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Simple Christmas

(ROCKWALL, TX — December 7, 2017) The chili simmered on the Coleman stove as I tiptoed around so not to kick dirt in it while gathering wood for a fire. Freezing temperatures neared, and I knew Ireland and I would need to start a toasty campfire before slipping into our sleeping bags.

The solar power weather radio was one of our few modern conveniences on this return trip to Dinosaur Valley. Ireland made me promise I’d buy one after we nearly did a Dorothy and Toto in a daybreak thunderstorm last year. Old country tunes twanged out of it as the sticks and logs crackled and popped, flames licked the wood as ribbons of smoke rose.

Ireland was “exploring,” hiking down to the nearly dry riverbed to play with sticks and rocks near the millions-year-old fossilized tracks found directly behind our camp.

The sun finally hid its face and the cold settled in, but we had plenty of wood and the fire blazed. We ate our chili and torched some marshmallows for S’mores.

“Daddy, let’s tell some spooky stories.”

And Ireland and I traded tomes of spooky specters under the blanket of stars. Then, as if on cue, something rustled in the leaves just a stone’s throw away. The boys and I once experienced a similar phenomenon and I knew exactly what was happening. As Ireland’s nervousness grew, I shined my flashlight along the direction of the sound and an armadillo, digging for dinner, stood on his hind legs to greet us. She giggled and we followed the little guy for a while. After a night that froze our water bottles, another fire roared in the early morning and we downed hot chocolate, bacon, and eggs while warming our hands and feet. After breakfast, I washed the dishes in the river.

Everything was simple, a campfire and hot food our greatest want. Stories and riverbed walks and crackling radio songs interrupted by weather reports provided entertainment. Social media, YouTube, video games, TV, FaceTime, or any one of the electronic time-wasting-all-too-often-babysitters we use were not missed or desired in the least. Ireland and I enjoyed time together, father and daughter, adventuring and exploring Texas’ own “Jurassic Park.”

As I contemplate another Christmas season, I want to flee to the forest. I want the simplicity of a warm campfire and a good story. We’ve created this monster of stress and busyness and worry (Right gift? Can we afford it? Which party?) while the most important things go unnoticed until the room is full of wrap and our mothers lament, “It is over so fast.” So, I’m hoping for a little more sanity this Christmas season: seeing my Marine and his sweet new bride, squirrel hunting with his brothers, backyard campfire S’mores with my baby girl, movie nights with my wife, and time with all our family in Tennessee. If I get even close to that, it’ll be a warm fire and a simple meal in the wild and will make my Christmas merry for sure.

By Scott Gill of Rockwall. Scott is a teacher, coach, and author of “Goliath Catfish.” Follow Scott’s blog at puptentpapa.blogspot.com and read his “Front Porch Ramblings” at BlueRibbonNews.com.

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