Jason Jones: COLUMN: Best Christmas present ever? I have your answer.

·6 min read

Dec. 23—What is, or what was, the best Christmas gift a kid could ever get? The debate has raged for ages. According to the 1983 classic, "A Christmas Story," the obvious choice is a Red Ryder carbine action 200 shot range model air rifle with the compass in the stock and this thing which tells time. For Ralphie Parker there could be no greater gift.

I got one of those in 1977, six years before "A Christmas Story" made it to the big screen. It was a lot of fun but could be a little dangerous. I never shot my eye out, but my younger brother and I spent a lot of ammunition peppering each other while playing Army or Cowboys and Indians. Ralph's mom would have been appalled.

There was also no compass. And I'm certain it couldn't be used to tell time either. I wasn't around in 1940 so I can't vouch for what Ralphie's Red Ryder could or couldn't do. But I can tell you without hesitation the 1977 model had no such high-tech features.

The Red Ryder was great, but not number one on my list.

Number one is different for everyone. This is my story time, so I get to choose what fills the blank here, but maybe the Easy Bake Oven changed your life. Understandable and legitimate. Feel free to submit a column. Then you can present your opinion as fact and pick a different winner.

There are no wrong answers to this question, though I'd cringe at the suggestion that some sort of electronic device or fancy phone could be the "best Christmas gift ever," but we live in a different day and age. Perhaps today's children will one day look back on the iPhone 5000 they got one Christmas as their vote for best ever.

I can't even type that with a straight face. Just forget I said it.

Let's move forward with this.

The runner-up for me was "under" the tree around 1971 or 72. It was a bright green Western Flyer bicycle. The style of the bicycle might be better remembered as a Schwinn Stingray. Schwinn was the gold standard, but several companies made similar models. The Western Flyer was the one I got.

Mine was a metallic lime green. It had tall handlebars and a white vinyl banana seat with a matching green tuck-and-roll insert down the middle.

I loved that bike. Waking up to find it that Christmas morning was a truly magical feeling. I learned to ride on that beautiful set of wheels and eventually I was riding it all over town, violating sidewalk ordinances and scaring old ladies.

I rode the bike for several years. I learned to ride a wheelie on it, and it served as my ride during my ramp-to-ramp phase. It was truly a kid's best friend.

It stayed with me until I was 12 when I felt the pressure to get a ten-speed so I could be cool like my friends.

Huge regret. I should have kept riding it until I surpassed the 6-foot mark.

Speaking of the ramp-to-ramp phase, mine was inspired by my choice for the all-time greatest present in the history of Christmas: The Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle.

Santa brought mine in 1973. It was, by far, the hottest toy for grade-school boys that year. Maybe ever. The only things I've seen that matched the hype in the years that followed were Cabbage Patch Kids and Tickle Me Elmo, neither of which were marketed to elementary school-aged young men with ADHD.

Danger was our middle name.

The Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle was simple perfection. No batteries necessary. It was a motorcycle with a gyroscopic rear wheel, revved by a hand-cranked launch tower that propelled it toward and over the ramp you had set up over whatever death-defying obstacle you could concoct. My favorite was "The dog of death," an event unappreciated by my canine buddy.

Upon the motorcycle sat Evel himself. He was about seven inches tall and infinitely bendy. His uniform was white with the patriotic V-shaped, star-spangled graphic on the front. He also had a cool helmet which you could remove... in theory.

My Evel Knievel's head came off with the helmet Christmas morning. Subsequently, all my daredevil adventures were performed by either a headless rider, or one sporting a large duct tape scarf. Either way, it somehow added to the cool factor.

My friend Sean, who lived a block away, got one the same year. We met in the middle of College Street every day to jump something, or maybe a lot of somethings. It was a great time to be a kid.

Evel eventually was worn completely out and was likely disposed of during a spring-cleaning incident several years later. As durable a toy as he was, even he had a shelf life.

When my son was 9 or 10, I discovered that someone had begun manufacturing Evel again as a throwback model. I found that I could order one online, which I did, just in time for Christmas. That morning he opened it and we played with it for hours. He was pretty good at keeping his stuff in good shape, and it was eventually stored away, box and all.

A few years later my old buddy Sean, who is still a very close friend, announced he was finally getting married. My son and I brainstormed and took a chance that the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle would mean a lot to Sean, so we wrapped it up and gave it to him.

I questioned my choice for weeks. Without that sentimental connection, it was simply a cheesy gift. The day of his wedding, Sean opened the gift, and I could see that he was happy about it. I just had no idea how happy.

Sean and his wife, Cheryl, celebrated their honeymoon in Jamaica. Almost immediately Sean began posting photos of their adventures online. Every day the photos included the Evel Knievel action figure lounging on the beach or posing next to a tropical cocktail.

I guess he liked the gift.

So, Evel sits in first place, at least for me. You may have your Easy Bake Oven, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots or Toss Across, all worthy choices. How many of those, however, have made a trip in someone's carry-on to Jamaica for a honeymoon? Can't be many.

By the way, last year my daughter heard me, once again, singing the praises of the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. Christmas morning, I opened another one of my very own 44 years after the first, thanks to her.

And his head is still firmly attached to his body.

Merry Christmas East Texas. Here's to the best ever.