Jun 15, 2012, 1:01 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
Hunting coats laden with carefully counted and sorted shells hung across the bannister in the back hall. Meticulously cleaned and oiled shotguns were cased and waiting in the corner behind the door. In the kennels, three enthusiastic springer spaniels whined to get going. But in the kitchen there was a pouting teenager. He was sitting backwards on a kitchen chair with his chin resting on the top of its vinyl upholstered back. His tear-dampened stare was fixed out the big, bay window. The rain wasn’t letting up.
The lad was trying to look between the falling sheets of water, hoping to see the slightest opening that might mean the storm would pass. But to the west loomed nothing but mile after mile of unbroken grey skies and falling rain.
The noon opener of the Wisconsin pheasant season was less than five minutes away, and I couldn’t believe I was sitting here … at home. My God! This was pheasant season after all … and the opening day, to boot.
In the living room, calmly stretched out in his La-Z-Boy was my dad. He was calmly reading the paper. At that moment, he seemed like the most stubborn man in the world to me. Getting “a little wet” wouldn’t melt the guns, the dogs or us – would it?
But what my youthful fanaticism failed to notice was that his special Irish Setter hunting boots were already laced up and tightly tied around this ankles. He already had the dog whistle lanyard around his neck. Though he had to put on the facade of adult wisdom that said, “no bird hunter in his right mind would go out in weather like this,” inside he wanted to have his nose pressed against the kitchen window, too. He was as disappointed in the weather as I was.
As I grew up, Dad passed along to me his restrained yet obsessive love of birds, dogs and shotguns. It’s what started me on the path to where I am today. The very first steps were at age five when I thought I’d really convinced him I could keep up with the big guys on a pheasant hunt. Of course, he knew I couldn’t, but didn’t hold it against me. In fact, when I was tuckered out he swung me up on his shoulders to ride there the rest of the day even though it made it impossible for him to shoot.
Dad’s been gone more than 15 years now. I miss him every day. My thoughts of him are evenly split between hopes he’s looking down from the happy hunting ground proud of what I’ve done and simple thanks for the life’s road on which he started me.
Thanks, Dad. I love you.
Never pass up the opportunity to go hunting with your dad! A debilitating stroke kept my father from going afield the last 10 years of his life. You can’t imagine what I’d give to just go hunting with my dad, one more time.
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