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Gratitude is possibly the most priceless commodity of the modern age, but saying “thank you” is such a routine expression that its value diminishes with repetition.

I was reminded of this dynamic the other day when I helped a frail elderly lady out of the grocery store. Her few provisions were paltry, but it was a busy time of day and no baggers could help her tote her two bags, so I volunteered for the task.

We were silent on the way to her car, but I'll not soon forget the only two things she said. As she buttoned her coat to her chin, she looked at the slate-gray sky and said, “Winter's coming,” and I somehow knew she wasn't talking just about the season. Then, after I helped her stow the bags in her car, she looked right in my eyes and said “thank you” with such conviction and gratefulness that I was almost stunned by the power of the simple statement.

I recall this small moment on the eve of our national Thanksgiving, a holiday whose value has been diminished with almost cynical insincerity. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, but there are a few thanks that are long overdue.

I'm grateful for a spouse who is as tough as cast iron but graceful and tender as a woodland fern. I'm thankful for the innocent enthusiasm of little girls and the cheerful pluck of little boys.

I'm thankful for good tires and better roads, strong coffee and steady rifles. I'm grateful for the shared experiences of brothers and the wisdom of older sisters, the resilience of widows and the priceless assistance of a good neighbor.

I'm glad for sweet water and self-healing plumbing, for killing frosts and the first sun-kissed day of spring, for windless snows and Major League Baseball, for new sleds and old tools. For almost any dog.

I'm thankful for old friends and new acquaintances with good pheasant hunting. I'm glad my children love to learn. And I'm grateful that you are reading this. I hope you have a memorable Thanksgiving, because winter is always coming.

Contact Brett French, Gazette Outdoors editor, at french@billingsgazette.com or at 657-1387.

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