Keep up with all things, outdoors, with Big Billy Kinder...
I have a ton of great Christmas memories, many of them spent outdoors. Unconventional for most folks, but just perfect if you ask me. Think about it. That very first Christmas morning was spent outdoors, with critters all around. Perfect!
It was warm last year on Christmas day. Robin and I had no family around, so we set out for the lake early on Christmas morning. We spent the entire day on calm waters chasing after big green bass. I don’t recall the fish count at the end of the trip, but I do remember a cool, calm, quiet day surrounded by God’s beautiful creation and my beautiful bride.
My cousin and his wife have sold the place now, but for years they owned a ranch with a grand ol' two story house located out by the blacktop at the front of the place. The house was built, and built well, back in the 1800’s and had a huge fireplace that we kept crackling and popping for a full week. It was Christmas time, and I had permission from ol' cuz to spend Christmas with my family there. Robin’s folks and sisters were there, and since my family lived close by, they were there each day too. We cooked big meals, told tall stories and enjoyed each other’s company in this secluded old ranch house. Christmas morning came with a reading of the birth of Christ, sharing gifts, and a huge country boy breakfast. It had started snowing on Christmas eve and it snowed a lot for Texas. Maybe six inches or so. It was a white Christmas and that was rare! It made this special time even more special. About 9 or so, we turned the bird dogs loose from right there at the ranch house. Across the new fallen snow they went...past the cows in the big mesquite pasture and down toward the creek bottom. The red brittanys we could see pretty good. Those white setters, not so much. Once the dogs hit the creek bottom, the run was over and the hunt was on. The bob whites had congregated in the bottoms. The dogs would point tight coveys, not wanting to leave their warm resting place. We’d kick 'em up and scratch down what we needed for a good fried quail dinner on that Christmas day. Special.
I have hunted on a place in west Texas for almost 20 years now. It's dandy quail country that will hold birds even when the surrounding places are bare from drought or over grazing, and when populations are low. Several Christmases have been spent there, in the camper located in the old roping arena on the ranch-Robin, our son, Troy and me. Big Christmas morning, then lunch with the rancher and his family at the main house. One Christmas eve, when ol' Troy was about 10 or 12, I told him to take the pickup and go find the perfect Christmas tree. Cedar, mesquite, didn’t matter...”Just find one that you like, mark it somehow, then come back and get us.” I wanted him to have some adventure on his own. Life away from home would come sooner that I wanted. I knew that a boy driving a truck a few years before having a legal document in his pocket, on the nearly 6000 acre place would be an exciting mission and a big responsibility for him. He did well! On the far backside of the ranch, next to old cattle pens that had done their job for nearly a hundred years, Troy found a fine little mesquite that would serve as our tree on Christmas morning. He made it back to camp without incident, and the three of us loaded up the ornaments, lights and small generator. It began to snow as we trimmed the tree, and the next day, in the pre-dawn darkness of that Christmas morning, we fired up the little generator and plugged in the lights. WOW! What a sight! A campfire breakfast, the Christmas story, gifts and God’s grace in the absolute middle of nowhere. A thick snow was on the ground and it outlined the tree limbs and fence rails on the cattle pens. I’ve driven through that pasture on many hunts since that wonderful Christmas morning, never once though without taking a good look at that little Christmas mesquite that now stands three or four times the size. They don’t stay little long.
As you make your Christmas memories this year, please accept the warmest wishes for blessed time with your bunch, from all of us here in the camp-house at BBKO radio.
December 20, 2016
I love to fish for bass! I love the puzzle. Sometimes, I put it together and find the right combination of depth, speed, color and size and I catch a lot. Other times, I spend all day trying to figure it out and only pick up a bite or two, but I love to bass fish, every minute of it. I had the wonderful fortune to fish a Wounded Warrior tournament some years back with Staff Sgt. Jay Fondren. Jay had lost both legs, most of one arm and most of the fingers on his remaining hand, but Jay loves to fish too...so there we were lifting and lowering his wheel chair into the boat. And fish he could! With the rod tucked under what remained of his left arm, and reeling with what remained of his right hand, Jay won the boat that day. He out fished/out caught both Gary and me. By the way, Gary has qualified for 30 Bassmaster Classics, the long running world championship and most coveted title for a bass angler. 30! Only Rick Clunn has qualified for more with 32. Gary fishes the Bassmaster Elite tour and is one of the very best bass fishermen that this world has ever seen. Gary Klein loves to fish too. It was a brutally hot day and what little bite there was to be had, was on a plastic worm. Sloooooooow fishing. But we all were content and focused, because all involved that day enjoy putting the puzzle together, or at least trying. Hot as it was, slow as it was, Gary didn’t fire the boat up to make the 3pm weigh in until 2:55. We fished, and we enjoyed it.
Some folks don’t like to fish, they like to catch. I fully understand that, I get it. Catchin is fun! I put it right up there with fishin. Gary Klein and I have since that day had many opportunities to spend time together. He goes about bass fishing the same way that Ben Carson went about brain surgery, or Michelangelo went about the chore of painting the ceiling at the Sistine Chapel. He analyzes, picks, positions and ponders every single cast, never losing focus. To Gary, fishing is what happens in your mind while on the boat. The tools in your hand and at the end of your line are just that...tools. It’s a cerebral activity.
