Yes, my Christmas sleigh is red, and, yes, I am something of a jolly old elf.
Or at least the plump part, anyway.
But I don’t own any reindeer. None that fly, anyway. There is the head of a mounted one on our living wall. And this poor beast must undergo shameful Christmas decoration treatment from Bev, my wife.
So instead of a herd of flying reindeer I have a duel package of black Labrador retrievers to keep me company on my seasonal rounds.
That trip is done a few days before Christmas and is intended for one purpose: To thank those property owners who let me trespass on their grounds in search of either game or fish.
You might be tempted to refer to this as “bribery.” Some have but I don’t, simply because I get so much of a charge out of playing an outdoors Santa Claus.
The work - and I would imagine the same is true for the real Santa Claus - begins earlier in the year. Sometime in early February, in fact.
With a long stretch of a look to December, Bev and I begin the ground floor work. We start by tapping maple trees, firing up the backyard sugarbush and pouring some of the golden elixir into decorative decanters.
These collectable glass receptacles are locked away until mid-December when they are brought out and made ready to be given away to the families who’ve signed off on letting me stalk their woods, build a goose-hunting blind on the cusp of their farm pond or else let my hip wader-wearing legs hike up and down a steelhead-filled creek.
A few other long-time supporters get a little fancier package but the intent is the same; that being to say “thank you.”
So I hop into the vehicle, open the tailgate for the dogs to join me and off we go for an approximately 120-mile round trip, all told.
The effort takes all of the morning and a wad of the afternoon to complete.
(Of course I don’t count the stolen first two hours and the dogs and I are goose hunting but that’s a another story for another time).
Some of the property owners are home and if they are, we exchange Christmas greetings.
When one of the property owners who lets me trespass in order to hunt for steelhead said “you’re welcome here any time, Jeff,” I was almost brought to tears. I had to turn away and get back in the SUV.
That’s why I do this, too. Not just for the fishing, not just for the hunting.
Rather, because the gesture means so much to them and because their kindness means so much to me.
As far as I am concerned, it’s the best investment of time and money I spend each year.
Merry Christmas to you, all you landowners. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn