All about Last Minute Christmas Gifting

Last minute? Well, not exactly – you have a good 24 hours yet. Let us consider possibilities.

In my mind, any outdoor gift – last minute or not – ought to make or represent a connection between the giver and getter. A real gift acknowledges that connection and the people on both ends of the exchange. Such a gift, given freely and joyfully, may become priceless, and may not even have a price tag.

I learned that lesson a long time ago. You’ve probably heard this tale before, but the experience changed my life, and I’d like to hear it again.

On a warm summer afternoon in Denver, some four decades ago, eleven-year-old son Tim wanted ice cream. I was mildly preoccupied with chores, but it seemed like a good day for the three mile hike. We told his mom what we were doing and set out. Along the way, we studied clouds and plants and bugs and a dead cat and a soil horizon and plant roots exposed in a road cut. We laughed and questioned and felt wonder. On the way home, in this space of wonder we had created together, we ate our ice cream and studied it all again.

Then (also once upon a time), some months later, during a tough work week, I had a five-evening stretch of hauling Tim all over Denver to pick up scouting uniforms and paraphernalia.  Wherever we went, it seemed, they had just sold out what we needed, and sent us elsewhere. That weekend, I was short-tempered and in a paper grading marathon, when he complained that we never spent any time together. With the young man temper The Old Man had left me, I snarled at him about spending our evenings all week – together – chasing scouting stuff. He wrinkled his brow and looked at me, clearly confused. “Nahh,” he said thoughtfully, “We haven=t spent any time together since we did that ice cream and bugs hike, dad.”

From that eye-opening moment, a block of time to be happily spent doing something the kid wanted to do became a part of gifting. To this day, my Hucklings rarely remember toys, or stuff, but nearly always recount times we spent joyfully doing their thing.  It works for adults, too.

One of my favorite outdoor holiday family “activity” gifts has to be wildlife watching and photography. There is a great, free and instantly-available, e-book guaranteed to stir the wildlife photography blood in you and your gang. It’s author is famed wildlife photographer Tony Bynum – once a graduate student in Central’s Resource Management Program. Simple: go to Tony’s beautiful web site, At top of page click on the banner “Read Tony’s ‘Wildlife Photography Essentials’ E-book,” and fill out the simple registration to get your password for this stunning little primer. You can read it online, print it, or download it (or all three). This will change the way you and your family watch and record wildlife.

Once you have the book, grab the kids and whatever photo devices they have – or pick up some of those little disposable cameras – and go look for wild critters. Take binoculars and spotting scopes, and hot chocolate, coffee, cookies, sandwiches or whatever else your gang needs to make an outdoor adventure memorable. Each time you see a deer or elk or sheep or coyote, or whatever, discuss the picture possibilities. Then bring it all together by loading the images into a family photo file or scrapbook. (If some of you shoot film, get it to a one-hour processing joint in town, grab your prints and digital images and then load them as needed – together.)

Here in the valley, wildlife is all over. Lower Cooke Canyon, Coleman Creek, Reecer Creek or Manastash Road will get you into wintering range for seeing deer and possibly some elk. Bald eagles are scattered around the valley and in the Canyon. Elk are most likely up Joe Watt Canyon and scattered over to the Heart K Ranch at the mouth of the Taneum. Down the Yakima Canyon are deer and California bighorn sheep (watch traffic and both sides of the road).

Drive to the elk feeding site at Oak Creek Wildlife Area or the California bighorn site on the south side of Cleman Mountain. Both sites are near the point west of Naches where Highway 410 and Highway 12 split. At the intersection, turn north onto the frontage road and follow it to the bighorn sheep feeding site. You can’t miss the fencing and the signs. For the elk feeding, turn south onto Highway 12, and look for the signs (and elk) on the right. Critters are now showing up. It is worth the drive, and kids of all ages get very excited about being the first to spot one critter or other.

You have time, also, to consider the merits of homemade gifts. I have hand-knitted scarves and sweaters, an ammo box made by a close friend and an old leather “possibles” pouch for small things that like being kept together. Each of these gifts has become a treasure lasting far longer than the time it took some special person to make it.

In 1955, I asked Grampa Minshall about a scarf he wore every single time we went into a cool outdoor day. He said Grandma made it the first hunting season they were together. He wore it on wintry 1899 mornings in Fort Collins, Colorado, when he and his chums made a few bucks market hunting ducks and geese. The scarf looked that old, too. He smiled and patted it every time it went around his neck.

Last-minute Christmas or other gifting is simple, I think. Whatever you give, imbue it with joy.

Merry Christmas…

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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