Fathers: The Power of Tradition
With Father’s Day approaching, I again find myself reflecting on all the influential times I have spent with my Dad in the outdoors. I was extremely fortunate to spend my childhood hunting and fishing with Pop…and naturally, most of my earliest memories come from those countless days in the field or boat together. I remember endless mornings in the duck blind, or following my Dad and uncles in the upland fields, all while carrying an unloaded BB gun. If I heard “where is your barrel pointed” or “is your safety on” once….I heard it a MILLION times. You see, he made me prove a couple years of responsibility before giving me a real gun. It drove me crazy as a kid because I “knew it all”, but the basics of gun safety were deeply engrained in my young mind, and for that I couldn’t be more thankful. I remember learning how to run a boat, all the safety precautions, current, wind, etc.
I remember being half-frozen in the duck blind, and always being inwardly grateful when Pop put a warm arm around me. And when it was time to leave, feeling like I was walking on needles because my feet were so cold they burned. But I didn’t say a word…I wanted to be able to go again and be one of the guys. I remember sleeping in the back of the truck along the river bank, amazed at all the sounds of the night. I remember storms on the Illinois River while fishing that scared the heck out of me, but were old hat and not nearly as concerning to Pop. So I toughened up too, comforted by his confidence, and felt my fear melt away. I remember a limit of pheasants we shot on my grandfather’s farm and flushing a covey of partridge, which was rare for Illinois. I remember ice fishing and complaining to Pop that I wanted to fish “over there”, but I wasn’t big enough to drill the hole myself. I remember grabbing a hold of a copperhead with a pair of pliers, causing him to scream and run around like a greyhound…Pop has never been a fan of snakes! I remember begging Santa for my first shotgun, and pouting on Christmas morning because I didn’t get it…much like Ralphie in ‘The Christmas Story’. Then, when all presents were opened and wrapping paper littered the floor, Pop told to check my stocking. There, I found a note saying I had one more gift under the couch…but I had to promise not to take it out without him.
There are more memories than there is space to write them. Those memories are the building blocks of my lifetime as an outdoorsman, and the times spent hunting and fishing with Pop back then are just as important to me now. But today, there’s nothing that brings me more reward than being able to give back, providing some of his firsts. We didn’t have turkeys and snow geese in Illinois when I was a kid. I am grateful I had the opportunity to call up Pops first gobbler. Grateful that I was laying next to him in the blind, listening to him giggle like a kid while watching his first flock of snow geese come wiffling in. Grateful for our first fishing trip to Canada, and a little over a week ago, returning from our annual voyage to the North Woods…20 years after the first. I am grateful for the opportunity to take him hunting now in my spots, and to run the boat for him while we are fishing!!
The time I have been able to spend in the outdoors with Pop, Gramps and my uncles is priceless. For you fathers and mentors out there, NEVER underestimate the impact of time spent outdoors with young ones…they truly are memories that will last a lifetime. With Father’s Day this weekend, be sure to say thank you to whomever it is that got you involved in the outdoors. It is the best gift of our traditions and heritage that you could have been given…and will give to the next generation.
Happy Father’s Day, Pop, and thank you for the memories! Looking forward to MANY more!!!!