Tuesday, December 16, 2014


In the winter I feed everything up here on this wooded ridgetop I call Lightnin’ Ridge. I feed squirrels and birds, deer and turkey, even a fox and bobcat and on occasion… and an eagle that comes up from the river.  Only a hundred yards from my office window, there is a little pond and a corn feeder.  In the winter, there must be a hundred doves that come to it, and down past the pond this year, the covey of quail that have numbered from 9 to 16 over the past ten years, is a whopping 25 or so this winter. 

It doesn’t take much to make me happy… that covey of quail just plumb tickles me to pieces.  The corn this year is under five dollars per fifty-pound bag, and that is another thing that makes me happy.  The last couple of years it has been about twice that.  So I have stocked several bags, and the feeder is full. 

I set up a game camera to show me what comes there when I am not watching, and what nighttime creatures I might see.  My Chocolate Labrador, Bolt, who is the third or fourth best Labrador in all the world, eats everything you can imagine. I have seen him eat tomatoes, pickles, candy, potato chips, you name it. 

On my game camera I learned he also eats a lot of corn! That rascal waits until I am not looking, and he makes a beeline for my feeder where he gulps down my corn. Here I have been buying bags of dog food that costs four times what a bag of corn costs, so I can’t get too disturbed about it, as long as he doesn’t chase away any turkeys.

Night-time game camera photos show that foxes love corn too, most everything does.  Bobcats come to a corn feeder on occasion for a different reason I suppose…  looking for prey that the corn might attract.  I would as soon the bluejays and squirrels didn’t eat so much corn, but what the heck, maybe it will keep them away from my birdfeeders.

This has nothing to do with the outdoors, but I have to write about what I saw at a book signing I attended in Osage Beach last Saturday.  In the back of the bookstore there was Santa Claus, posing for pictures with little boys and girls who were scared to death of him or fascinated with him, or anxious to tell him what they wanted for Christmas. 

I remembered the days when my little girls went to see Santa.  And I thought about how all of us who see this season as the birth of God’s son, and want to see that be the center of everything, too often get critical of the commercialization we see at Christmas.  My eyes were opened again, when I saw those parents and grandparents and little children talking to Santa.

Jesus would have been smiling too!  It is absolutely wonderful to see that innocence, and happiness and joy and peace.  There will be plenty of time for those little ones to learn about what Christmas means for all of us. 

My grandmother took me aside at Christmas time when I was about ten, and told me that people give gifts because it is a symbol of the gift that God gave us through the birth of Christ, a gift of hope, of peace and happiness.  A gift of a greater and better way of life, and a place called heaven for all of us who believe, whether we are ‘naughty or nice’.  It wasn’t anything complicated, just a simple explanation that Santa Claus wasn’t real, but the Jesus was, and even people as poor as we were, could attain a better life through Him. 

As I watched those little children, it occurred to me that even the grizzled old outdoorsmen grandpas there had smiles on their faces bigger than they might have when they caught a big fish or opened a Christmas package of a pair of socks or a pocket knife from a grandchild.  It was Jesus who taught us how to treat little children.  And His blessings are often overlooked, when they are simply given to us in the smiles and happiness of a little child. 

But then there was little Jimmy, who was not smiling…  he didn’t like Santa Claus at all, and he let the whole store know about it through his wailing.  I remember… I felt the same way when my grandma took me to see Santa that one time when I was only 13. Scared me half to death!

I get a lot of letters and emails from readers, and believe me, some are venomous. There are those who do not like what I write.  I thought I might print a few I received one day last week.  The first one was sent from a false email address somehow, and I took out the bad language and the last name tacked to it. Jeremy or whomever he was, says he has a degree, but his grammar and sentence structure doesn’t show it.  He writes worser than me!  Still, he has a right to his opinion too.   Here are the letters…and Merry Christmas to all of you… even Jeremy…

First letter, from Jeremy…

Please stop. I accidentally stumbled upon your literal horse ____ praying it was the lone result of a long, sleepless weekend fueled by Canadian Mist but I was wrong. Because to my surprise there was many, many more story's. I have hunted and fished for nearly two thirds of my life. All the while trying to show people that we can be educated, law abiding decent people. Yet with a few extremely slow pecks on the old "smart box," you stuff us all back into the backwoods, ______   _____  good ole days by which you obviously still live.
I _____ away too much time reading or better yet trying to decipher that crap so I felt obligated to show you what a degree can do.....Get your point across and make sense concurrently.   
In closing I ask again,  please stop. Do us all a favor and climb back into your mud hut have a nice bowl of road kill stew and disappear. Forever. 

Then this one from Robert Moore….

Every Sunday I read your column in the Harrisonville Democrat-Missourian.  My son always saves the Sunday paper and the local paper is always in there.  When I read your column there is always something that reminds me of the "good ole days"!  I'll be 89 years old in a few days, still in good health, and still love the outdoors.  I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy your column and relive some of my past when I read about your adventures.  Thank you, Robert E. Moore

And this one from Jim and Marcia Morelan…

We look forward to your columns every week in the Steelville Star-Crawford Mirror. Most the time, we agree with you on the destruction of the old ways of doing things.  What are we going to do, if you retire? Thank you for all your years of enlightening us and painting pictures of so many intriguing wild places.   Thank you! Thank you! 

And this one from Dean Harper….

Love your articles in the Camdenton newspaper. I am sending pics of white buck seen at the Lake of the Ozarks. You sound like a guy I would like to hunt and fish with someday. I like the idea of walking thru the woods with someone with your knowledge that could show me a thing or two with little words spoken. 

Mr. Harper’s photo of the white buck, truly an albino, can be seen on my website, www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com  And you can email me at lightninridge@windstream.net, or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

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