For the next few weeks I will post excerpts from Robert Ruark’s classic book The Old Man and the Boy. It was first written as a series of articles and published in Field and Stream magazine, and selected stories were later published in book form.
It is written as the author’s the recollection of his exploits as a young boy with his grandfather. Many of their adventures involved hunting and fishing, but for this series I will focus on the theme of Christmas. I never experienced this type of Christmas, but I still live in this rather idyllic dream every year about this time. I hope you enjoy my adaptation of these excerpts…
Christmas was associated with a lot of other fine memories. One of the things I really remember about Christmas was the grown-ups who raised me never gave me anything I needed. By “needed” I mean to say I knew the kid next door who was always getting something worthy like a new pair of shoes or a school suit, which may be practical and fine economy, but I never saw any romance in a roof on the house. A house belongs to have a roof, it is not supposed to get one for Christmas. When a boy gets a school suit or new pair of shoes, they aren’t a gift. They’re the roof on the house.
Fair times or foul what I got for Christmas and birthdays was a luxury even if it was only a pocket knife worth $.50 most of the time is considerably more because that was just before the big depression and everybody had at least a little money to spend on fun.
Maybe you’ve guessed that the holiday season was pretty special for me. As soon as school let out usually about the 20th of December, I took off her little town where the old man lived, and I didn’t get back to my own city until the day before the school started again. Those two weeks I lived a life like I imagine it might of been like in the old English squire days, when life was filled with expeditions.
First there was the oyster business. You go out in the skiff over when stirred gray waters with your nose and ears been read by the cold and finally come home into the oyster beds. When you had a boatload you polled her back and by this time you have would have a knife out and have a couple dozen oysters already opened and eaten. While I’ve eaten a lot of oyster since, I don’t remember any oyster tasting is good as those big fat ones that came streaming straight up out of the mud and the salt water.
Getting oysters was just one of the expedition, the Christmas tree expedition was another…
(to be continued…)