In the Fall of the year 40 years ago I was sitting on a log with my father when a big fox squirrel hopped up on the end of the log. I whacked him with my Mom’s model 37 Winchester. A few years later I was prowling the woods on my own with a real gun – a rifle – looking for squirrels.
Last Saturday Bat and I were hunting at our camp in Hampshire County, WV. The same property I have been hunting all my life. We were walking down an old haul road when Bat whispered, “Dad, wait a minute.”
I stopped and he began slipping into the woods, over the ridge. I watched as he crept along, rifle at port arms, eyes trained on the forest floor. I could not help but smile as I watched a boy, bathed in autumn splendor, becoming a man. Bat stopped and raised the rifle and only then did I see the fox squirrel on the side of the tree. The .22 Magnum cracked and the squirrel hit the ground. I knew Bat was smiling too.
Bat has taken squirrel, wild hogs and deer in the past but I have always been right at his side, guiding him. Not this time.
As we walked back to camp, past the spot where we spread my Mom’s ashes a few years back, it occurred to me that I’d had a hand in making a hunter. Actually, I didn’t do much making; hunting is a genetic part of us all. I only provided opportunity.
Of course my son is much more than just a hunter but here in all the color of fall, that’s the thing that rings true. A hunter made right here in America, in the hills of West Virginia where it is still expected to teach a kid to shoot and hunt and where they don’t have to be a certain age to learn to do it. Where – in the words of COL Cooper – a boy should know how “To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth.”
Someday, if he is living right, Bat will get to experience what I did last Saturday.