Everyone needs to eat some humble pie once in a while. After all, it helps build character. At least that’s what I tell myself, coming from someone who has swallowed his fair share. I learned a lesson several years back which I am always reminded this very weekend.

“My mom, sister and I can’t wait to get in line tomorrow evening,” said a family friend I’ll call Susan, (because that’s her real name.) “I think you guys are crazy!” I couldn’t help but say, before thinking. “But it‘s a family tradition we look forward too,” she carefully explained. “Some traditions should be broken,” I said, before choosing my words again. “Well, what I think is crazy is to get up before dark just to go stand in freezing water in some swamp duck hunting or to go sit in a tree like a nut!” she snapped back, obviously annoyed at my comments.

Frankly, I have never completely understood this whole Black Friday phenomenon. Why would otherwise rational people line up in the middle of the night just to wait in long lines outside retail stores hunting for a bargain? Adding to my confusion is the fact I have male friends and co-workers who also take part in this annual ritual, and they are men for God’s sake!

It seems as if this year many began taking their place before the tryptophan in the turkey even had a chance to work its magic. Some stores have pushed the boundaries of Black Friday well past the crack of dawn, opening their doors before the gravy has had a chance to cool. The holiday feast barely has time to settle before shoppers began turning their credit cards into small puddles of melted plastic, all for the sake of dirt cheap flat screen TV‘s.

To me, this is simply wrong. Thanksgiving is about a short morning hunting trip then returning home and eating until you are sick. The evening is reserved for sharing the fellowship of family and friends while watching the brute violence of an NFL game. Instead, some people are rushing around big box stores, throwing blocks just to get deals on everything from Barbie Dolls to Blue Rays.

For the most part, I can’t even think about Christmas shopping until the week (okay, day) before. I also have much better things to do before sunrise, like making my way to the tree stand or duck blind.

Sure, like most people, I do appreciate a good bargain. But you have to put a price on your mental health too, and throwing elbows with crazed elderly ladies in crowded aisle-ways seems like a pretty steep price to pay.

I have always been a “to each his own” type of guy. So if Black Friday is the name of your game, then I say dive in and have a blast. Then you can revel with your friends about the money you saved and the presents that are already bagged, tagged and ready for the Christmas tree.

To make matters even worse, it was just last week when I heard a subtle knock at my back door. It was Susan. In her hands she held three large shopping bags. They were filled with items she had purchased for her husband Roger on her midnight Black Friday exploits.

“I wanted you to see some of the stuff I bought,” she said, pushing past me, making her way into the kitchen. There were dozens of crank baits, spinner baits and a soft-sided tackle bag in one sack. The others contained a camouflaged jacket, hunting vest, several game calls and wool socks.

“That was nice of you to spend that kind of money on him,” I said in envy. “I didn’t spend that much. All of this was marked 50 percent off or more,” she boasted. “What!” I said in disbelief. “Sure was,” she added with a smug smile. “I thought Black Friday was about toys and TV’s,” I questioned. “Heavens no, they can’t advertise everything that’s on sale,” she explained. “See, you can get good deals on many items, even outdoor equipment.”

We then began putting everything back into the large plastic bags. “Oh by the way, I saw this and thought of you,” she added. From her coat pocket she pulled out a soft, black, crow decoy. “Tell me how it tastes!” she quipped, abruptly turning to leave.

“Ouch! In my face!” I couldn’t help but thinking. Maybe this whole Black Friday thing isn’t what I had thought all along. So next year, if you see some nut job in sporting goods, brandishing a fishing rod like a ninja sword, keeping ladies at bay, it will more than likely be me!

John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at jmartinooutdoors@att.net.

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