This time of year, spoilage is not limited to foodstuffs lost in the back of our refrigerator … it spreads like wildfire through our grandchildren. I wonder sometimes how we managed to raise our own children without them becoming terribly spoiled. “It was easy,” my wife explained. “We didn’t have enough money to spoil them.”

One of the benefits of being financially challenged, I guess.

Nowadays, I struggle to find store-bought gifts for my grandchildren. I’m not fast enough to catch the fleeting fashions for my granddaughter and any clothing I might buy for the boys will be outgrown before spring.

But I know the gifts I’ll give them when we spend more time together.

I’ll give them the chance to watch the blood-red sun sink behind the Cascades just as the dark orange moon rises over the Owyhee Mountains.

I’ll teach them how to read bobcat tracks across virgin snow and understand from them the predator’s leaping attack onto a surprised and unfortunate mouse.

I’ll sit with them for hours by a mountain stream until they absorb the rhythm of the water and understand the movement of insects and feeding patterns of trout. Then I’ll accompany them into the water with snorkels and masks so we can watch those same feeding fish from below.

I’ll help them dig a snow cave and spend the night listening to the oppressive silence as we watch ice worms glisten across the walls.

A special gift would be helping them learn to call in different species of animals. I won’t let them quit until they successfully attract ducks, geese, elk, deer, turkeys, moose, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, owls, blue grouse and, with luck, cougars and bears.

I’ll teach them how to fly and how to parachute out of aircraft. I hope those experiences will lead to a lifetime of dreams of soaring across the sky. I still occasionally dream of leaping miles across the land. It will be a special gift, indeed.

I’ll pray they receive the gift of peace for themselves and their children but I have no real hope it will materialize. So, I’ll try to instill in them physical courage to meet the challenges they will face during their time in the outdoors, in their dealings with wild animals, dangerous weather and unforgiving terrain. Their physical courage will be sorely needed as well as they navigate the societal and international conflicts that are certainly on our horizon.

I’ll do my best to help instill in them an understanding that they are part of the earth and have a right and responsibility to protect their home. I hope to pass along a streak of stubbornness that they’ll need to stand up against the army of fools who want to disregard scientific research in favor of extreme beliefs or short-term economic benefits.

I’m not much for organized religion, since I don’t feel the need for an interpreter in my own dealings with the Almighty, but I’d like to introduce my grandchildren to the concept that the remarkable nature of this world cannot simply be explained by evolution. And that they should maintain a cordial relationship with their chosen deity. I don’t think it matters what name you use, but I’m pretty sure that He or She just wants to be acknowledged and thanked occasionally for the treasures we enjoy.

And treasures they truly are. My best and most important gifts will simply be teaching my grandchildren the ability to see and appreciate those treasures. And to accept their responsibility in the fight for their protection.

Pat Wray’s new novel, Gift of the Grenadier is now available in local bookstores, online and at He can be reached at