My father taught me to take responsibility, take the initiative, and be accountable. He also taught me to pay attention, form my own opinions and be willing to defend them against all comers. Maybe that is why my father and I disagreed on all most everything by the time I was twelve. In fact, the only thing we agreed on was hunting.
We both loved to hunt and we loved to hunt together. For most of the year, we would be at each other like two jealous junk yard dogs, but for two odd weeks in the middle to late November, all insults were forgotten, all the grudges were ignored and all the anger was set aside. We were a father and son duo who heard the call of the outdoors.
Dad taught me to shoot using a single shot .22 rifle and our neighbor’s empty beer cans. He was with me when I bought my first “honest to goodness” deer rifle and shotgun. He was there to witness me take my first pheasant, grouse, mule deer and big horn sheep. Together we hunted throughout the mountains of Idaho and a trip or two into Utah.
During our hunts he told me stories of his childhood and his early hunts with his father and grandfather. He pointed out how to track deer and look for “sign.” He demonstrated how to cook in a Dutch oven stove. In that black pan of cast iron he made everything from stew to apple pie. All of it was good. He was especially good at the camp fire “ghost” story, and he always knew when to break out the cookies and hot chocolate. He helped me train my first bird dog and to this day, watching a dog work in the field is the best part of hunting.
He showed me how to humanly clean an animal after it was down. He implored me to respect the “kill” and to understand the animal taken was not just a trophy or just bragging rights. It was also food to be consumed and he expected me to give thanks for it.
For two weeks out of the year, we were able to put aside our arguments and petty differences and in that limited time, he taught me about being a man.
My dad came to live with me a couple of weeks ago. His days of hiking, hunting and fishing a far behind him. He’s eighty-two, confined to a wheel chair most of the time and he has to have his blood ran through a machine every other day.
He’s weak, frail and most of his joints crackle when I help him into and out of his wheel chair. The man of my youth, who used to ride, rope and dog steers now requires help in and out of bed. My giant of a father, who was a farrier, now needs help getting dressed.
Oh, it’s easy to say, “We all wind up old, if we live long enough,” and I guess that’s true. But what I am in awe of, and what has me lying awake at night, is this simple fact.
I am a father and in fact, a grand-father, in my own right, and yet the man who taught me so much in short segments of time is still teaching me. He is teaching me how to be humble and how to ask for help. He’s teaching me how to be grateful when help is given. He’s teaching me to be patient.
We spend our time talking about hunting or fishing trips, horses we’ve ridden or dogs we have known. We both have our stories about the fish we didn’t catch and the buck deer that outsmarted us. We’re getting along great, but we’ve only been together for two weeks. Check back in a month.
It’s Father’s Day and I want to wish a good one to all fathers worldwide.