Good, solid hunting mentors like I had growing up are in serious demand these days. Without them, kids are content to sit inside, warm and dry with their faces glued to electronic devices. I never had that opportunity because electronic devices didn’t exist yet. I was forced to play outside. The out of doors, as near as I can tell, was the modern-day parental version of screen time. “Go outside!” my mother would often say with a sweet and kind tone to her voice. An aging group of mentors and kids growing up with no desire to step foot in the woods is a bad combination!
This Saturday, July 23rd, will be my eleventh wedding anniversary to my beloved wife. In lieu of this celebration of love, I decided to ask my lovely wife a few question about how she has matured as a result of being married to a hunter. What has she learned, I wondered? She is clearly a better person for it, but I had never asked for specifics. Until now…
I’ve killed a bear. Just one. And it wasn’t very big. Actually, even inserting the word big into the previous sentence doesn’t seem right because it causes one to think that there was some bigness to the bear. There wasn’t. Unless, of course, you are telling your one and only bear story to your almost five-year-old just before bed. Then the bear is big.
“Hey Bud, wanna hear a bear story?” I ask before leaving his side.
“Yeah!” he says as he picks his head up off his pillow in the darkness of his room. He’ll listen to anything in order to delay bedtime, so I oblige.
It’s that day again when my memories of my daughter, Cora, take center stage. The more time passes the easier the day becomes, but I still don’t like it and I don’t expect I ever will. It forces me to be reflective. That’s hard to do, I’ve found. The best time to be reflective is when it happens on accident or unexpectedly.
I remember being reflective one time after shooting a nice buck. That’s the best kind of reflective – spontaneous and joyful.
My wife and I were married on this very day ten years ago in a small town in southwest Minnesota where agricultural fields are prevalent and curves in roads are rare. Even rarer still are hills. If you can find even a small one you can see forever. So far, in fact, it will make you wonder if a single tree exists within 100 miles. It’s no wonder tower blinds are so popular for deer hunting; there isn’t a place to hang a deer stand! Ridiculous.
I’ve learned many life lessons in our first 10 years of marriage but not as many as she learned during our first few hunting seasons together. You see, we have a somewhat unique history and I should explain. I first met her when she came to visit her sister who happened to attend the same college as I did in Tennessee. Steph was attending college in California – roughly 500,000 miles to the west. When we saw each other for the first time it was love at first sight. The feelings were undeniable – I could see it in her eyes. I remember telling her that she was beautiful, but that I really needed to get to know her before I’d be as willing as her to call it love. She remembers it very differently. You’d think after ten years that we’d have our story straight.