She momentarily pauses, the multi-colored coverlet draped over her lap, to take a gander out the nearby window that looks toward the southeast corner of her modest country home, where a well-kept garden sits in front of the dirt driveway.
Not one to be distracted too long by the late-morning ambience of another picturesque day, the amicable storyteller returns to her quilt. And it’s back to business, briefly, before another question is summoned her way, to which she cackles aloud as she continues to craft away and commences to spin another colorful yarn about old-fashioned, everyday country living.
Of course, when the subject eventually wanders to her favorite pastime, Christopher’s eyes really light up.
The tales of chase and triumph spark detailed narratives that could seemingly go on for days before ultimately coming full circle, back where they all began.
Just as dawn morphs into daylight, the eternal hunt continues for a lady that friends and family fondly refer to as Mrs. Emmie.
Because the pride and joy for this 84-year-old great-grandmother begins with the mention of the six mounted deer heads that grace the wall behind her, just a few feet above the cushioned chair from which she comfortably quilts.
And while age may have slowed this hunting enthusiast — perhaps, just a little — Christopher steadily remains on the go. The nature lover never misses an opportunity to take a venture into the woods and prey upon the 62 acres of prime hunting ground behind her home.
Christopher has earned a reputation as a good shot through the years, showing up the male hunters more often than not, and she got her latest kill on Nov. 3 when she dropped a 7-point buck with her trusty .243.
But on this occasion, she initially thought she’d let one slip away, baffling this granny sure-shot.
“I thought I missed it. I’m thinking, ‘How’d I miss that doggone deer?’ So I went off in there and I saw the back end of it, but I can’t shoot ya in the back end. Step on out, I say. So it stepped on out. So I hit it, but I thought I missed it again. ‘Doggone. Shoot two times and miss a deer?’ So I went down there to see if I could find any blood. Went down there, and I had got it,” Christopher nods her head with a smile of assurance while coincidentally donning a hunter green T-shirt that reads ‘So Who Says Grandmas Can’t Hunt??’
Christopher, who has five children, nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, got her initial hunting itch back in 1980.
Her late husband, Guy, along with her son-in-law, Jerry Norton, and a few other family members were avid hunters that used to travel to the family’s cabin in Monticello on their nature excursions. Christopher, being the busy-body that she is, got bored with staying indoors while all the men went into the woods.
Grandma wasn’t about to be cooped up with the youngins all day.
“Uh, uh. I done raised my five kids. I told my kids after they married, I said, ‘Now, listen. I’m not a built-in baby-sitter. If anything happens or a special occasion like your anniversary or something like that, yeah, OK, I’ll stay with the children. But not no every weekend. I ain’t no built-in baby-sitter,’” Christopher said. “Then they started sticking me down there in the country with their husbands. I said, ‘Uh, uh. That ain’t going to work, either. Uh, uh. So give me a gun, too.’”
Christopher actually used Norton’s rifle when she got her first kill — an 8-pointer that weighed 94 pounds — in November 1980.
Norton recalls that day with fond memories, noting the priceless look on Guy’s face upon seeing his wife come back with the only kill of the bunch.
“We met them and she had this big ‘ole smile on her face. All of a sudden, my father-in-law pointed at me to ask if it was mine. I shook my head, no. And then he pointed at her, and I nodded,” Norton said. “He just lays his hand on his forehead like, ‘Ah, I’m never going to hear the end of this.’ We got back over there and pulled up and he liked to have a fit as big as it was. Of course, that tickled her to no end.”
And while it may seem a bit peculiar to envision an elderly woman pick up such an intimidating inclination at that age, Norton wasn’t all that surprised by Christopher’s propensity with the rifle. After all, he’d seen her craftsmanship with the .22 she totes around the house and yard — shooting everything from squirrels, raccoons, opossum, coyotes to crows.
“She’s a good learner. She does pretty much what she wants to do. She works hard, plays hard. If she says she wants to do it, she does it,” Norton said. “She’s always been a good shot with a .22. She doesn’t like birds getting in her garden and stuff, so she would pick them off with the .22. I didn’t figure it would take too long before she was doing it with the deer, too. And it didn’t take long at all.”
The kind-hearted Christopher has no qualms about packing heat at 84, that’s just her nature. And in this day and age, they just don’t make them like Mrs. Emmie anymore.
“It stays by my bed at night. In the daytime, I have it out here with me. But today I was quilting, so I didn’t have it until I got outside,” Christopher said.
