by Mark Daul
With Christmas upon us for another year, we seem to forget what it is all about. Celebrated by billions of people around the world each year, it represents the birth of Christ. It also represents a time for giving and celebration. We know there is more to Christmas than just presents, giving, and sharing. Watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on TV every year helps to remind us Christmas is more than giving and receiving. But in this modern world, commercialism has taken over for many. When Charlie Brown stopped by his dog Snoopy's doghouse, he was heartbroken that even Snoopy forgot the real meaning of Christmas.
If you are not a church-goer, or if you are, but don't frequent your church like you should, there is another way to express yourself to God. We were all given a gift from above that many neglect, and that is the great outdoors. So often this gift is taken for granted, and just ignored. It will cost you virtually nothing, plus you can share it with anyone. I can remember a brother-in-law of mine who believed this wholeheartedly. He used to tell me about it. He said, "My church is being in the outdoors and experiencing the nature of things around me, and this is the gift I was given." He practiced what he preached. He was a hunter, a fisherman, and a woodsman that walked and hiked throughout the woods, and just loved nature the way it was given. On some treks, he would sit and hunt squirrels, bring his fishing equipment, or sit near a quiet pond, fish, count frogs and other things of nature around him.
Sure, Christmas gifts can be so complex, especially today when we have so much to choose from. Electronics, for instance. It never ends, bigger TVs, iPods, iPads, iPhones, computers, Nook books, or whatever they call them, and so on. I can remember my first "electronic gift." It was a tube radio sitting under the Christmas tree, and when I plugged it in at about 5 a.m., waited for it to warm up, and all I could get was two and a half radio stations on it, and they were all poor. I was so disappointed. My sister got one the same morning but didn't turn hers on until about 8 a.m., and she got plenty of stations. I thought, gee, mine is junk, until I tried it again. It worked fine, not realizing in those years, radio wasn't on 24/7 like it is today.
When I "turned of age" at 13, a Red Ryder BB gun was waiting for me under the tree, a hot thing to have in those days. My friends had them before me, and we practiced together at paper targets at their house but I couldn't get one until I was a teen. It taught me a whole lot of things, and responsibility was the thing my parents wanted me to learn. About that same time I took to fishing. First traveling to a nearby creek, and then spreading out, I would go anyplace my bicycle would take me, and that was tough because living in the city, choices were few. My first fishing rod was a Noah's Ark special, and it caught a lot of fish.
For a time in my life there was a void in fishing and the outdoors. Typical things like cars, girls, etc., got in the way until I really grew up, got married, and started having kids of my own. The first vacation we took as a family was a fishing/camping trip. Believe it or not, after all those years, back to Noah's Ark for the rods and reels to outfit two young boys at the time.
I guess what I am trying to convey here is that, this Christmas, while giving gifts, give a gift of outdoor adventures that are waiting for you and those youngsters in your life. Fishing equipment, hunting equipment, membership to a fishing or hunting club are great gifts. Don't know the exact item to buy them? Go to a strictly hunting or fishing store and get a gift certificate. Avoid that certificate for a department store or anything that might be spent on toys, iPhones or sweaters or something not related to the outdoors. Nieces, nephews, neighbor kids, in-laws, or whomever you care for, do it, give that outdoor gift. While you are at it, make a new year's resolution that you will take them fishing. It doesn't need to be exotic, just get them out there. Don't forget your uncles, aunts, and especially the elderly, you will be sure to learn something from them. As a matter of fact, chartering a boat is not a bad idea either. If you go to the Outdoors Niagara website, there is a big list of Niagara-area charter captains there. Make arrangements for a later date if you wish.
I would like to remind you to not forget your favorite charities, food banks, firefighter toy funds, veterans groups, or anyplace else you feel a couple of bucks can help for someone, somewhere at Yuletide time.
To all the readers of my column, thank you, and Merry Christmas to you, and your families. A special Merry Christmas to the Sentinel and staff for allowing my stories to appear here, especially Terry Duffy, "my boss," and Sentinel webmaster Josh Maloni. I enjoy doing this as much as the readers enjoy reading them. Contact me at[email protected] or through my website, http://www.outdoorsniagara.com.