Many Texas boyhoods include some form of hunting doves around a stock tank, fishing trips to the Gulf Coast, chasing whitetail deer, tent camping, bass fishing, and/or any of the other varied outdoor adventures our great state has to offer. As a boy, the goal is usually to catch the biggest fish or shoot the most dove or the biggest buck. Throw a group of young and old men together and competition will likely ensue. That’s what testosterone does for the world.
Looking back, I cannot remember a single specific dove I ever shot. There are a few big fish I remember, but the details are hazy. I’ve got a variety of whitetail racks on the wall, each with their own story that ends up having little to do with the deer and everything to do with the process. Truth be told, I remember the people and the places a lot better than the conquests.
That’s really what outdoor sports are about...friendships and sunrises and campfires and getting away. I’ve seen God many times in a deer stand sunrise or the look of excitement on a young hunter’s face. Life is the journey.
So there we were; my seven year old son, his grand-dad “Sir,” and me. We had loaded up in our utility vehicle after dinner to search for rogue jackrabbits and to check on a recently fed hog trap. It was a bit past bedtime for two of them, but the eve of Opening Day had young Parker fit to be tied. None of us were sleeping anytime soon.
We pulled up close to the trap so that our headlights showed it’s emptiness. Parker had to get out and review the trap’s workings and check that it was properly set. As we walked around the back of the trap, our lights quickly faded and suddenly all went quiet. A turn of the key and we knew our ride was not to start again this night.
No worries, though, we live in a time of cell phones and technology. Except when you’re with no bars and nobody at camp is checking their texts. We’d be walking back unless someone looked up from their poker hand. Highly unlikely.
The moon had yet to rise and it was a clear, crisp night. A two mile walk in the daylight is a little intimidating to most seven year olds. Add sheer darkness, Halloween, and talk of a mountain lion sighted on the lease and Parker was not looking forward to our hike. If he couldn’t yet read, I might say he was scared.
We eased down the road and talked him through. Sir and I took turns explaining predators and prey and the top of the food chain. We had lights and guns and brains, we said. We told stories of our own childhood fears and mistakes and adventures. Before long, the moon started to rise and we three stopped to watch. We even cut the flashlights to see better. The fear had been replaced by wonder and laughter and adventure. Before we knew it, we were back in camp and all very ready to hit the beds.
The rest of the weekend was similar to many this time of year. Watching feeders, target practice, weenie roasts and the like. As we pulled out the gate to come home, we asked Parker what was the most fun. Was it the wild game dinner or the shooting or stalking the Axis buck? Or maybe the unlimited soft drinks, cookies, and Halloween candy?
“I like the part when we had to walk home in the dark. I was really scared, but I got better. That was my favorite.”
That boy seems a bit wiser than I was at his age. Maybe even wiser than I am today. He already knows it’s all about the journey. Maybe we are all born knowing that and lose sight along the way. I hope he never forgets.
All things being equal, I’d just as soon ride back to camp next time. Mountain lions scare me.
Until next week, keep smiling.
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