The Sportsmen's Gift Guide
I sat at the Diner Roundtable, contributing my thoughts to various solutions for world woes and community concerns. Our regular breakfast club of aging sages could fix about anything if only we could get politicians to listen.
We offered thoughts on local water shortages, Marcellus Shale gas drilling sites, the dearth of deer, and possible terrorist threats to our woods and wilds. Windy’s latest installment on the progress of his decades-long house remodel had drowned out any talk of trout or turkeys. Doc, the eldest of our codger coffee klatch, muttered and mumbled, almost to himself. We’re all a little hard of hearing, so, when Windy gasped for a breath, I asked Doc to repeat, “Huh? What’d you say?”
Windy’s woes of wood, hammer and saw stopped abruptly, focusing on Doc. Doc frowned, “I’m worried.”
He had us...had our undivided attention. Fully tuned in, we were expecting a description of some ghastly, grisly impending surgery...maybe a nasty diagnosis. All things medical were also favorite Roundtable topics of conversation.
He continued, “I’m worried. I’m worried that, when I die, my wife will sell my hunting and fishing stuff for what I told her I paid for it.”
We laughed and nodded agreement. The Counselor chimed in, “Doc, you said it. If my wife ever found out how much I paid for that pricey Sage fly rod when I was on a fishing trip in Montana she’d... well, she’d....” Before he could finish the thought, the other sports added similar sentiments. It seems that, in addition to exaggerating the length and weight of brown trout or the distance of shots to record book deer, we were all guilty of lying to our lovely brides as to the costs of various pieces of sporting equipment. The offenses ranged from hiding a new rifle in the garage, or storing a rod at camp, to sharing the price of a pair of boots that was a third of the actual outlay in cash. Oh, the confessions we exchanged; oh, the sins that are necessary to remain a well-equipped sportsman.
I waited until they had exhausted their catalogue of crimes committed in the name of decency and, of course, good sportsmanship. I mean, who wants the Little Lady to rant and rave over outdoor expenditures?
I started, “I’m with you guys. Any and every ploy we use is acceptable, provided the wife never gets wind of how much we actually spend on huntin’ and fishin’ gear. I even wrote a column called “The Thousand-Dollar Trout” to get my lovely bride off scent. I mean... think about it. The story was about a weeklong fishing trip to Montana. I caught a trophy brown trout. And get this: the week only cost a thousand dollars? C’mon! The flights cost that much! But she bought it. I no sooner got back from the western trout streams than I realized that I needed some traps. And, pretty as you please, I conjured up the perfect ploy...the all-time best tactic to cover big boys’ toys. I’ve got your answer, guys.”
You see, several years ago, when my granddaughter, Regan, was three or four, I came up with St. Tom the Turkey as a little Thanksgiving joke. I asked her if St. Tom had visited her on Thanksgiving Eve. Of course, she said no.
“Well, he visits homes of good little girls and leaves gifts on Thanksgiving Eve, just like St. Nick does at Christmas. And guess what, Regan? He must have known that you were coming to our house today because he stopped by our house last night and left a gift for you.”
I smiled, reached under my chair, and pulled out a coloring book. Naturally, the kid smiled. Worked like a charm.
Then, reaching under the chair again, I introduced a new rifle scope left by St. Tom himself. I smiled and exclaimed, “And look what St. Tom brought me!” The wife just gave a pained smile. It worked!
“But listen guys, don’t try Halloween.” All eyes were aimed at me as though I were the omniscient guru atop the mountain. I continued, “Almost a year later, I tried the Great Pumpkin trick to show off my new shotgun. Well, let me tell you, costumes, Halloween parade, and trick-or-treat aside, that is not the right time to say the Great Pumpkin gave you an expensive shotgun. And, to top it off, I’d forgotten a coloring book for the granddaughter.”
So this year, I reprised St. Tom during the Thanksgiving dinner. It was the traditional shindig. You know, kids and grandkids, son-in-law, a feast that couldn’t be beat...all the right things in the right setting. I quizzed Regan about the visit by St. Tom. Her sister, Reese, was quieted when I shoved a piece of turkey on her plate. The kid hadn’t been visited and had received no gifts. I produced the coloring book.
Then, in a tour de force, I described the traps and how much they were needed...even more than that shotgun she didn’t think I needed.
My wife carped, “If you would have used that shotgun on a wild turkey, we’d be eating it right now!”
I was flabbergasted at her utter ignorance of the fine sport of hunting. I explained that the new over/under 20-gauge was for grouse, woodcock, and ringnecks.
“The shotgun that the Easter Bunny left me is the one I use for turkeys,” I explained.
I could see her cheeks redden, matching the cranberry sauce.
“Get back to the traps,” she growled.
“You know, Honey, it was just a couple of traps...for muskrat and mink. Then I thought I might’s well get a couple for bobcat...just in case. And they were on sale...” My wife looked at me with daggers big enough to carve the turkey. Meanwhile, Regan was dragging the back cover of the coloring book through the giblet gravy. Nice move on her part. It diverted everyone’s attention. When my lovely bride had finished wiping gravy off the book, she turned her gaze back to me. I simply said, “Pass the turkey stuffing, Honey.”
So you see, guys, St. Tom works...but don’t forget the coloring book.
My breakfast buddies silently nodded assent, looking like they had just scaled the mountain and talked to the wizard. I wonder if they’ll try St. Tom the Turkey.
I know I won’t next year.