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Christmas traditions change as years go by

Yes, I really am an old softy, especially at Christmas time. The boys are grown and they have their families, so they need to make their own Christmas traditions on Christmas day.

When the boys were young, they would get up early and see what Santa left in their stockings but could not open any presents until the animals were all fed. This always added to the tension and excitement.

We now have Christmas with the family on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning can be as lazy as we want it to be. My wife feeds the birds while I feed the livestock, always a little something extra since it is Christmas. We then open our gifts to each other, throw a log on the fire, and drink another cup of coffee.

Our tradition, since we do not have to play with the new toys all day is to go for a ride to the farm. Some years it is a leisurely trip where a person has time to enjoy the rolling vistas of snow-covered Iowa. Other times, it is a white-knuckle drive on ice-covered roads breaking snow drifts along the way. This year, according to the weather report, we should expect the tense white-knuckle drive.

When we arrive at the farm, the first thing we do is start a fire in the wood stove at the cabin. If we get stuck and nobody finds us until New Year's Day, at least we will be warm and there are emergency rations of food at the cabin. The last time I checked, the rations consisted of a can of green beans and half of a bag of gummy bears. We might have to hike out to civilization if the gummy bears run low.

We take a drive across the dam. The overflow tube runs year round, providing water for all the wildlife in the area. I hike down to the outflow and spread a bag of shelled corn along the trail. Everything enjoys the energy and nutrition provided by just a small amount of corn. Squirrels, rabbits, turkeys, deer and even coyotes enjoy a mouthful of corn on a cold winter day.

We then head up the hill to the top gate, through the timber and down to Twin Sluices. Several areas of timber and two creeks meet at Twin Sluices causing a natural funnel for wildlife concentration. I drive in a circle, cutting tracks in the snow. We always get out here to spread corn in the tracks we made.

This is the most remote location on the farm. It is a beautiful location with hills rising up on all sides and wildlife in abundance. It is unusual to not see several deer or turkeys watching us as we spread corn.

It is also the worst place on the farm to get stuck. The closest house, other than the cabin, is a mile away. The cabin is only a half mile away, complete with a stock of green beans and gummy bears.

If the crossing at Twin Sluices is passable, we make a trip around the rest of the farm, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. Sometimes our eagle that stops by for deer season is still soaring above looking for leftovers.

We circle back to the cabin, which by this time is toasty warm. To sit overlooking the ice-covered lake in our snug little cabin in the middle of nowhere is true enjoyment. The wild animals do not understand why some crazy people would drive into the middle of nowhere and drop off some food, but they still enjoy it. We enjoy being able to make their day just a little more comfortable and do understand, this is part of Christmas.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.