The holiday season is greeting the area

Published 1:17pm Saturday, December 10, 2011

The snowfall that we experienced last weekend reminded me that Christmas is just around the corner.

Some radio stations were playing a sprinkling of Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, which suited me just fine. I have always had a special fondness for Christmas, and listening to the music along with a snow cover and Christmas lights that decorate some of the houses in town surely brings out the kid in me.

Growing up where I did was almost like being in the country, and it was always special during the holiday season because you were removed from much of the hectic times that were a part of Christmas. I have fond memories of growing up in a small house that was cozy warm in the winter, and although we didn’t have a lot of money, Mom always made sure that Christmas was fun for us. I’m guessing that the shopping experience was probably the same, just a little simpler.

I am sure that my folks felt the same challenge of Christmas that we did at times as parents raising two boys. We’d always try to get at least one gift for our kids that they really wanted and in all reality that sometimes wasn’t so easy. Brian, my oldest, would have his wish list set well ahead of time and the item that he’d have at the top of his list for months would suddenly be replaced by something else a day or two before Christmas. This presented a problem because Santa had the first one wrapped and bagged by then. There were a couple of years when the last minute change of mind would result in a year long delay of the gift Brian wanted and, of course, that usually changed again a couple of days before the next Christmas.

I do think that Christmas when I was growing up was a little less hectic. Of course, I wasn’t the one doing the shopping. I can remember Mom taking me along when we’d go to Montgomery Ward or Penney’s when both stores were downtown. I can also remember her quizzing me on one occasion about what I really wanted for Christmas. I had my eye on a Tobin Rote football that was in Ward’s basement where they had the toys and sporting goods. Going with her to the store at Christmas time was something I really enjoyed because I could see almost all of the things that I dreamed of having on display at the same time.

I will always remember that Christmas as special because that football did appear under the tree on Christmas morning. It just wasn’t Christmas without walking past the display window of the Skinner Chamberlain department store with the mechanical Santa waving, laughing and wishing you a Merry Christmas. Now that was Christmas!

The stores were open on Friday nights util 9 p.m. and during the holidays they were also open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays. This was the holiday season and it was an exciting time for a kid to be downtown with all the stores, their Christmas lights and the garland with holiday music playing.

I can remember some nights, usually Saturday or Sunday when the stores were closed and I’d go uptown with my Grandma and my Aunt Alice when they would do what was commonly called window shopping back then. I always enjoyed those times because the merchants had their store windows decorated for Christmas and it was where their sales were displayed. Yes, it was indeed an exciting time and to this day when I see snow and the Christmas lights displayed on many homes around the town it makes me think of that kid and the warm memories of Christmas’ past.

With the snowfall we experienced I have actually found a little compassion for the squirrels that seem to inhabit my garage and the trees in my yard. I have, however, found a new problem that has arisen in the yard hindering my quest to get birds to the feeder. A cat that belongs to one of my neighbors (I don’t know which one) had recently snuffed one of the birds feeding at my feeder and placed it by the door on my deck. Now I don’t pretend to be an ace detective or anything, but cat tracks in fresh snow leading up to a dead bird are a pretty good clue. I usually write about the problem of letting cats roam free in town to prey on birds and small animals in the spring, but this seems to be a year-round problem that only the owner can remedy.

Ice fishing is on the horizon, but as of now I don’t think I’d be venturing out until the ice is at least four-inches thick. I have never been a big advocate of the early ice adventure because that’s exactly what it can turn out to be for some. When you feel safe enough to venture out do so with caution. Ice is funny when it comes to undercurrents and such because it may be solid around the edge and wherever current runs it can be a lot thinner.

I am a January kind of guy when it comes to ice fishing. Of course, maybe that’s why I don’t usually have that much luck. I guess I almost relate it to walking a tightrope between two tall buildings. I love solid ground and if I can cast to open water I’m there; otherwise I feel a little chill go up my spine whenever I walk on ice and it starts to crack and creak.

Just remember to use caution when venturing out for the first time and it is wise to check the ice thickness before trotting out on it with all your equipment. We all know that early ice is the best ice for catching fish but going out too early can have bad results. Some folks take a cordless drill with them to measure thickness of the ice. This may sound like you are being a bit too cautious, but it’s better to be too cautious than end up being a statistic.

Until next time, play safe, stay off the thin ice and enjoy the outdoors experience.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers during the coming year. They are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.