Mon09012014

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Dads play an important role in the outdoors

It is absolutely no secret that fathers play a key role in introducing kids to the outdoors.

My father began taking me fishing and hunting at an early age. We fished and hunted for two reasons- First, Dad enjoyed being outdoors catching fish and hunting small game.

I suspect the peace of the woods and waters was therapy for him from the daily commute to Northern Virginia at the wee hours of the morning and often returning late in the day or evening. My father still works hard to make a living, but he also enjoys wetting a line or doing a little hunting.

I realized very early on that fishing and hunting are also ways to put food on the table while enjoying the woods and waters. Without a doubt, my fondest memories of my childhood are not some trip to Kings Dominion, the waterpark, or a vacation away from home. Rather, my fondest memories are of the times I spent next to my father casting for smallmouth bass on the river, while standing knee-deep in the clear water on top of multicolored, water-rounded rocks, or propped up next to a massive oak, sitting on damp, black soil and rotting fall leaves while peering into the treetops for squirrels with a .22 rifle in my lap.

Dad took the time to show me the best ways to bait a catfish hook, have patience when the fish were not biting, and I wanted to head home, skin a squirrel or find where the best den trees were. Dad taught me a lot, and I used those skills and continue to use them as I teach my kids and other kids about the outdoors. I cannot imagine how my life would have progressed without the times my father spent with me in the woods or on the water. In fact, I know a lot of what my father taught me helped feed my family and me. Additionally, the skills I learned about the outdoors also taught me other things;

I learned how to be thankful for the little things in life. When I had little money between jobs when I was in college, I thought about what I did have, and I appreciated it. I knew that no matter how good a photographer I was, I could never recreate the colors or feeling of watching the sun go down across the water or over the desert where I was going to college. I relished dropping a line in a nearby canal to catch a few fish, because that was all the fishing I could have. It was fun, and I learned how to make it work for me. It did not matter that much that the water was small, the fish were small and it was pretty much all the water that was available.

Those simple things sustained me during hard times. I learned how to stop and enjoy the smell of the fall air, even when it was tough to get out of the city when I was in college. I learned how to be patient, even when I was not inclined to do so. Squirrel hunting and fishing taught me that being patient has its rewards, if one is able to honestly wait for them. It was not always easy to be patient, and it still is not easy, but I know now, due to Dad showing me, that it is well worth it.

When money got really tight between my time in the Corps and coming home, I was able to take my skills learned from my father in the outdoors and put food on my table with relative ease. In fact, at times when I was out getting myself some dinner, I would run across others that had no idea how to catch a fish or hunt a rabbit. I would take the time to show them, or at least share my bounty with them and encourage them to learn how to feed themselves.

I recall two things during this time that made me very grateful for my father and our country- First, one gentleman I was giving some meat to asked where I learned how to do what I was doing. He seemed surprised when I told him my father showed me. He commented to me that he wished he had a father to show him. Second, he also informed me that in his country, he could not have a firearm. I cannot imagine living his life. I left that conversation vowing to show many others the skills and appreciation my dad showed me.

For those of you that may not have had a father to show you how to fish or hunt, please consider trying it now, and then pass it on to your kids or kids that you know. It is an investment that pays off over and over again through the years. For those of us that have fathers or uncles or grandfathers who were able to be there for us and show us the bounties of the woods and water, take a moment and thank that person. I am sure they know how important their actions were, but it never hurts to let them know that you also realize how important they were in your life.

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