When they were really young, 4 or 5 years old, I would drag them away from the townhouse and into a neighboring field. They would play in the field and watch me shoot my bow. Once they were totally bored, we would go on an elephant hunt. Slowly the three of us would stalk the tall grass looking for the massive beast. They listened and followed as I narrated the tale of the stalk. The massive bull elephant stood majestic as we slowly approached.
The wind was right and we carefully picked are steps, not making a sound. Soon we stood so close that we could smell the stench of the wild beast. The elephants began to sense are presence, so we carefully backed away from the elephants and returned home for snacks before bedtime.
Over the years I have penned a few stories for this paper describing some of the adventures shared between me and my girls. They have been my favorite columns. I'm not sure how the girls felt about me sharing them with the rest of the county, but a dad treasures telling stories of his children.
You know those early spring days where you can feel that winter is finally gone as the sun shines with warmth and the warm air fills the breeze? It was one of those days. I had come inside the house from whatever it was I was doing and my two daughters where playing inside the house.
I proclaimed in my fatherly voice, "It is too nice to be inside; you two need to go outside and play."
I returned to the house an hour later from running errands and found those two in the front yard sitting on a blanket playing a board game. Well, at least they were outside.
For many years, our family vacations were to the beach. We would take our annual trek to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. There is a photograph sitting on my dresser of my girls barely out of diapers surf fishing Oregon Inlet. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Instead of building sandcastles and playing in the surf, dad took them "4-wheel'n" across the beach and fishing. We played with yucky bait, dropped fishing reels in the sand, and caught croaking fish. I remember it like it was yesterday. I still think of the time, the youngest sat on my lap driving my truck across the beach sands and the oldest was jealous because, "she got to drive before I did."
A few years later the oldest was climbing rocky trails in my old jeep like a pro before she even had her driver's license.
Another time at the Outer Banks, I dragged my oldest out of bed before sun up to go fishing. Looking back now, I'm pretty sure that's not exactly what a pre-teen wanted to do while on vacation. We ended up getting lost looking for the boat ramp, almost sinking the boat because of a forgotten plug, and limping back to the boat ramp using the electric motor when then outboard quit working. Even with all the mishaps that morning, it felt like bonding time to dad. To her, I figure she just wishes she could have stayed in bed that morning.
Recently the city of Westminster completed rebuilding the town pond. With mixed emotions, I watched as the pond was "improved."
I cannot begin to count the hours we spent at the pond fishing, playing and hiking. Both of my daughters caught their first fish at the Westminster pond. The best bait was bread. We would stop at Highs and get a loaf of bread before visiting the pond. Using very small hooks and bobbers, we would bait up with dough balls and cast out into the pond. The small catfish or bluegills would jump on the bait in a matter of seconds. After catching a few fish, we put down the rods and went to play on the playground for a while.
Years later I would watch as my oldest killed her first deer and my youngest learn how to live line for rockfish from two of my own fishing heroes, Captain Roy and Bill Burton. I hope they treasure those times as much as I do. For today, looking back, I wonder if it was done more for me than for them. We didn't play dress up, we went outside to play.
Yes, I am an outdoorsman. I feel the most alive when I'm standing waist deep in a river on a hot summer day or slowly stalking through the hardwoods with a rifle in hand. As they grew, I shared myself with my girls, sharing what I know and love. Maybe I did not treat them like the little girls they were, but as they have grown into young adults, I hope they learned the lessons I tried to teach.
Be true to yourself, find God in all he has made, and go outside to play, even if it is in the front yard on a blanket playing a board game.