An Outdoors Christmas
During Christmas school break there is usually a two-week vacation from school. This provided our family with an excellent time to load-up the van or suburban and visit family and camp and hike.
Although raised in the Ozarks by my grandparents around Calhoun Mo., I was born in Baltimore and had several family members in the East.
I resided with my Aunt and Uncle in southern Maine for a while. My uncle in Maine gave me an everlasting love of the outdoors, especially for fishing, camping and duck hunting. My aunt provided me with a true appreciation of reading.
And, I have a sister who lives in the piedmont of Virginia. So at Christmas, we would load up our camping gear, cookware and tents, and head for a spot in the East. As a family of seven, we were called the “Family from Hell” by at least one relative. We would usually only stay for one night and then move on.
We have camped in the snow both in Vermont and the Jersey pines. And, once we traveled to Nova Scotia –– we had a rare 17 day break at Christmas so we hopped on an east Atlantic ferry for a seven-hour ride to Newfoundland. I remember the ferry was full of Scottish Canadians who all wore kilts and played bagpipes. The kids all had a ball although the language barriers between Scotch-Canadian and Ozark Hillbilly was extreme.
Eventually the wife insisted we visit or make new friends where there were vast expenses of sand and palm trees instead of snow-covered evergreens at Christmas. If you are ever near Key West around New Year’s Eve, these extreme Southerners throw a heck of a party. People boat in from all over the Caribbean to partake.
Once we were illegally camped under a U.S. Hwy. 1 bridge, as there were no vacancies in any campgrounds. We were checked by the Florida Marine Patrol right before dark and they just smiled at the crazy family camped six feet from the sea. Luckily, with the exception of stormy weather, Caribbean tides contain small fluctuations.
Right after dark, I thought that I saw someone watching us. Upon investigation, I discovered a young man about the color of a golden coffee bean with blonde streaked hair. His name was “Sty” and he said he was wondering if we had any extra food; he was hungry.
He proceeded to eat a whole package of roasted hotdogs and a couple of baked potatoes. We lightened our load the next morning and left him a folding chair, some crackers, cheese and a full jar of peanut butter. He said he had gradually rafted from Trinidad to Puerto Rico to Haiti to Cuba to the Bahamas and had recently arrived in southern Florida. He asked for a ride north to Miami but luckily we were headed south to Key West.
At Christmas, we usually carried a small bag of bulbs and tinsel, and would select a small fir, palm or palmetto tree to decorate for the holiday.
Of course when the kids were young we visited Disney World, Sea World, or other theme parks, but these were definitely not my favorite trips. They were also not the cheapest.
Just a brief word on Christmas gifts… I know it was a different time, but we tried to skip electronics and give each child an “outdoor” gift. Maybe a new football, ball glove, basketball, BB gun, or a new set of traps.
Our children were always encouraged to play outside. Television was off limits except for one program at night. They all had to agree on the show and all homework had to be done.
Oh, yes, there was a lot of griping from time to time. But they all grew up with a love of outdoors, and a love for all of the animals that we kept. The boys ended up being excellent outdoorsmen.
Also in the fall, the children’s money from walnut picking was restricted for gift buying for others at Christmas.
Note: From 1791 to 1981, only 17 additional changes or amendments have been made to the U.S. Constitution. It is a difficult process that requires approval of 2/3 of Congress, and 3/4 of the States (38).
It was insightful of the founding fathers to allow an amending process in order for the Constitution to age with the times. But, the process is so entangled with a divided country and “red and blue” states, it is unlikely that there will be any further amendments, other than “housekeeping items,” and even that appears unlikely.
The last proposed amendment was the Equal Rights Amendment, the 28th. It finally fizzled to death in the early nineties. It would have established equality of law between the sexes and reasonably required equal pay for equal work applied to both sexes.
I personally thought it sounded like a good idea but again state’s rightists and groups of conservative women bonded together to finally stop it. It failed while needing the ratification of four more states.
Two other amendments frequently discussed are a balanced budget amendment, and a ban on all abortions. Neither is given much of a chance when considering the current political climate.
Here is a summation of some of the more important 17 amendments (not verbatim).
- 13th Amendment: (1965) –– Outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude.
- 14th Amendment: (1867) –– Establishes equal protection and due process of law for all persons, regardless of race.
- 15th Amendment: (1870) –– Established the right to vote without regard to race or color. (No. 13, 14 and 15 are the result of Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War, and the following period of Reconstruction.
- 16th Amendment: (1913) –– The right of the federal government to enforce an income tax. (Maybe the most hated amendment!)
- 18th Amendment: (1919) –– Prohibition and the passage of the Volstead Act. Considerately, it marks the first arrival of national clans of organized crime, mainly in immigrant Jewish and Italian communities.
- 19th Amendment: (1920) –– Established the right of women to vote in federal elections. The state of Washington (1911) preceded this amendment with its own changes, along with Oregon (1917) and Kansas and Oklahoma (1919). The state of Wyoming even made suffrage universally indentured into their first state constitution.
The suffrage movement was derailed several times, first, by some abolitionists, and later by the Civil War. Then, it appeared in 1870 that women would be included in the 15th Amendment, but an unlikely coalition of black activists and southern states Rightists defeated it. Later, the suffrage movement imploded into two factions, thus reducing their collective power.
It is interesting to note that in 1805, Lewis and Clark allowed York, Clarke’s black slave, and Sacajawea, a 16- or 17-year-old woman, along with the rest of the men, to vote on two different issues of importance during the Corps of Discovery Expedition.
Also amazingly, women were not granted the Right to vote for 50 years after freed black slaves were given “the great Right.” Actually the effects of World War I and the necessary entry of millions of women into the national work force, is what finally topped the balance. By the way, Mississippi did not ratify the 19th Amendment until 1984!
- 21st Amendment: (1933) –– The repeal of Prohibition. After a 13-year period, the government ended its great experiment. It had to –– all but eight states had already repealed state prohibitions.
Although not strictly analogous to the decriminalization and/or legalization of marijuana, some people believe that once a dozen or so states “legalize” marijuana, it is just a matter of time until the government will have to cave to the will of the people.
Personally, I believe that alcohol and tobacco are the “true” entry-level drugs of choice. And it is very hard to legislate moral issues. One in five people now admit to being regular users of marijuana.
The true answer probably lies in education and more aggressive medical research into the physiological as well as the psychological dangers of smoking pot.
- 22nd Amendment: (1951) –– Succession of the presidency is limited to two terms.
- 24th Amendment: (1964) –– Poll taxes, etc., are outlawed.
- 25th Amendment: (1967) –– Establishes a chain of command for promoting a vice-president if the president becomes disabled, etc.
- 26th Amendment: (1971) –– Establishes the legal voting age at age 18. It is sad that so few young people utilize this right.
- 27th Amendment, the last amendment (1992) –– Requires a one-term intervention before a member of Congress can vote on Congressional compensation.
Now get up and go enjoy the great Ozarks outdoors.