Al Campbell, Field Editor

December 24th, 2001

Darnit's Christmas Tree
By Al Campbell

Darnit Stammer has always been a procrastinator when it comes to selecting a Christmas tree. I can't think of any year when he didn't wait until the week before Christmas to cut a tree, and most years he's cutting his tree at sunset on Christmas Eve. He has always been that way, and might always be that way, but something happened this year that might change his habits a bit.

This year I played a trick on Darnit. I told him I was going out a little early to cut my tree. Since I didn't get to hunt deer because I didn't get drawn for a tag, I said I was going to take my camera and try to snap a few shots of the mossy horn buck who lives up muddy gulch. That baited the hook. When I asked if he wanted to join me, that placed the hook within his reach. When I said he could bring his bow and try to fill his tag, he hooked himself.

Some of you may recall how Darnit took a beating with a stick for trying to bag a red nosed deer leading a herd that was pulling a sleigh a few years ago. Seems Darnit tried to bag Rudolph and Santa clobbered him for his indiscretion. He nearly gave up hunting after that. In fact, he's still recovering from the emotional trauma of that incident. Call it therapy; I asked him to tag along. See Darnit, Santa and Rudolph

I say it's a miracle. For the first time in more than a decade, maybe his lifetime, Darnit cut his tree more than a week before Christmas day. We had both trees loaded in the pickup well before noon. That gave Darnit time to try for 'ol' mossy horn'; and I had a chance to snap a few pictures on a pleasant December afternoon.

As the sun began to fade, I returned to the pickup to find Darnit sitting in the front seat looking like he'd seen a ghost. It was terrible. He was shaking, his eyes had a fixed, distant stare, and he kept whispering something about a red nose. It took almost an hour to get him to tell me what happened.

I'm afraid Darnit has slipped a sanity screw. He says every deer in the woods had a red nose. He also said that every time he saw a deer, he heard sleigh bells ringing. Remembering the trouble he had last time he saw a deer with a red nose and heard sleigh bells, he fell apart. He couldn't concentrate and his arms just gave out every time he heard those bells. He kept looking for a guy in red flannel pajamas, carrying a stick. I think he needs therapy.

I doubt Christmas will ever be the same for Darnit or his family. First, he managed to cut his tree a week earlier than normal. Second, he traded his bow for a camera. Finally, he says he's convinced the lawn displays of Santa and Rudolph are part of a plot to destroy our civilization. Like I said; he needs therapy.

This week at the North Pole, Santa picked up the phone and called his psychiatrist. "Hey Sid, remember that incident a couple of years ago when some nut in South Dakota tried to put Rudolph in his freezer? The boys and I spotted him in a tree stand this afternoon and decided to play a little trick on him.

I sprinkled some magic powder over the forest that gave all the deer a red nose for a day. I also placed some magic bells in a tree near that nut. The bells rang every time a deer walked within 100 yards of his tree stand. No Sid; I'm sure he'll take it as a joke. I don't think he'll have any lasting effects. Actually, this is just the type of fun we needed to recover from the trauma of that last incident."

This week in South Dakota, Darnit was lying on a psychiatrist's couch relaying his story. "Well Doc, that's jist 'bout all I got to tell ya. I still don't think huntin' is evil or nuthin' like that, but I ain't able to figure this out. I traded my bow an' arrows for a camera and swapped my tree stand fer some film. I guess I jist hafta give up huntin' if'n it's gonna drive me nuts like this. I might even hafta give up on cuttin' Christmas trees."

The psychiatrist scribbled a number on a piece of paper and handed it to Darnit saying, "I don't think you need to stop hunting or cutting Christmas trees. I just think you might have encountered the mischievous side of Santa. I'm betting you won't have any more problems if you avoid hunting the week before Christmas. In fact, after everything you just told me; I'm sure I'm right. You can trust me on this one. If you need to talk again, I wrote my number on that piece of paper. Call me anytime. My name is Sid."

Christmas is a strange time of year. I hope yours is a good one. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns
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