Tip of the hat to dad

Today is Father’s Day: a day we remember the dads who hopefully contributed something to raise kids into adulthood. I guess as a dad, granddad and great grandpa I come under that heading, although I feel mothers are the ones who deserve the credit when a kid turns out O.K.

My own dad was a believer in a strong work ethic, and he spent most of his waking hours turning a two car garage into a backyard full of a working pottery. That left little time for father son activities, except during hunting season. Dad liked to hunt and I was allowed to tag along even before I was old enough to carry more than a double barrel popgun. I still remember taking my first rabbit with that popgun.

Unless the landscape has changed, I could take you right to the spot where we had met a couple other hunters that dad knew. We had stopped to chat and share hunting experiences when for some reason a rabbit took off out of the weeds. Dad and I both shot, but the other hunters claimed they saw dad’s shot miss and that I had gotten the rabbit with a cork gun. Dad agreed with them.

Since I was only about 5 or 6 years old, I had no hunting coat with a game pocket, so dad hung the rabbit on my belt. We left the woods and walked through our neighborhood with the rabbit probably half dragging on the road and my popgun proudly carried over my shoulder. Whenever we met a neighbor I puffed out my chest and told them how dad had missed and I shot the rabbit with my little gun. Many decades later that memory is as fresh as if it happened yesterday. Mom was not happy about the mess on my jeans, but she took it in stride. After all, moms are special.

That day was the start of many hunting seasons with my dad. We always had a couple of good rabbit hounds and it was my job to keep them exercised during the off season. There were many Ladies, a Duke, a Tammy, a Jenny, and of course the special Trixie that I have written about often. I learned from dad that dogs are special creatures and they have added much to my life that goes beyond hunting.

Back then it was dad who decided when a youth was ready to have a gun and go hunting. I had a .22 rifle by my 17th birthday and a shotgun the next year. That might now seem young, but I learned gun safety from dad. Believe me. Dad was years ahead with his version of zero tolerance, especially when it came to guns. There were things you just did not do, and disobeying the rules meant the loss of shooting and hunting privileges and there was no reprieve. To this day I am super careful with my firearms and I can thank my dad for it.

I learned early on that a good hunter must be an ethical hunter. I learned that I should not shoot if another hunter in our party flushed the game. I learned to never shoot off another man’s dog, unless we were hunting together. I also learned reverence for the game we killed and to always make use of the meat. This, of course, meant the sometimes messy job of properly preparing game for the table.

Dad always believed in honestly and lying was close to being a felony in our house. Each year he let me skip school on the first day of hunting season and my excuse from home simply stated “Please excuse Bill from school as I took him hunting”. Other boys turned in excuses with diseases that I think ranged from diarrhea to malaria. This gave them an excused absence while my honesty resulted in missed tests that could not be made up. I remember one anti-hunting history teacher, who always planned an important test on the first day of hunting season, but I still took the day off to hunt, and I told the truth. It hurt my grade in my favorite subject, but I felt I stood up for my beliefs.

Dad taught me a lot about hunting and life. He is no longer with me, but I have a lot of good times afield with dad to remember. If I have been a good dad, then my dad did his job well.