I knew it was going to happen. Years ago I watched it happen a time or two with other men. I just didn’t think much about it happening to me.
For over 15 years, my son and his college buddies have had a weekend quail hunt. I got invited to their first hunt because the boys needed a place to stay and I could afford to buy better food.
They were struggling back then. One of them borrowed my shotgun. I told them stories about the great hunts of the past.
They kept inviting me.
Maybe I had more stories they liked to hear. Maybe I retold my stories, being a bit more bold, adding a few more exaggerations with each passing year. For sure a bond grew.
Maybe it was because I was the Dad who made time to be there for them.
They’re all in their 40’s now.
No longer are they fledging kids holding onto that first job right out of college. They have found their niches. They are all professionals.
They still ask a few questions, make a confession or two. Late at night, sitting around the camp fire, the bourbon really starts talking. They gripe about the realities of a life they didn’t see coming fifteen years ago.
Back when all of this started, they borrowed their Dad’s shotguns or bought a cheap gun from a pawnshop.
Now, they’re sporting Brownings and Berettas shotguns with nickel inlays.
They hunt in LLBean Boots, Orvis Jackets, Filson shirts and hats. They broke out the top shelf bourbon and toasted the memories and successes in their lives.
But, something else happened. This year, they brought their own children. Little boys dressed in blue jeans, flannel shirts, and rubber boots. They carried Red Ryder BB guns and battery-powered laser pistols that light up every time the trigger is pulled.
My son brought his daughter. She jumped right in the midst and held her own against the boys, even though her boots were pink.
I’m proud of her.
Saturday, after the fathers hunted, the Dads regrouped and went back into the woods, taking their own children.
Josh, our guide got out a couple of bird dogs, his puppies in training. He needed them to go teach the younger hunters in training. Across the grassy fields, the puppies stalked the birds, the boys and one girl edged forward, looking, listening, waiting for the birds to flush and fly.
The fathers were on their knees, teaching the offspring to wait, aim and fire their trusty Red Ryders.
At the end of the day, a few birds were cleaned and cooked on an open grill. The kids sat down at a table by themselves and ate from the bounty of their harvest. They were young princes and a princess of their fathers.
I sat in my chair, enjoying my whiskey, reflecting of the days when I took my sons out to hunt. I am grateful for the memories we created together. We have stories that will never grow old, even as we all age with each passing year.
I sat there and watched the passing of the torch, from my hand to my son’s hand. Life goes on.
PS. No one shot out their eye.
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