Mistletoe Hunting, With a 12-Gauge Shotgun

Beyond the presents, ornaments and cookies, Christmas offers the magic of mistletoe. By simply standing in the right place, you signal to those near to you a desire for a kiss. The tradition is unsubtle and proactive, and it brings a little naughty into this decidedly G-rated holiday.

Over Thanksgiving, I went on a mistletoe hunt with friends in North Carolina. I was surprised to learn that you didn't just hunt for the green leaves at your local Christmas supply store. Mistletoe grows in pecan, oak and apple trees across the country. It is a hemi-parasite, which means it roots beneath the bark of the host tree, and is able to create its own food through photosynthesis. Birds spread the plant by ingesting the seeds and transporting them from tree to tree.

Since mistletoe grows in the high branches, beyond the reach of a ladder, you can either climb the tree and cut it down, or grab a gun and shoot it down.

Most folks pick the latter. Since I do not own a shotgun, my pal Theresa Galletto offered to bring her daddy's 12-gauge. Theresa is an experienced skeet shooter and a professional golf pro, so I felt confident that she'd hit the mark.

Tools of the hunt

And then we needed a tree. Theresa lives in a development that is home to many retired Northerners, and has rules against things like shooting at trees.

But luckily, she knew a man from around these parts, a born and bred coastal Carolinian. Billy Robinson's home is on the same land his family has owned for decades, and he has lived here for almost 80 years. He likes to tell stories about the past, like the time his daddy sold 100 acres for $1,000 and laughed at the man who bought them. On Billy's land, Billy makes the rules.

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