The boys and I had decided not to go out muzzleloading hunting this past weekend. Instead, our outdoor adventures involved taking down memories from the deer season and putting up memories to celebrate Christmas.
As we pulled the last stake from the outfitter tents and stored it away, I looked at the bare ground where the tent had stood with a heavy heart. It was a reminder that the weekends in the camp were now over until next year. The season seemed to have gone by so fast, yet it seems like the next one is so far away.
It was a spot that was visited by the entire family at one point or another throughout the season. That 12×18 canvas tent helped keep the family memories going. It allowed us a place to sit and gather. We all were able to escape from our ordinary humdrum associated with our everyday life.
This particular spot allowed us to feel free. It indeed was free, and it’s rare to find anything free in life. This specific location is free to use, though, for 15 days, you are free to use a campsite. This freedom made me stop a moment and think just how free we are in life? Almost every outdoor activity that I take part in is associated with a license or permit.
I thought about that idea of freedom even more as I read regulations and paid the price to obtain a permit to harvest a Christmas tree from the Chequamegon National Forest. It was a simple enough process, login into www.recreation.gov, pay the fee, and you are now legal to harvest a tree of your choice.
During the fall outings and making deer drives, I often am scouting for potential Christmas tree options. This year there is one that just stood out from the others; it was found on our trail that we had made into the hunting area near the Yellow River.
We did stop and look at a few other options along River Road but decided that the one on the trail would be perfect. We did our traditional picture in front of the tree and realized Boone is not a good dog for getting a family photo. He is strung too tight to sit still for a timer to go off on a camera.
We had to trim down our 13-foot harvest to fit into the house, and the boys tried to convince me that the tree did not need any decorating. It’s their usual tactic every year to get out of hanging lights and bulbs. They enjoy the smell of the fresh pine in the house but don’t enjoy the decorating.
On the other hand, I like to have a decorated tree; looking at a decorated tree gives me memories of the beautiful trees that Mom would put up when we were kids. Looking at a decorated tree always takes me back to the times of Mom being in the kitchen making homemade candies, singing the Christmas carols that played on the vinyl records. For the whole month of December, those records would spin, and the house smelled of homemade candy that Willy Wonka himself would be envious of her efforts.
It’s these memories that remind me how freedom felt like a teenage boy. The freedom to run the woods chasing rabbits with my beagle Buzz. In hindsight, life was so much more simple even though I’m sure at the time I had thought it was tough. I laugh at myself now as I think about the things that cause me stress compared to the things one would deal with then.
Mom made the Christmas season the best for her family, from the decorating and cooking to her just making sure everyone was happy. I don’t recall her ever really expecting much in return from all her efforts.
I don’t know if I will ever reach a point where I feel the desire to replace a real tree in my house as I fear that I would lose the feelings that hit me every time a new tree is put up in the house. The price to pay for a real tree is a small price to pay for the many memories it brings back to me each year. Those memories have all come at some expense, but the freedom to recall those memories is still free.
The Christmas season is one that is often stressful and hectic. Take a moment to slow down, appreciate the memories and time with family. Reflect on some of your fondest memories from past seasons.
This upcoming week I think we will start getting our deer gear put away and focus on getting things ready for ice fishing. The hard water is beginning to form in some parts of our state; ice is one of those things that you can not trust in life.
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