“Animals are like people in many ways, especially their tendency to follow familiar paths and the
easiest and most direct route.”
My Grandfather, 1966, deep in a Smith County swamp
Many retailers are worried, and they should be worried.
Commerce on the Internet is growing at a phenomenal pace. Even toy stores are advertising online.
Fathers can now buy all of their children’s toys and even a nice gift for their wife without ever leaving
the comfort of home.
Some speculate that this Christmas season may be the one of the worst on record for retailers. The
shopping season began this past weekend with mixed results. It will be a couple of weeks before the
experts begin to assess the full impact of Internet commerce on the holiday retail market.
Like many Southern males, I avoid Christmas shopping for as long as possible. Malls are a kind of
repellent, as far as I am concerned. I just can not imagine why anyone in their right mind would want to
spend a “relaxing day” at the shopping mall. Hordes of people frequent these meccas of corporate
America daily. Hunting, for Southern men and some women, is a way to avoid all the insanity.
For the most part, I consider my wife to be a rather sensible and practical woman. She enjoys a good
football game, is a danger to life and wing for rising quail, and only occasionally spends a “relaxing
day shopping.” Something about the holiday season changes her, however, and like millions of other
otherwise rational individuals, she loses it the day after Thanksgiving. She is always out there, shoulder
to shoulder with countless others, in search of those great early Christmas deals. It is like some kind of
Fortunately, I was immunized very early in life. My grandfather, who lives in rural Smith County,
introduced me to hunting at age three. I remember that Christmas for a number of reasons, primarily
because my sister was born on Dec. 3 of that year and I was sent off to stay with the grandparents while
my parents adjusted to having a new member of the family. When grandmother went shopping, we went
hunting. It would be many years later before I realized the true gift grandfather had given me, that is,
other than a way to avoid Christmas shopping.
Hunting was a series of lessons about life and death, all under the carefully supervised tutelage of my
grandfather. He approaches hunting and all sports from a very different perspective. He studies the
habits and activities of his adversary, whether it be a squirrel or an opposing team. Losses are an
opportunity for reflection, personal growth and learning. I learned a lot about myself and the world
following my grandfather through the woods as a child.
The full impact my grandfather had on my life was not realized until my senior year in high school. A
neighbor was having a very difficult time catching a fox that was stealing chickens. He had been trying
for weeks to catch the thief with no success. Others had also tried and failed. I offered to give it a try
and the following day presented him with the fox just after daylight. Astonished, he asked, “What is
Without even thinking I blurted, “Animals are like people in many ways, especially their tendency to
follow familiar paths and the easiest and most direct route.”
It was the very first hunting lesson my grandfather taught me. My response even surprised me a little.
Unfortunately, I missed the first week of deer hunting season this year. Apparently I was not alone.
According to recently published reports, hunters are not spending as much time in the woods as they
once did. There could be a number of explanations for this phenomenon. Perhaps the multitude of
football games available on cable television is an attractive alternative to sitting in a tree stand on a cold
winter day. Or maybe the urbanization of our society is the culprit. I have a theory.
Perhaps there is a connection between the decline in the population of hunters and the rise of Internet
commerce. If you can shop from the computer at home, why go hunting? My grandfather would surely
agree. Shopping on a computer is “the easiest and most direct route.”
But then again, I plan to purchase everything for Christmas by telephone or the Internet. In fact, I hope
to spend Christmas Eve hunting, for the very first time, instead of standing in line for hours purchasing
gifts because I could no longer delay the inevitable.
Internet commerce may have a negative impact on retail sales this holiday season but smart retailers will
soon adjust. In fact, they might do well to learn a thing or two from the wisdom of an old hunter in
Donald C. Simmons Jr., Ph.D., a regular contributor to the Mississippi Business Journal, is an
award-winning author and lecturer. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and holds the
Ph.D. in history from the University of Denver.