "city boy", I can understand feeling like we're missing out on some things. I was an adult before I took up hunting and I'm still on the steep upside of the learning curve.

However, don't get mad, get even. Get even with the fates that put you where you were. In doing so, I've introduced my son to hunting and we're learning together, side by side. As nice as it sounds to be taught, there's something a bit more heartwarming about "catching on" and sharing the experience.

My advice? Find a youngster who wouldn't othewise have a chance and introduce them to God's mighty creation called the outdoors. You'll enjoy a new sense of hunting.

Dave McC
December 20, 2002, 05:32 AM
Thanks, folks. I've been truly blessed, and the more I see how other folks have it, the more I count my blessings.

If you like my writings, thanks me by paying it forward. Help someone learn to shoot, or teach somene who sees more pavement than dirt something about the real world. Take a kid or adult to the woods....