There’s an old model ‘97 Winchester pump shotgun hanging on my office wall. It is old and scarred, a long-barreled relic from the good old days of my boyhood. In the fall, when the Ozarks was bathed in beautiful colors and there was a frost at dawn and a nip in the air, they’d hold turkey shoots in Big Piney River country. They usually took place on the Sunday afternoons before thanksgiving. I was just a little guy too young to shoot, but I’d tag along and watch Dad pack that old shotgun up to the line behind stacked bales of hay and holler, “Pull”! From the other side of the bales, there’d come a thump, a clay pigeon would sail off across the broam sedge field and that old ‘97 would roar. Another clay pigeon turned to black dust.
Dad and his Johnboat on a duck hunt
Dad was awfully good with that shotgun. There was never a turkey shoot I remember when dad didn’t come away with a turkey and a ham. He’d lose on occasion, because there’d be 8 or 10 very good shotgunners there, each paying a dollar to shoot and back up a few yards and shoot again until only one was left. The last shooter to break a clay pigeon won either a turkey or a ham. Dad and I hunted ducks on the Piney in the fall, and he knew the range of that old long-barrel. He could break clay pigeons 50 yards away and we’d wind up with a couple of hams and turkeys for only three or four dollars spent. After any shooter won twice he was no longer allowed to compete. Heck, for years it was that old ’97 Winchester that made Thanksgiving possible for a whole family at Grandma and Grandpa McNew’s old farm house. I was too young to be thankful for that gathering of eight Aunts and Uncles and 22 cousins. But there are few of them left and now I am thanking God often for that boyhood of mine, and the old shotgun on my office wall.
This year we can be thankful that it has been such a mild fall, except for that one three-day artic stretch when it was colder than an ice-fisherman’s bobber.
On Thanksgiving Day we all gather to give thanks for our health and happiness, and there is an awful lot to be thankful about. If we just had more water in the Ozarks right now, and there were a good number of ducks arriving, I could just get swamped with thankfulness.
But I don’t want anyone thinking I am ungrateful. I have been thanking God for the more important things, like my health… and a reasonably good family and acquaintances that keep giving me all this advice about what I ought to do different. Well there was that Canada fishing trip where I got a freezer full of fish, even though I ain’t much on eating fish anymore.
Like you, I am thankful for good neighbors although I don’t know any of them because I live quite aways from them, thank goodness! And I am thankful for all those friends I use to have.
As you grow older, you get like this, kind of cynical and contrary and less thankful than you was when you was younger and your knee didn’t hurt. But oh do I get thankfuller when I get off by myself on a flowing stream or in the deep woods, and realize that there is a good chance that heaven will be a lot like where I am then. I am thinking that my chances of going to heaven has to be better than 50 percent and I am thankful for that.
What makes any man’s life happier and better is the help and friendship he gives to others whether it is returned or not. That’s what the first Thanksgiving dinners were about, celebrating the abundance of the harvest, and sharing it with the Indians.
Please read more columns this week on my website, larrydablemontoutdoors. contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613.