From small and simple to duck hunts, Christmas keeps changing

Sunday, December 23, 2018
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Conservative views

Christmas has changed over my 61 years. When I was young, we ranched on the desolate, sagebrush plains of Eastern Montana so Christmas was small and subdued. At age eight, we moved to the family homestead in Wyoming and Christmas became an epic celebration of caroling and parlor games with cousins, aunts and uncles.

When I was twelve, I unwrapped a Winchester 20-gauge shotgun, so before all the family arrived for Christmas dinner, I hustled out the door duck hunting. The ponds and puddles were frozen but the warm water sloughs of Pass Creek overflowed with mallards. With little effort, I over-harvested an hours-worth of duck plucking because around our house, whoever killed the birds was responsible for cleaning them. This cruel rule made me envious of my friend, John. He and his cousin Edmund would shoot ducks and pheasants before school, toss them in a wood box on John’s back porch and by evening John’s mother would have dressed the birds. John had a trophy mom. Being ankle deep in duck down and feeling sorry for myself, I ignored the efforts of my mother and father preparing the family’s Christmas feast.

Christmases came and went, I found a girlfriend, married her, sired three descendants who married and then gave me 18 grandchildren. (I condensed 49 years into a single sentence for brevity.) This Christmas, my entire family will be gathering at my daughter’s home in Great Falls. Son-in-law, Marcus, is fresh from his carrier deployment in the Atlantic and son-inlaw, Tim is on leave from chasing illegal Hondurans back across our southern border. Our yule log chats should be interesting, and this brings me to my new favorite part of the holiday.

Like a dairy farmer who has milked for 30 years, habit springs me out of bed around four every morning. After downing a pot of coffee and starting a second, I make breakfast for my grandkids. The mini-Kimmels stir around 5:30, followed by the mini-Kerns herd with the mini-Warners bringing up the drags. Eighteen grandchildren between the ages of one and fifteen crammed around one breakfast counter is the highlight of my day. The half-asleep thumb suckers are cradling a blanket or stuffed animal and it is all blue-eyes and bed-hair. For fifteen minutes they almost act human and this brings me to my point. Proverbs 17.6 tells us “Children’s children are the crown of old men…” and even though I sometimes strain under the weight of my crown, I know it is a blessing from the Lord. Merry Christmas.

Krayton Kerns is veterinarian in Laurel, Mont., and a former Republican representative in the Montana State Legislature. He can be reached at drkerns@rbbmt.org .

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