My fondest childhood memory is of us squirrel hunting together. Up, up the mountain we went to get to good woods, and finally, out of breath with my heart racing wildly and my little leg muscles pumped and burning, you would pull me close and put your hand over my heart. It was always a warm cozy feeling filled with anticipation as we looked over the woods, the hickory and maples bright even before the sun rose, clothed in their full, fall glory. I’ll never forget that first squirrel hunt when you shot a gray squirrel cutting walnuts.
Hunting in Pocahontas county and Bath county Virginia were grand adventures for me. I shot my first squirrel in Monterey, Virginia with your 12 ga. leaned against a tree because I was too little to hold it up. I scared off the turkey you called up and had three does wake me up from a nap with a snort so close it ruffled my hair and nearly scared me to death.
Whenever I smell cigar smoke, I think of our trips with James Pelfrey on the Greenbriar. The early morning mist rose off the river as we cast our Heddon tiny torpedoes to the weeds along the river’s edge. James would inevitable be looking the other way when he got a strike. You taught me how to catch hellgrammites by feeling along the bottom of tight rocks in the shoals. Soft shell crawdads were our can’t miss bait. At the time, I didn’t know nothing fights harder than a smallmouth. I didn’t realize how blessed I was.
At home on weekends, we would awake to the smell of bacon and coffee brewing. I would lie in bed listening to the bacon sizzle waiting for you or Mom to call for us. Sunday mornings were best because then we would have biscuits and gravy. And you would try to drag us kids off to church, which I almost always tried to get out of.
I know I disappointed you and Mom during my college years. I spent more time hunting and fishing than I did in class. You worked long, hard hours to keep me in school. It was your example of hard work and dedication that’s got me as far along as I am today.
You are the most influential man in my life. The big things, the most meaningful things—God, family, work, love for the outdoors—are the things you have left imprinted on my spirit.
I miss those days when we stood in the big woods with your hand pressed over my heart, so that you would know when I was rested enough to move on—I didn’t know the full purpose at the time. I only hope that my own boys have such pleasing and meaningful childhood memories.
Thank you, Dad.