Gerald Swindle's current perspectives on Christmas are rooted in his relatively poor rural upbringing. "We didn't have a lot of money growing up. We got a stocking stuffed with chocolate mint candy, those gummy orange slices and an apple. Then we got one gift — just one.
Daddy would tell us to write down one thing we wanted, and he and Mama would do their best to buy it for us. We knew better than to put 12 or 15 things on that list. If you did, you might get a whoopin'. "If it was a good year, as a bonus, we each got one of those big mega-packs of tube socks and some underwear.
And no doubt, my best year ever was when I got the .22 caliber lever action rifle. I thought we were rich. I went nuts and no squirrel was safe within 200 acres of the house," recalled Swindle. "It was fine. We didn't get much and, looking' back, we didn't need much. That's why it chaps me so bad when I see a kid get a pile of gifts, tear the wrapping paper off each one as fast as he or she can and throw it aside in search of the next one — with very little appreciation for any of them.
Man, it ain't about the gifts. Nobody needs that many gifts, and my upbringing proved that to me," said the Team Toyota Tundra pro, who still lives near his hometown just north of Birmingham, Ala. Swindle said he experienced the true spirit of Christmas one day last December.
"I was hunting and harvested a doe. On the way home, I stopped at a gas station in Hurtsboro, Ala., and noticed the poor fellow that works there admiring that slab of back straps. "Trust me, this man is poor. So I offered to give him the doe. He took it off my truck, tied it to the rear spoiler of his 1980s model compact car, hugged my neck and thanked me relentlessly while wishing me a Merry Christmas.
"That's what it's about. If you're going to give, then give to those that need it most. And the cool thing is, as much as it meant to him, it meant equally as much to me to give it to him. You shouldn't have to resent giving somebody a gift just because the modern commercialized Christmas culture says you need to buy everybody something," explained Swindle, the 2004 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
Gerald and his wife Lee Ann have made a pact to direct their Christmas spending to those in need instead of on each other. "This year we are buying winter coats, a foot massager and some other supplies to make sure two elderly women who are friends of my mom have a good holiday. And more importantly, to assure they get some of the basic things we know they need but are too proud to ask for," concluded the G-Man.