A Christmas Remembered

By Rick Jones

As we celebrate the Christmas season, I remember the days of my youth. Reminiscing about the good times and bad, the gift I always wanted and got, and those that I did receive and didn't like. Most everyone has those memories of Christmases gone by.

Seems that I cannot remember not being involved with the shooting sports - training, plinking, and hunting. In general, good times were had by all while shooting rifles, pistols, and shotguns.

My grandmother taught me the basics of shooting, safety, and how to clean up after a training session. Mamaw was an old Kentucky gal who also grew up learning how to shoot. And boy could she ever shoot.

Even though it was a most pleasurable experience shooting, it also had a purpose, and that was to help put extra food on the table. Large gardens, canning vegetables and storing extra food for the upcoming winter was the norm for country folks.

Even though Mamaw taught me to shoot, it was more of a pleasure to watch my grandfather handle a rifle. Another old timer who could sit and shoot sycamore balls out of the old sycamore tree was absolutely amazing to this youngster. Pop would shoot an entire box of .22 cartridges and then send me to the store to buy another box. This was pre-1968, so as a 10 year old I could buy .22 cartridges. Pop would give me a quarter, send me to the store, and he would say, "Be sure and bring me back the change."

Times and prices have sure changed!

My most memorable Christmas was in 1965 and was bitter-sweet. I can remember my dad and his brothers going hunting and shooting around the farm, the competition, enjoyment, the bonding, good conversation and of course, the cleaning of the game. As a Marine reservist, Dad could just about out-shoot all his brothers and anyone else who might have shown up.

As I said, 1965 was bitter-sweet. In January of '65 Dad went to the doctor and found out he had cancer! He passed away on December 14th of 1965, just one week after my 12th birthday and one week before his 42nd birthday, but his legacy lives on.

One of Dad's younger brothers, my favorite uncle, lived in Columbus, Ohio at the time and made frequent trips back to Portsmouth. That December was pretty busy for my Uncle Bob, who made several trips back home to help tend to things. When he came home for Christmas, he brought presents for my two sisters, and when I asked, "Where is my present, uncle Bob?" he said, "I totally forgot about you Rick."

I was told he would be back in January and asked what I wanted and I said "a .410 shotgun." He agreed to bring me that shotgun! The amount of time between then and the time he finally came back seemed like an eternity for a 12-year-old boy. The thoughts of owning my very own shotgun seemed unimaginable. He did come back and he did bring me my very own gun. My very own .410 bolt action Mossberg shotgun! Was I ever proud.

When I couldn't shoot or hunt, a pile of puckered patches satisfied the urge. I must have had the cleanest shotgun in the world. I've had that shotgun for the last 44 years and it's still as clean now as it was when I was 12. So, now you understand why Christmas of 1965 holds some bitter-sweet memories for me.

Growing up without a Dad can sure be tough on a young man, but I have a lot of things to be thankful for. The shooting sports and hunting taught me a lot about growing up. The mental and physical discipline needed to handle firearms helped enormously. These are some of my memories from just one of my Christmases past that I'll never forget. These memories will stay with me forever. Perhaps others might consider helping a youngster make those memories that they'll never forget and be able to speak of in their aging years.

And so, I would like to thank those who guided me in the shooting sports, LeRoy Jones, Mattie and William Madden, and Uncle Bob Madden. You may be gone, but never forgotten.

"Merry Christmas Everyone!"

Rick Jones is a Buckeye Firearms Association Region Leader.

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