I think of October with fondness as I recall my youth. I was always ready for the cool autumn season. My Pop was a hunter, which meant I was a hunter. I idolized my Pop, and longed to be just like him. Pop had a passion for hunting in general, but he was in love with bird dogs and quail hunting. Until his senior years, you would never catch my Pop without a set of hunting dogs. October was prime time to get our dogs in top condition.
A trip afield was nothing new to me. Pop was in great shape back then, and I was so little that my tiny little legs would be at full throttle to keep pace. Pop was a man’s man. He believed in God, guns, freedom and America. He would lay down his life for family and country. He respected people, and he expected the same in return. He was bound and determined to make a man out of me. I was the last of his bloodline, and he longed to teach me as much as humanly possible in our time together.
When it came to nature, I was a quick study. I loved the outdoors from the onset. I knew if Pop found it so important to be involved in it, then it was important to me too. I can reflect while writing this and still see the gleam in his eyes as he watched his dogs work. It was a bond that can be traced back to the domestication of canines, I suppose.
It seemed Pop treated his hunting dogs as a direct reflection of him as a trainer. He worked a lot during the summer with our dogs on long lines teaching them obedience and commands for retrieving. He was proud to teach generations of dogs all of the skills necessary to perform in the field.
I think I would be remiss if I were not to mention my mom. My mom knew my Pop’s passion for nature. I cannot recall one time when she ever complained about his time outdoors. He traveled with her blessings. She knew that he worked hard and gave a 100 percent to his family. He found it to be a source of therapy, and she gave him all of the space he needed.
I can’t remember a handful of weekends we missed time together in the field, on the lakes and rivers, or in the woods. Pop was self-employed, and he made certain that the weekends always remained “our time.” What a luxury and a blessing to have such a wonderful man as a role model. We never had a lot of money, but I never seemed to want for much, and I had a dad by my side constantly.
Having a great teacher and an outdoor classroom molded me into the man I am today. I learned so much about local plants, trees and wildlife. It was incredible. Pop knew all of these things, because, as a boy, he had to know it to survive. I still am amazed at how much he taught me while he thought I wasn’t paying attention. I am probably far more surprised than he is.
My parents left me with a powerful gift, and that is knowledge. I intend to share it with my children, grandchildren and — Lord willing — great-grandchildren. I feel that passing it on to future generations is by far the best way to honor their parenting and commitment to me.
October means football, hayrides, bonfires, cool nights and Halloween to many families. All of those things are great. I almost omitted pumpkin spice-seasoned everything, too.
To me October means the crunching of fresh-fallen leaves underfoot, as I now walk solo into the cool darkness with only Pop’s memory by my side on a faintly marked trail to my pre-dawn deer stand. After just settling in for the morning, a wide-rack buck feeds his way into bow range on a bounty of fallen acorns on the forest floor.
My bowstring settles on my cheek as I release, and the shaft finds its mark. I look up as the first full rays of sunlight warm my face. I know Pop is there instantly. I feel his smile and I utter, “Thanks, Pop!”
Fall leaves me so full of wonderful memories. Make some great memories of your own with your family.