Emmie and Guy Christopher were married for 56 years and spent that entire time deeply in love. Guy passed away in 2006 — just 12 days before his 80th birthday — following a battle with cancer.
If you saw one of them, you usually saw the other. Ray North remembers how competitive the couple was when it came to hunting.
The Christophers were regular customers at North’s Deer Processing in Roopville, and the owner of the establishment said they were two of his favorites. Of course, Mrs. Emmie still brings him business these days, going on 85 years old in February.
“They always sort of competed with each other. And, you know, Mr. Guy, he just loved that. It was always competitive with her and her husband. They just laughed and cut up. They were such a loving couple. When Mr. Guy, when he died with cancer, I thought, ‘Well, Mrs. Emmie won’t ever hunt any more.’ But she just picked up and went on. But that’s what he would want her to do,” North said.
One year, in particular, stood out to North, where Mrs. Emmie was besting her husband by a pretty sound margin.
“Each year, he’d be like, ‘Well, she’s outdoing me. I better get out there and kill one.’ One year, she killed three or four and he didn’t get but one. So she’d say, ‘Well, Guy, you’ve got to get up out of bed to go kill ‘em.’ You know, she was going out there early in the morning and he might lay there a little longer. But that’s one of the things I remember. She’d always say, ‘You’ve got to get up to go do it.’ She sure racked up on him that year,” North said.
Emmie Christopher is definitely the oldest female customer North has had over the years, though he’s had a few other women bring him business. Rarely did any ever have a kill like Mrs. Emmie’s, of course.
“She figures the deer out. She knows their routine. She’s smart. She knows the signs and what time to be there. I mean, she’s got them figured out. That’s how come she’s been so successful over the years. She’s brought in some really nice deer over the years,” North said.
Emmie Christopher still uses the .243 that her husband purchased at a pawn shop in the early 1980s when she began hunting. Even that story brings about another humorous tale from the fun-loving couple.
“There was this fella standing there with [Guy] and he heard him say he was buying the gun for his wife. He said, ‘You’re buying a gun for your wife? Are you crazy? Shoot, I’d never get my wife a gun. That would like to get me killed,’” Christopher says with her charismatic laugh.
Living on a fixed income, Mrs. Emmie doesn’t just hunt for sport. Everything she kills is either in her deep freezer or on the dinner plate at night.
“Yeah, got to stock the freezer. Have something to eat. Sometimes I won’t even go to the grocery store but once every few weeks to get some eggs or something I can’t stock up on,” Christopher said. “I don’t have to worry about stuff. I’ve got enough meat in my freezer — and I give away lots, too. What I can’t use, I just give it away.”
Christopher’s garden is another labor of love for the 84-year-old, and she’s actually profited off that minor financial investment. At one point, Christopher was selling four ears of corn for a dollar, along with being in the cantaloupe, watermelon, pea and bean business.
“I had four ears for a dollar. Where can you find four ears of corn for a dollar?” Christopher says, throwing her hands up in the air at such a question.
One lady came by for some corn and Christopher had so much, she gave her enough to get by for a while, free of charge. That led to a return visit.
“So she says, ‘I want it all.’ I got to thinking. ‘Get it all? Does she think I’m just going to give all of that stuff to her because I said I’d give her that?’ So I said, ‘OK. I was just wondering since I told you I’d give you the other?’ But we got the wheelbarrow and went out there and got all of it — and she bought it. Shoot, I can’t even remember how many dozen ear she got. But four ears for a dollar — you sure can’t get that at the store,” Christopher explains as she adjusts her seat on the deep freezer inside the screened-in porch, her .243 gently resting against her right leg.
Christopher also has two grandsons that hunt, and she’s instilled her values into them when it comes to being resourceful.
“She taught me a lot about deer hunting and that, basically, whatever you kill is what you eat. That if you kill it, you better eat it,” noted grandson David Welsh, who resides in Roswell.
Welsh began hunting at age 5, and grandma even taught him how to field dress a deer when he was still learning the tricks of the trade.
“She’s a perfectionist. So she taught me the first time and then even the second time and after that when I wasn’t doing it correctly, she would cut in and take over,” Welsh said.
Of course, that nagging arthritis would sometimes throw a wrinkle into grandma’s on-the-job performance.
“One night my grandson got one and was out there on the trunk and I was out there dressing it and the arthritis in my fingers set in. I said, ‘David, come straighten out my fingers. Hurry, hurry,’” Christopher said.
And it’s stories like those that Welsh shares with friends and fellow hunting buddies, always leaving them floored upon hearing the latest adventures of dear old grandma.