That brings me to fishing with the preacher. Pastor Tom is a trusted friend, and Tom loves to bass fish. Tom and I were on the boat last week. It was slightly cooler than comfortable and the fish were not active. But fish we did, til there was just enough light left to safely load the boat and get it to the house. Pastor Tom twice on that day expressed how he was enjoying it, even though he hadn’t had so much as a sniff of a bite. He’d make cast after cast after cast, retying this bait and that bait with optimism that this next lure just might trigger the bass. Working on the puzzle, and he enjoyed it. I sat there on the boat thinking of how fishing somewhat mirrored Tom's life. As a fisher of men, he has made many casts, always with optimism that one might embrace the love and gift of God’s salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unlike the rod and reel in his hand, Tom can’t see the results many times as he fishes for men. He tells the Gospel truth, plants that seed, makes the cast. God tells us as believers to fish for men throughout the entire world, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14. Tom has fished for men in Russia, they even threw him in jail over there. Said he was fishing illegally. In truth, they just don’t want to be out fished. He’s fished in the Navajo Nation, and just about every place he’s set foot. Tom loves to fish.
I figured it was pretty safe fishin with the preacher, after all he’s a preacher. Not the kind your see on TV that wants your money in exchange for your own personal health and wealth. Those ol' boys, and in some cases gals, are lying to you. They’re fishin for something other than your eternity. Tom’s the kind of preacher that takes his Christian life seriously, and tries his best to live it Biblically. Tom's a man of God, I thought to myself, he hasn’t caught a single fish all day, and I’d only managed a 10 inch bass. He CAN'T lie about the results of this trip like some other fellas that I fish with do. Wrong! Before church last Sunday morning, Tom, me and some of the boys from church were visiting and Tom told a fish story. No, he didn’t “grow” any imaginary fish of his own, as he held his hands about 5 inches apart, but he shrunk mine! I’m gonna pray for you Tom.
December 8, 2016
I stood in awe of the sight, roaring sound, massive power and indescribable beauty before me. I’d had that feeling before on occasion, and here it was again. My view was from a steep mid-September back road in Yellowstone National Park. The north wind was fierce that day as an early and strong front slammed the wilderness. It would turn out to be the heaviest September snow and winter blast in Wyoming’s weather records. The cutting winds pouring in from Arctic north with huge snowflakes swirling and moving like those big flocks of birds that seem to fly together in choreographed motion, coupled with the awesome rugged canyon and roaring waterfall before me, all lead to my sense of awe. I was reminded of just how small I am in this universe. I felt that I was sitting in God’s living room, and I just couldn’t get enough of it. Robin and I spent the remainder of the day, and the next, picking our way through this national treasure, then exited the park to the east as afternoon shadows began to stretch out. Ten minutes later I pulled up the drive to Elephant Head Lodge, so named because of the massive rock overhang that looks a whole lot like an...yeah, that’s right.
Buffalo Bill’s niece built the old trapper cabin and original buildings here back in 1910. Things are to this day rugged and tough in this country, I can't begin to imagine the hardships confronted by the folks that settled down here over a hundred years ago. Our century old pine log cabin would shelter us for the night. I looked forward to coffee in the morning as God’s glory would rise in the east and light up the mountains of the Shoshone National Forest that cradled us. It’s a sunrise that I have replayed again and again in my memory.
Once every five to seven years or so, the clover will bloom in South Dakota. We were there to fish the deep blue waters of Lake Oahe and gather our walleye for the year. The clover bloom is another of those gifts that only God can bless us with. The clover covers hundreds and hundreds of thousands of acres, and is the sweetest smelling perfume. The yellow flowers that it produces makes the countryside, for as far as you can see, a rolling vibrant yellow blanket. As we trolled the deep blue walleye water, surrounded by hills covered solid by the clover, I knew that I was in a special moment of my life. It impacted me. We fish with an ole South Dakota bronc rider named Jim Lawhon on Oahe. Jim explained that the knee high clover would be cut and baled in many places, then when the deep winter rages South Dakota style, and you roll out one of those clover bales for the cattle, springtime fills your nostril’s all over again. Special.
I could go on about the morning movement of millions of doves from an Argentina roost, the splendid colored leaves that flicker and fall around you as you put your fly rod to work in the Ozarks of Arkansas' White or Norfork rivers. The stillness of the deer blind deep in December when the only visible movement is your breath floating away and dissipating, and on and on. I've heard several times in my life that these settings are “church” to outdoors men. No, it's not church. It’s a mild display of God’s creative beauty, just a glimpse of what Heaven looks like. There was no one in any of these settings telling me of my sin, teaching me of Paul's travails and travels and example. Jesus' name and His salvation for this lost and dying world didn’t echo from the yellow rolling hills. It’s easy for some to slip up and worship the creation as opposed to the Creator. Do I feel a sense of God’s awesomeness in these settings? Of course! Do I worship and thank Him in these situations? Absolutely! Is this a church setting? Maybe, if we are reminded that God created it, man sinned and messed it up, Christ died for our sins and rose from that grave. Salvation, is a gift that makes majestic beauty pale in comparison. Just like God gave us this creation splendor, so did He give us His Son. Gave, free. That’s big. Do you believe?
December 2, 2016