Jeff Hammer: Gifts

Guest Posts on County 10 are provided by contributors and the opinions, thoughts, and comments within are their own and may not necessarily reflect those of County 10.

For whatever reason, as I sat down today to write this column, writer’s block seemed to cast its gloomy shadow down over me like the proverbial wet blanket. When that happens, I know myself well enough not to force just any ol’ words down on virtual paper. Instead, a little diversion is in order.

A short period of mind soothing relaxation, more often than not, does the trick. I’m not a high volume writer, and don’t want to be, so I usually don’t mind taking thirty minutes to engage in one of two activities that, in the past, have chased away the gremlins that get in the way of that which I’m mentally trying to accomplish. 


I either complete a Spanish lesson or two on Duolingo or I sit at my reloading bench and keep my hands busy while my mind, while concentrating on the task at hand, can also venture off on tangents of its own choosing. 

I can’t explain why, but doing something productive, at least productive in the sense that I’m trying to improve myself or make something useful, sometimes shakes loose the figurative (I hope) cobwebs collecting somewhere in my cranium that prevent me from cobbling together enough words in the English language that constitute a series of complete thoughts that when put together make some kind of sense. 

If that makes sense?

Today, while I was doing that, I was also on the lookout for the FEDEX truck as an email in my inbox that morning indicated that a delivery was headed my way, a delivery in the form of a gift from my mother-in-law that comes in 12 ounce bottles. 


For Christmas, she gifted me a three month subscription for a twelve pack of domestic craft beer each month. The second installment of that subscription was supposed to arrive over a week ago, but because of the road closures from Denver, that shipment was delayed once, and then delayed a second time.

As I was sitting at my reloading bench, I realized and began mentally tabulating all the meaningful and considerate gifts that have been bestowed upon me by the women in my life. Of course that task was impossible, but just this morning three gifts, including the much anticipated malt beverages, were immediately apparent.

In front of me, at my reloading bench, sat at least two different components that I was using to create ammunition which I mostly expend out at the Lander Valley Sportsmen’s Association’s outdoor range a few miles out of town toward Hudson; but I also use that crafted ammo for big game hunting, as I haven’t used factory ammo for that purpose for years. All of those components were bought using gift certificates given to me by my wife or my mother-in-law, either for use online or at The Good Place, located down on  Main Street. Very thoughtful, indeed.


I could say the same thing about my use (I dislike using the term obsession) of Duolingo. Nearly two years ago, Gayla gave me a one year subscription to that website, as sometime in the recent past, before then, I must have expressed a desire to become conversational in Spanish after traveling to a variety of Spanish speaking countries and had not been able to make small talk with native speakers there.

I have since renewed my subscription to Duolingo once and will again soon.

My initial use of Duolingo quickly developed into a habit (not an obsession) of using the website for at least an hour a day. I then began exploring Spanish speaking videos on Y-tube, and shortly thereafter, for Father’s Day (or maybe my birthday, those cobwebs, you know), a Spanish workbook appeared as a supplement. 


I still don’t consider myself adequately prepared for an extended Spanish conversation, but I’m slowly getting there.

One of the most thoughtful and useful gifts ever given to me was, again, given to me by my wife. In December of 2016, she gave me a Lifetime Game Bird/Small Game/Fishing license, which also includes a Lifetime Conservation Stamp. That card is actually now sitting on the coffee table beside me, next to my coffee, by the way. It’s there to remind me that I need to apply for big game hunting licenses soon. 

Since receiving that fine gift, I have spent countless days afield with a shotgun or on the water with a fly rod in my hands putting it to good use. As an added bonus, forever more, I don’t have to think about hustling downtown after the first of the year to buy small game/upland game bird and fishing licenses and a conservation stamp. Whichever bureaucrat who came up with the idea of offering lifetime licenses was wearing a fully functioning thinking cap on that day.

I think it was the next year for Christmas, knowing of my adoration for single shot rifles and shotguns, that my wife and daughters pooled together their funds and bought me a Henry Firearms single shot 12 gauge shotgun. 

Since then, I’ve put hundreds of low pressure target rounds through it busting clay targets; and while using it hunting a couple of years ago, I completed the only true double of my life when I unintentionally tumbled two sage grouse with one shot while hunting near a stock pond out toward Jeffrey City.  

With no witnesses, except for a few black angus positioned safely to my right and who didn’t care anyway, there was no backslapping or high-fiving that I see in other hunting videos; just quiet gratitude that my wife and daughters cared enough about one of my passions to grant me the gift of a fine firearm, while the wind rippled the gray and black feathers of the two birds as I admired them soon after, holding one in each hand.

That will be a forever memory.

There have been many other gifts over the years that I could describe, given to me by females who presently call me either by my given name or simply “Dad,” but there would be no further point in doing so.

I would, however, be remiss if I did not mention the first woman in my life, the one who gave me the greatest gift of all: the gift of life, a life that allows me the pleasure of my wife’s company, a life that brought forth our two daughters, who have turned out to be far better human beings than I could have hoped for…the gift of life that cannot be quantified.

My mother did give me a material gift nearly forty-five years ago that I still have today.  One year (1978, maybe), under the Christmas tree were two identical heavy-as-hell boxes wrapped in green and red paper that when opened revealed two identical tool boxes (one was meant for my brother), complete with an amazing assortment of Craftsman tools back when those fine tools were made in the United States.

My mother died in 2009, but a few years before then I mentioned something to her about a task I had completed using the tools that she had given me so many years before.

“You still have those tools?!” she asked incredulously.

“Well, sure. Those are good quality tools!” I responded, just a little offended that she might have considered me irresponsible enough as an adult to lose them, like I tended to lose other things when I was growing up.

Yes, Mom, I still have those tools, and I think you would be gratified to know that I am still the recipient of many wonderful gifts, some tangible and some more difficult to adequately describe…all given to me by those women who mean the most to me.


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