“Even now today when she killed her deer a couple of months ago, I show all my friends and put it on Facebook and they can’t believe how old she is and that she’s that active and she still deer hunts,” Welsh said. “People always ask me why I started deer hunting, and I always say it’s because of her.”
And while Emmie Christopher doesn’t allow age to be a burden, she isn’t as spry as she once was. A hunting accident several years ago damaged three vertebrae in her back after she fell climbing out of her deer stand.
“I thought maybe somebody had triggered my lock on my stand. I’m not sure. But when I come down, I had my gun — I always have it — there was no rules back when we started hunting, and I just thrown my gun back around my shoulder. So when I was coming down, I felt the stand shift. When it did, I guess I started to fall. Well, I passed out anyway. I just went out,” Christopher said.
When she finally came to, Christopher was disoriented and laying on the ground in a good bit of pain.
“So the cows had all heard me. All of them standing around. So I said, ‘Well, I’ve got to get home.’ My husband was in the house. Of course, it was winter time. If he’d had come looking for me in the truck, he’d have never come up on the hill that I was at ... So I was walking and I had my hands down on my knees because of my back. I stopped down there on a log and shot twice into the air to see if someone could hear me shoot, but nobody had heard me,” Christopher said.
Continuing to fight through the pain, Christopher meticulously limped home. Eventually, her husband began to worry and came looking for her. Guy finally found his ailing wife and got her to the hospital around 11 a.m.
“I just said, ‘Pull my coveralls off and my shoes, but leave my socks on.’ The hospital room is cold and I wanted my socks on. So he did and I went to the hospital. I called my daughter and she left work and said, ‘My momma is at the hospital. She fell from her deer stand.’ Of course, everybody said, ‘Your momma? Your momma?’ They couldn’t get over that,” Christopher said.
The spunky grandmother has endured her fair share of other run-ins out in the woods, including getting into some verbal spars with male hunters through the years. As you could guess, Mrs. Emmie certainly wasn’t about to shy away silently. Reflecting on one incident, in particular, got Christopher’s blood boiling like it just happened yesterday.
“This guy got close to where I usually sit. But I moved back further. I respected him. So I moved back a little further. But then this little deer came out down there, and, boom, I got it. He came down there a cussing, ‘Lady, you about to shot me.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m sorry, mister.’ He went up there and said to my husband, ‘You better go down there and check on your wife, she about to shot me.’ My husband said, ‘I’m going to tell you now, mister, if she wanted to shoot ya, she would have shot ya,’” Christopher said.
Christopher has got her share of nice kills through the years, but she still hasn’t got a 10-pointer yet. It’s the elusive one that keeps her on the go, always ready for another adventure, another hunt. One more trip into the woods.
“Everything else I’ve got. I’ve got the nines, seven, six and eights — even an 11-pointer — but I don’t have that famous 10. We used to go by this place down yonder going to Monticello called the ‘Point Ten Hunting Club.’ I said, ‘God, I never could get into that place I don’t guess, because I don’t got no point 10s,” Christopher said.
But at nearly 85 years of age, Mrs. Emmie understands that, eventually, her hunting days will come to an end. So every chance she gets to go, it’s a special one.
And while her first kill remains the most memorable shot, her latest 7-pointer in early November also has special significance.
Before her husband, Guy, passed away, he was involved in a tractor accident one evening while out checking on the cows. Upon getting down from the tractor, it somehow went into gear and started rolling. As Guy tried to jump on it to stop its motion, he rolled under the heavy piece of machinery.
Guy would survive the incident, but he laid in intensive care for 10 days. Mrs. Emmie honestly didn’t think her husband was going to make it.
And when her husband ultimately did pass away a few years later, her trips to the woods often served as a time of meditation. Sometimes Mrs. Emmie would sit and pray. Sometimes she’d just sit and cry. She estimates there’s probably been times when a deer has walked right past her sights, but being so deep in thought, she didn’t even notice.
But on this most recent occasion, she did pray, seeking spiritual guidance to lead her in the right direction. Sure enough, Mrs. Emmie found her way.
“I said, ‘Now, Lord, where do I go? I could go here, I could go back there, I could go down there.’ I didn’t know where to go. But I said, ‘Lord, you’ve got to guide these old feet with where you want me to go, because I don’t know where to go this morning,’” Christopher begins. “He led me right down there to where my husband got run over. I believe in prayer. He led me there. And I’ve never hunted in that spot before. Never have. But I was led to that spot that day for whatever reason. And guess what? I got one.”