Hunting & Heritage  |  12/24/2019

The Colors of Christmas


Of Roosters and Snow and Evergreens and Joy

By Tom Carpenter

Roosters in the full rainbowed glory of their winter plume.

White snow as fresh and pure as the western wind that brought it to the South Dakota prairie.

An old truck guarding the back corner of a farmstead.

A tired but proud little bird dog pretty much the rusty color of the retired jalopy.

And that snow-bedecked evergreen: A Christmas tree in the windbreak.

The picture shouted Merry Christmas to me when I snapped it not long ago of Lark and some trophy birds at my friend Eric Johannsen’s farm. And it brought back a flood of memories of pheasants and family and hunting and the holidays ... factors inextricably intertwined in my upbringing.

As important as any church service or Santa stocking or gift-opening gathered around the tree, was the Christmas Day Hunt.

Basset hounds bawling in the thickets. Cottontails circling through the coverts. And sooner or later, sometime somewhere in our circuits, we would find a rooster or two.

I remember one afternoon in particular, Christmas Eve or Christmas itself I cannot recall.

But I can recall standing there quietly where fenceline met woods, listening to the hounds and waiting for a rabbit to return. How long I waited there, who knows, but when the dogs passed far down the hillside and I took a step to reposition somewhere else, the pine trees in front of me erupted with beating wings.

Not one not two but three now-unhidden roosters clawed skyward from their hideout, and I watched them mesmerized as they cleared the branches and rocketed away.

I never even raised my shotgun.

And I still remember them there, just as well and probably better for not shooting, resplendent in the afternoon sun with snowflakes sparkling through the cold air and glistening against the bright blue sky while pine boughs rocked.

The colors of Christmas.