My upbringing was truly magical. I was loved by everyone in my family and I was given the best upbringing that I possibly could have given the circumstances. There were two men in my life that molded me into the outdoor loving man who I am today. They nurtured my very soul into what I was to become. My newly integrated stepfather that loved fishing and enjoyed sharing the experiences with me and my brothers and my Grandfather who raised me to love the outdoors in general. I remember when I was a small boy, my grandfather would take me fishing for the day at a small lake near home.
There we would catch bass, bluegill and perch on those really nice surface spinners and talk with each other sitting on the dock. Pappy would share stories of his youth, tell me about his time in the Navy, teach me life lessons and help me to grow. I do not think he realized what a huge impact just talking to me like that had in my life. He shared his life with me and made me truly feel wanted and accepted. I helped him run bait to local shops in the area, helped him work in the yard, just helped him with everything. Pappy was by far my best friend and I confided everything in him. We shared everything together and there is not a day that goes by now as an adult that I do not use his lessons he taught me.
My favorite author and outdoor enthusiast is the late Ralph Waldo Emerson. His literature helped to foster my love of the outdoors but even the great Emerson, must step aside to Pappy. What does it mean to truly love the outdoors and to truly love nature? I’m not sure, but if Pappy was here, he could probably answer that without hesitation. When I lost my Pappy, I remember the last conversation I had with him before his stroke. I told him that my dad and I had shot my first buck earlier that day on Thanksgiving. I remember the pride and joy in his voice. It was sheer happiness for me to know that I was doing him proud. I told him that I loved him like I normally would and had I known that it was going to be the last time, it would have been done better, more thoughtfully for certain. And honestly, that is where I will leave the story of how my Grandfather raised me to love the outdoors and how he cared enough to help a small boy grow to be a man. There are few like him in a world that so desperately needs more like him.
My father was introduced to my family when I was a small boy. I was skeptical at first. I felt that he was trying to replace Pappy and for a child that only knew his Mother and Grandparents that can be a very scary ordeal. I could not have been more wrong, he is a caring and wonderful man who loves the outdoors and my way of life as much as I do. He taught me so much that I cannot ever repay him for. I moved to Montana with my family and I had never heard of Ice Fishing before. Dad immediately started ice fishing that winter and I fell in love. The fish in general, have a higher quality meat during the winter months. Dad and I went ice fishing several times as I grew up and I started to go out on my own. I grabbed myself one of those hand crank ice augers and a good pair of pull over ice spikes and I was set. Me and my father did so many things together. We have enjoyed prospecting, fishing, hunting, hiking, boating and shooting to name only a few. He shared his life and his hobbies with my entire family, turning my Mother into one of the most “outdoor loving” gals I have ever seen.
Dad grew up on the beach in Pacific Washington himself fishing and hunting. My father and his father before him were commercial fishermen for several years of their lives. He included me in hiking, fishing, hunting and everything in between. I was not the best of children for him. I was anything but a good kid as I was always in trouble. He always stood by me and supported me, even when I didn’t deserve the support and words cannot speak enough of how much I thank him for being there and sharing his love of the outdoors with me. He truly was the one who stood by my Mother and loved our family indiscriminately and fully.
There were many paths I could have taken in my life and I have not made smart decisions every time as to which to take. But the caring devotion of these two men led me to love the outdoors and nature in an intimate way that few are fortunate enough to experience. There are few words I could find to even begin to thank these men for what they have done. Spending that amount of time and that much effort into raising a boy to love the outdoors is one of the most selfless acts I have seen in my life. Nature is a feeling, not a place. Nature is a feeling of comfort taken to a physical form, a form in which we may visit whenever we wish. I thank these men for taking showing me the way.