Alvin Richardson

AUTHOR’S NOTE: All the experts say you better buy early this year because of shortages. Thus, this Christmas buying advice comes prior to Thanksgiving so you can beat the store stampede.

This time of year brings back a flood of memories on my favorite childhood Christmas presents of all time – and my least favorites.  I’m pretty sure however that the presents I enjoyed the most would be very much out of style today and therein lies the root of the problem for parents and even grandparents as they make their selections for today’s youngsters. We all search diligently for the one thing that the kids will love while considering safety, age appropriateness and of course price.

I don’t think that parents of the 1950s and ‘60s took all those things into consideration and therefore our presents were much better than those of today.  I distinctly recall the joy of getting a knife for Christmas when I was 6 years old. A couple of years later I graduated to a hatchet and soon afterward full manhood was attained when a shotgun showed up under the tree. Those three presents were the big three of boyhood — and our personal rite of passage. The ultimate triumvirate for boys of today consists of a cellphone, a tablet and an unlimited data plan.


Of course, there were some pitfalls commonly associated with getting knives, hatchets and shotguns for Christmas and regardless of the instructions we received about being cautious with these items there were naturally accidents.  

“Don’t cut yourself,” “Don’t chop anything in the house,” and “Don’t shoot the chickens,” were among the guidelines that were handed down immediately after the new weapon was unsheathed from its wrapping. But despite those warnings, there accidents.

A brand new knife just begs to whittle something, which usually led to a bleeding finger. A bright-bladed hatchet implores its young owner to chop something and youthful exuberance typically doesn’t pause to consider if it’s mom’s beloved fruit tree. A new shotgun owner is just aching to blast away at something. The target doesn’t really matter in the early stages of Christmas enthusiasm — even if it happens to be some unsuspecting bush or a stray dog who wanders into range.

Simply put, there are bound to be mishaps in the early stages of knife, hatchet and shotgun proprietorship like extra notches in Lincoln Logs, missing tree limbs on the Christmas tree, and blown up scuppernong vines but that stage quickly passes.  After the initial rush of blood there comes the realization that one can now get out in the woods and live off the land. With knives, hatchets and shotguns one can build huts, skin game, procure meat for the table and generally fend for oneself.

Now honestly, would you rather have those things or a hand-held telephone?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should add that there were times when our newly gifted weapons were seized and placed off limits because of youthful indiscretions.  My brother got a state-of-the-art bow and arrow set one year and promptly buried an arrow in the back leg of our neighbor’s dog. It was of the greatest displays of archery I’ve ever witnessed but after the neighbor complained that bow never resurfaced again. 

Of course, not all the presents we received were of the top-shelf variety. One of the all-time worst was when you expectantly ran to the stocking in hopes of yanking out a box of shotgun shells and instead found an apple, an orange and some pecans.  That was a nasty letdown. There were also the gift-wrapped items that had fancy clothes in them. Another downer. But on balance if you had that knife, hatchet or shotgun all was not lost.

So today’s parents and grandparents have an important decision to make. Do you go for the goofy technological stuff that will keep your youngster glued to the sofa? Worse yet, do you want your kid to have a cauliflower ear from talking on the phone all the time or should you opt for the gifts that will set your child free in the great outdoors? Your decision may well determine the fate of today’s youth.  Will they be a couch potato or a woodsman of the world?

I believe that the choice is an easy one — even if you have to put up with a few nicked up Lincoln Logs, a de-limbed Christmas tree, a few bloody fingers, a maimed fruit tree or even a wounded stray dog.

—Email your Christmas gift ideas to .

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