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Wednesday, December 11, 2019
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Mistletoe Memories

 

By Jene Hedden


     My family had a long tradition of gathering at Grandmother Keltner’s home on the family farm the Sunday after Christmas to celebrate the season with a grand potluck dinner.  

     It was the day we grand-kids got to enjoy a “day at Grandma’s house” as our family gathered at the old log home early on those wintry Sunday mornings carrying gifts wrapped in bright Christmas paper and covered plates for the family feast we would enjoy in the early afternoon.  

     As we gathered at Grandma’s house, we experienced a blending of images and fragrances that remain strong sense memories for me more than sixty years later. The delicious aromas in the kitchen where the women gathered to heat dishes on the stove and put the final touches on the dinner, the smoky smell of hickory wood in the Warm Morning stove and the bright fragrance of red cedar wafting from the Christmas tree in the parlor are the fragrances of Christmas to me.  

     The sights of the holiday included strings of popcorn, colorful construction paper rope, candy canes and a few strands of store-bought lights decorating the cedar tree in the parlor where we piled the gaily wrapped presents.  

 

     The spicy, sweet and aromatic flavors of the holiday meal and the sound of conversation and laughter around the table complete the memories which still reach to me through the decades. 

     After the meal, the ladies and menfolk gathered separately in circles to discuss matters of interest to each group. The ladies often discussed recipes and the growth of the children. The men discussed the crops and how the farms had progressed during the growing season.  

 

     It must have been around 1954-55, I think, when I was about 10 years old when the men gathered outside the house near the parlor door to settle a small “bet" regarding who was the best shot with a Remington 22 caliber single shot rifle.

 

     A tall walnut tree stood on the edge of the yard at the top of the hill leading to the spring house.  Imbedded in the crown of this tree, maybe 40 or 50 feet above the ground, was a large cluster of mistletoe.

     My father and my uncles Carl, Douglas, Cecil, Clayton and Walter all agreed that the winner of the bet would be the man who could shoot out the largest clump of that green Christmas kiss decoration with one bullet.

Each man carefully loaded the old squirrel rifle, and when the shell was properly chambered, the marksman took aim and POW!  

     Shooting the mistletoe out of the tree was more difficult than anyone expected. There were misses by all the contestants as they completed the first round, so it was determined that a second round would be shot. 

Uncle Douglas was the first to strike the plant and some leaves fluttered to the ground. Uncle Carl and Uncle Cecil also shot with little success. It appeared that the winner could turn out to be the one who only managed to shoot two or three leaves to the ground! 

 

     Uncle Clayton was the last to shoot and took aim for the last shot of the round. He fired! A branch about 6 inches long fell to earth with cheers from all the spectators ringing in our ears. Uncle Clayton was the victor of the day.

     That Sunday afternoon is now but a very distant memory, and all the contestants except Uncle Clayton have passed on. I don’t need mistletoe to steal a kiss from my bride these days. But, when I see a cluster of those pale green leaves with the white berries, I think for just a moment of that great shooting contest with Uncle Douglas’s squirrel rifle the Sunday after Christmas on Grandma Keltner’s farm!


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