Chester Moore, Jr.
The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
It was as beautiful as the Mona Lisa.
That is the print of a beautifully drawn cougar sitting on a tree limb looking right at me.
I had never seen the Mona Lisa at the time (I was nine) but it had that kind of impact on me as it hung on the wall of the five and dime store.
This was around 1983 and my intense devotion to wildlife was well underway. I thought cougars were absolutely amazing and this print just had to end up on my wall.
Each time we would go in the store I would look at it and let it take my imagination into the wild where an encounter with such a mighty beast might take place.
A couple of months go by and Christmas rolls around. Things were a little tight that year due to a busted oil industry and semi-tough times for the Moore family.
There were plenty of gifts under the tree for me but just like on “A Christmas Story”, there was one more hidden under the tree, sort of tucked away in the back. And as excited as Ralphie is on that move to get his Red Rider BB Gun, I was equally excited to get that 11 X 17 cougar print.
I was so excited by parents got that for me that it hung on my wall for the next 15 years.
It is interesting how certain seasons bring about particular encounters.
Close to Christmas a few years later, I saw a cougar in the wild. I have shared that experience on these pages a couple of times over the years but what I haven’t shared is that I immediately thought of the print hanging on the wall when I saw that great cat.
Then a year or two later my aunt heard a cougar screaming out on her property north of Deweyville on Christmas Eve and my uncle went out to hunt it.
Cougars and Christmas may sound like an odd combination but in my life, this type of thing is par for the course.
Someone much wiser than me wrote that “As a man thinking so he becomes.”
Looking back it is obvious that Christmas was a time in our household where my parents used gifts to feed by love for wildlife and to inspire me to pursue it at a higher level.
That print was a starting point but there were many other gifts including dozens of books, other artwork and even a deer-hunting trip to Llano where I had my first chance to take a deer.
This year things are tight for many people. I know we have really streamlined the Christmas budget in our household but that does not mean you cannot give meaningful gifts for the kids (or kids at heart) in your life.
Books about wildlife, fishing and hunting are great ways to give something that literally keeps on giving and that can inspire. Wildlife photo prints are very affordable and are something a child can look at every day and that can help carry their thoughts to wild places. Wildlife field guides are in my opinion one of the best gifts because they can arm children with information they can use the rest of their life.
The best give may actually be time.
Print up a special outdoors encounter coupon on the computer, put it in a Christmas card and have it redeemable for a hiking trip, outdoors photography excursion or a trip out on the water.
Kids love spending time with adults and especially love to do so in the great outdoors.
Over the years, that cougar print got lost somewhere between moving and hurricanes.
I was recently able to obtain a copy on eBay after searching for the last six months and had it framed with the photo you see running with this column.
It is to remind me of the love my parents have for me and a great gift from yesteryear but also that our wildest (in my case literally) dreams can come true.
To interact with cougars as I have done many times now blows me away. It never ceases to amaze me.
Part of the reason is that a simple, heartfelt gift led my imagination into the wild lands where such an encounter seemed possible although distant.
As a young boy thought, so he became.
Help make that kind of thing possible for others. Give the gift of the great outdoors this Christmas.
(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI Fridays from 6-7 p.m. or watch his WebTV series at www.Godsoutdoors.com.)