Christmas And The Boy…

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The old man stood peering through his blinds, watching the snowflakes float down. Today was the anniversary of the worst day of his life.

tank rifle

A Perfect Life…

An avid hunter and shooter, he excitedly bought his son a Stevens .410 double barrel shotgun for his 8th Christmas and hid it in the attic. Wanting to pass-on his passion, he thought the Stevens would be the perfect way to expose him to the wonderful world of shooting, safe gun handling and responsibility. “Maybe we’ll hunt together, that would be swell,” the man thought, getting excited.

But life can be cruel, and the old man was about to see that first hand.

Christmas Past

It’d been almost 40 years and he still remembers the knock on the door, the solemn State Trooper, with the words “terrible accident” and “wife and eight year old son.” The rest of the conversation was just a chaotic blur, changing the rest of his life.

Lonesomeness and grief can destroy a man, no matter how strong they are. It was ten days before Christmas when his life was forever changed. The holidays soured his spirits more than usual. The years ticked by faster than he cared, but the memory was always fresh in his mind.

Present Day

The shotgun is still stashed away in the attic, still wrapped in Christmas paper, with a big red ribbon, a reminder of when life was good.

The old man fixed a lunch of canned chicken noodle soup and a grilled cheese in his Griswold cast iron skillet. The aroma of melted butter wafted through the air as he flipped his sandwich and everything was ready.

His dog lazily gets off the couch from his second nap of the day and lies at his master’s feet. The old man is grateful for his companion and knows he’s the only thing keeping him going. The beagle got the last bite of grilled cheese and licked the bowl clean.

New Neighbors?

The sound of a huge moving van startled the dozing old man. Peering through the blinds, he sees the huge truck parked in front of the Johnson house. “Great, they’ll probably have a bunch of kids and there goes the quietness of the neighborhood,” thinking like the crotchety old man he had become. He knew it was wrong and he didn’t like thinking this way, but he did.

Later, after letting the dog out, he hears the beagle barking in classic bugle form. Peering out, he sees the dog barking at a boy, kneeling at the fence, trying to make friends. Throwing on his Woolrich coat, the old man goes outside to settle the dog down. “He’s a nice dog kid, once he gets to know you” the old man grumbled.

The kid smiled and asked, “Is that a rabbit dog, mister?” Startled, the old man replied, “What do you know about rabbit dogs?” “My pap hunted rabbits and had dogs like yours. He was gonna take me rabbit huntin’ this winter, but he died,” the boy responded, with hung head.

“Hmmgh, that’s too bad,” the old man grunted, a bit startled a kid today would actually want to hunt. “Do you hunt, mister?” the boy innocently asked. “Not in almost 40 years…” the old man trailed off, softening.

“Maybe we could go huntin’ someday, if ya’ wanna’ take me?” the boy hesitantly asked. But you could also tell he was excited by the idea.
“We’ll see,” said the old man.

The old man actually grinned just then, walking toward the house with his dog, thinking “What a nice kid.” As Christmas approached, the old man and the boy would meet by the fence to chat and each time the boy would bring up rabbit hunting. The talks softened the old man as lonesomeness and sorrow ebbed from his tired body. He was actually looking forward to the chats, now.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Morning

The boy excitedly got up Christmas morning. Beneath the tree were presents galore. After a nice breakfast with his parents, he opened his gifts. With teary eyes, his mom handed him a big box and told him it was from his pap, her father. He had bought it months before he died, but made sure he gave it to his daughter, just in case.

Opening the gift, the boy pulls out insulated hunting pants, coat and boots. They were to be for his “first” rabbit hunt. Everyone got teary-eyed, remembering good ol’ pap.

santa dog

A Different Kind Of Knock

A few minutes later, there’s a knock on the door. Dressed head to toe in black/red plaid Woolrich pants and coat, high-laced leather boots, holding a leash with a fat beagle on the end, stood the old man.

Next to him was a long, narrow box, wrapped in faded Christmas paper with red ribbon.

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