Memories of Christmas and outdoors

For lovers of the outdoors, holidays stir some of the sweetest recollections of bountiful hunts, favorite pups and holiday tree-spotting.
For lovers of the outdoors, holidays stir some of the sweetest recollections of bountiful hunts, favorite pups and holiday tree-spotting. File photo

Think back to Christmases past associated with the outdoors and find fond memories. Hunting for deer, scouting for trees, special holiday dinners.

Sportsmen in North Carolina become raconteurs when asked about their Christmas memories. Here is a sampling of their stories:


“One of my most memorable Christmases with my dad was when I was 14 or 15 years old, and my brother and I went on a deer hunting trip at our deer lease in Texas. I was the only female among a handful of same-aged boys and their dads. I shot a 10-point white tail that trip. The largest killed on that trip and my dad couldn’t have been prouder in the company of his friends.” – Patty McEwen, Wake County


“My family moved to Topsail Island in 1953. I was 9 years old. Daddy soon purchased a skiff and took me and my brother Hiram fishing, spot netting and duck hunting around the marsh island between the Intracoastal Waterway and Topsail Sound. The skiff gave us adventures that most children only read about. During the summer and spring, while we were on the water, we would keep an eye open for a Christmas tree candidate. The marsh islands produced a very good inventory for tree evaluation. Then, in mid-December Daddy would load us in the skiff and off we would go to select and harvest our perfect tree.

“The trees that grow on these islands are Juniper, which are not the most attractive for Christmas decorating. These trees usually grow at an angle because of the wind and they also have naked spots in and around the branches. When we got home with our tree, Mother would fuss and fuss because it was very hard to decorate a Topsail Island Juniper. But Daddy and her boys liked the tree. So each year Mother would decorate the Juniper. And in spite of the angle and holes, she would turn an ugly duckling into a beautiful Christmas tree and make two little boys happy and proud.” – Sidney Williams, Pender County


“Christmas time began when we’d go to cut our tree. Growing up in the country meant I would carry the ax following Daddy, then walk around the garden spots to find a nice pine or cedar. Mother always wanted a cedar because of the fresh smell that seemed to last for weeks. … Combine the scent of that decorated cedar along with the wood we heated with, and all we lacked were the smells of Christmas dinner. Most years Mother would cook a turkey, but during my teens our property always had rabbits and held several covey of quail.

“In a good year Christmas dinner would mean a couple of birds and fried rabbit with rabbit gravy over homemade biscuits, dressing, green beans and squash from our garden and desert of persimmon pudding and a chess pie. We know that Christmas means a part of heaven came to this world. When we had fried rabbit with gravy, the saying ‘died and gone to heaven’ really meant something.” – Bryan Pennington, Alamance County


“My favorite time for years was leaving to go duck hunting the afternoon of Christmas. It was my mother, father and brother. We would go for a week to the South Santee River in South Carolina to an old duck hunting club. No phones, great oyster roasts and tons of ducks. It was a very magical time for me and memories that will always be in my heart.” – Ellison Armfield, Davie County


“My favorite Christmas gift was a Labrador Retriever puppy given to me by my wife, Lou, in 2006. Molly is the kind of dog that never met a stranger. She will greet people with the affection and enthusiasm of a long-time friend. She adores the touch of a hand and thrives on attention. Her zest as a hunting and competition retriever is exceeded by few. The style and intensity with which she throws her heart into every retrieve is spectacular.

“Molly achieved her AKC Master Hunter title by the age of 2. She has 39 master passes out of 44 attempts. She achieved Qualified All Age status with a win in 2011. She has produced excellent puppies, many of whom are titled AKC competitors as well. Molly’s personality of love and devotion to people and her incredible work ethics are special. She was the perfect Christmas gift that I will always remember.” – Jim Elam, Warren County


“To me. Christmas is about the seasonal music that accompanies me on my journey to my hometown in central Pennsylvania to be with my friends and family that I have not seen in months. It’s about taking an evening walk through my childhood neighborhood memorized by the deafening silence of snow gently falling on a field where I used to sled ride nearly five decades ago. It’s about the deer hunting stories between my brother and I that go on for hours yet never get old. It’s the glue that binds us. It’s about the anticipation for the after-Christmas flintlock deer season and the potential to find a final deer for the freezer in a winter wonderland of barren trees and frosty leaves. Christmas, to me, is a time to be thankful, a time for sharing and a time to reminisce about wonderful times of Christmas both in and outdoors.” – Deet James, Wake County