Everyone, at least the folks with kids, know all about this. We give our little kids some grand toy for Christmas, and then it turns out that the kids enjoy playing with the box more than the toy. Ugh!
This story from Nooga.com Outdoors reader Tony Harris isn't the exact same thing, but it's close. Harris is an avid deer hunter. His kids and grandkids are being brought up understanding what hunting is all about. At least one grandson apparently got the message in an especially big way, as illustrated by this Christmas story from Harris, in his words:
This past Christmas, I decided to give my grandson Zeek something a little different. What I gave him might not seem like that much, but remember, it has to be special for someone else, not necessarily you or me.
Actually, I believe some of you might think that what I gave him is downright nasty, but again, it’s not about what we think.
I skinned, cleaned and preserved the tail from a 12-point buck that I had taken earlier in the season. I placed leather strings on the end for hanging purposes, wrapped it all in tissue paper, placed it in a bag and put it under the Christmas tree with very little fanfare.
Now, Zeek has been involved in a few deer skinning sessions with Granddad Hoot (that's me) and knows all about what is going on with deer. He’s “all in” in that respect. So I was paying close attention to him while he was opening gifts and snapped a few pictures.
Tell me that he was not one happy little boy when he opened his deer tail. That was special, and all it cost was basically a little extra time.
While poking the fire later that night, Zeek told me, unsolicited, that his deer tail was the best present that he had received. I thought this was rather amazing based on some of the other gifts.
This is not the first deer tail story in our household. Our two “grownup boys,” Jonathon (Zeek’s dad) and Daniel (Uncle Daniel), when they were much younger, used to help me drag deer out of the woods and clean them up. For the most part, they had fun, but sometimes I had to influence their participation with bribes of treats, cash or privilege.
One time after finishing up a deer, I skinned out the tail, put a leather string through the end of it, and hung it around Daniel’s neck. He was about 6 years old and acted as if he liked it. I gave it no further thought.
Several days later, I came home from work and faced a not-too-happy wife. I could tell something was up.
It seems she had detected a foul smell in the truck after picking the boys up from school. After removing shoes, searching under the seats, going through backpacks and everything else, the clothes started coming off the boys. Right away, after Daniel took his coat off, the culprit of the smell was spotted hanging around his neck. In this case, I had failed to flesh out the deer tail for proper "preservation," and it had begun to "age." And it seems he had been wearing his deer tail to school every day, without any funny smells catching his attention.
Needless to say, that deer tail was disposed of, and apologies were offered to his teacher. I’m not too sure how well the apologies were taken.
I learned a few things from these deer tails. One, never underestimate the effects of your actions or words upon others. Two, little things you do may mean something big for someone else. Three, never give a young boy a non-preserved deer tail. Finally, kids are still kids in this cockeyed, politically correct world that we live in.
By the way, Maddy, Zeek’s little sister, now wants a deer tail as well. I will be happy to oblige.
Richard Simms is a contributing writer, focusing on outdoor sports. Tony Harris is a Nooga.com Outdoors reader and avid deer hunter. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.