During this season, it’s exciting to visit the mail box to see who sent Christmas cards. Since childhood, I’ve loved receiving friends and loved ones’ annual greetings. The clever or sentimental sayings are nice, but the best part after the letter is the scene on the front of the card.
Peaceful outdoor scenes top all others. Every year I struggle to find a card that expresses how I feel about the out-of-doors and rarely succeed. In fact, I often resort to clever or sentimental verse simply because I can’t find the perfect image. Of course, it’d help if the picture was 3-D and had a sound chip. If it did, I know exactly how it would look and sound.
A deer hunt once led me into a Christmas card setting. That afternoon we hunted hills overlooking the Saline. The previous night, windless snow had fallen for hours, blanketing hills in pristine white. Nothing had traveled before us, so we were the first to disrupt the beauty. Everything before us was unspoiled.
Just enough snow frosted cedars dotting hillsides, weighing down branches. Whenever small birds would light and then flit away, their movement created mini-blizzards like one might see in snow globes.
We struggled through heavy snow to our now enchanted deer stand. White crystals disguised ordinary, prickly yucca as amazing snow sculptures. Because flakes had drifted gently, they formed outlandish shapes when they landed on spiny leaves and center spikes. Disney horticulturists couldn’t have created better fantasy creatures.
Arriving at our destination, my feet ached and icicles dangled from a hunter orange face mask. Disregarding tingles creeping into my toes, nose, and fingers, I savored the clear view of the river valley.
Grey sky silhouetted old cottonwood and hackberry branches. Trees hugged the river bank while a cut milo field stretched beyond, rust and burnished yellow. Whitetails grazed unconcernedly. If I’d been seriously after game, I’d have been agitated because the deer were out of range. Instead, I enjoyed watching them browse stubble rows.
We sat midway downhill next to a large cedar, which sheltered us from a breeze that made falling snowflakes dance lackadaisically about our heads. Low-hanging clouds and butt numbing snow muffled sound. I could’ve easily traded pressing chores for this Christmas card world.
Despite muted noise, I heard something north of us. My husband, not wanting to signal our whereabouts or break the spell, pointed the direction from which the strange squawks and calls came. As I focused, I realized it was an army of turkeys marching single file to feed on fallen milo. I tried counting but found it impossible to keep track of that descending horde.
After watching the flock feed, we saw them resume single file and count cadence toward their roost. By this time, another sound edged into my awareness from somewhere over my shoulder. My husband noticed me looking toward the soft whistling, and he mouthed in a frosty vapor, “Bobwhite Come Here call.” I’d heard those notes many times, but this was the first time I associated it with this perky, top-notched creature. The cry signaled these small gamebirds that dusk descended, and they needed to gather. I agreed. It was time to head back to the truck and finally home to daughters and toasty kitchen.
For an instant, I spent an afternoon in my own Christmas card. That enchanted memory still warms me.
Native Kansan Karen Madorin is a local writer and retired teacher who loves sharing stories about places, people, critters, plants, food, and history of the High Plains.