Merry Christmas everyone!

John L. Sloan

Boy, a lot of Christmases have gone by for me. There was a time, when I lived in Pineville, Louisiana, that Christmas meant over two weeks of getting to hunt. I would be home on Christmas day and usually the night before.

The rest of that time off from school, I would be at the Camp, down in the Saline Swamp. Those were good days. The folks that always made sure I got to camp and was part of the hunt, They were some good people. The camp was a 24 X 32-foot, one room house up on stilts, eight feet high. As I said, it was in a swamp. Those were some great times.

After that, I lived in Texas and for a few years, Christmas was pretty much just another day for me. It went from being home and not caring much about it to living part time with another family in Lampasas and not having to gather cattle or fix fence on that day. I was “on the road” then, and did not really have a permanent home. The Matthews were good folks who were happy to have another “hand” and to give a rodeo bum a place to crash when I came in off the road, usually broke.

There were some lonesome times, too. I especially recall a Christmas Eve in a small West Texas town. It was cold and windy as it usually is in that part of Texas in December. I was heading to Ft. Worth for the weekly rodeo at the Cowbell Arena in Mansfield and was just worn out. I pulled into a rundown motel with a couple letters burned out on the welcome sign. The room was $6 and the family that owned it would not hear of me going straight to bed. First, I had to eat with them and enjoy their modest but fantastic, home cooked meal. Dang good people.

The Wyoming years, most of them contained good Christmases. Lots of people, lots of laughter, kids running everywhere. We always had too much to eat and drink. The men folk went hunting for deer, antelope or sometimes turkey. We played a lot of poker when the weather was bad. It was often bad. Plenty of snow. Good people, all of them.

The Christmases here have been good, most of them. For four years, when I first moved to TN, it seemed as though I was always on the road at Christmas. During those years, at least I picked good motels and ate well. Although I spent most of them alone, I don’t recall minding it so much.

Then, I got married to my wonderful wife, Jeanne and the Christmases soon involved a lot of folks, in-laws and then, my own kids. By golly, the Christmases when the kids were young were shining times. I have never cared much about presents for myself, at least not since I was kid. But what fun it was to watch the kids open theirs. Even after the kids were nearly grown, it was still a fun time with all the in-laws kids and such. Good people.

Now, we have grandkids. They are as kids should be, in a hurry to open the next present. Judging from the amount of time G-G, (that is Jeanne), has spent shopping and wrapping, there will be plenty for them to open this year. They will all be here for a Christmas day brunch. I will miss the crowd at the Fellowship House but I am sure they will be fine without me for a day.

A lot of good people through the last few years.

Friday, I will head down to White Oak Plantation Friday. It will be Christmas for that big family. I don’t know how many of the Pitman kids and grandkids will be there but it is a bunch. It is an honor to be invited. I am looking forward to it.

Of course, there will be plenty of hunting, too. Mornings and evenings will find all of us in shooting houses or on ladder stands, waiting for one of the big ones or just wanting to kill some freezer meat.

That will be my last hunt of the year. I don’t know how much hunting I will actually do down there. I’m sure I will go some but a lot of the time will be spent just visiting with the variety of Pitmans and their offspring. Good people, the Pitmans, the best. They don’t come any better. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.

I hope each and every one of you enjoy your Christmas this year and keep firmly in mind what it is really about. I’ll think back on all of the ones behind me. I don’t know how many are in front of me. I’ll leave you with this.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you are with good people.

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