Gary L. Benton
© Copyright 2004 by Gary L. Benton
Sometimes it is great fun to just to head off for a weekend, and do nothing but camping and fishing. You know, just leave it all and head out to a nearby river, stream or lake. You can enjoy the fresh smell of the air, listen to the birds chirp, or just relax beneath an old tree. I find my time outdoors very relax ing, but I learned how to relax. Most importantly, I learned how to fit in.
I think my first real outdoor experiences were shared with my Grandfather, while I was still very young. I can remember getting up way before the chicken crowed and putting all of our gear in the back of the old pick-up truck. Then, as Grandpa drove to our secret camping spot by the stream, I would sleep. I would usually sleep until he would gently pat me on the shoulder to wake me after we had arrived.
Grandpa and I did things a bit backwards too. We did not eat breakfast at home before we left. Instead, once we were at the campsite, he and I would mix our pancake batter, put the bacon on the fire, and I got to break open the eggs we would scramble. I can still almost feel the cool air, spell the wood smoke, and hear my Grandfather's laughter as I joked with him those many years ago. He was a special man, who took the time and had the patience to teach me about nature. See, my grandfather was an old timer who believed in conservation way before the word was popular. I talked to him once about it and it went something like this,
"Son, what do you think of all of this? I mean the beauty and the stillness you can hear? Loud isn't it?" The old man asked as he raised his steaming cup of hot coffee to his lips for a quick sip.
"Do you mean the woods grandpa?" I asked not sure where the old man was headed in this conversation. Most of his discussions with me had some sort of teaching in them. So, I knew I had to pay attention, because there would at some point that day be a verbal test.
"Sure do son. I mean look at all of these things you see around us. It surely is something to behold isn't it?"
"I guess so. I think I love the sounds of the birds, the clear sky, and the animals we see sometimes." Just as I said that a large buck walked into a nearby field. I started to stand and point the animal out, but my grandfather had already seen it.
"Now, if you keep still he may come this way. No noise now, and don't move." I heard my grandfather say in a voice that was just a little above a whisper. I sat there like a statue.
We must have watched that deer feed in the field for almost twenty minutes. Finally the deer's tail twitched, came up, and he bounded out of sight in just a few bounces. I can remember staring at the now empty field for a long time after the animal had gone.
"Gary, that was nice wasn't it?" My grandfather finally broke the period of long silence with his question.
"He was so..so..I am not sure how to explain it! He was like a king or something!" I was young and my mind was unable to explain what my heart felt.
"I think the word you are looking for is majestic son. And, you are right in a way. A deer is almost like a king and all of nature is his kingdom. He is a very noble animal."
"But, you hunt grandpa. Why?"
"I know this won't make much sense to you, but I only hunt what I will eat. Each year hundreds of those beautiful animals die from diseases, hunger, injuries, or from being struck by automobiles. Hunting helps keep the deer herd population down to a safe level for the individuals deer. Think of it as keeping the numbers down so the others can survive easier."
"But, grandpa, won't we eventually kill all of the deer?" I can remember being very concerned at that point about the future of our deer.
Grandpa took a sip of his coffee, put the cup down on the log he was sitting on and said, "Many people voice concern over the deer population and its current numbers, but there are more deer in the United State now than when Columbus discovered America. See, the animals now have fields of corn, barley and such to feed on. The food source has increased while the predator impact has decreased."
"But, won't all of this end some day? How can we live and grow with wild animals around us?"
Grandpa gave a light laugh, looked me in the eyes and said, "Son, one day I won't be here. It will be your place, then your children's place to take care of our country. Our wild animals and our beauty can survive, but all of us, especially those in all the future generations have to do their part in taking care of it. Nature is like anything else, if you don't take care of it, why, it just won't last."
Well, even now, many years later I am able to remember the conversations we shared over the years we camped together. Most of these talks would take place in the early morning, or late evening. I didn't realize it then, but I was being taught. I now consider myself to be a very lucky man, I had an excellent teacher as a child. We shared our thoughts on animals, where to camp, how to treat snakebite, the best fishing holes, when was the best time to coon hunt, and countless other subjects. Believe it or not, I remember most of them.
See, my grandfather has been dead now for 32 years,
but yet, he still lives in my heart and mind. He continues to live
because by having our trips together he actually became a part of me.
He was a man to respect, a man of his word, and a man who took the
time to explain simple things to a young child. He was a man who made
me the outdoorsman I am today. Take the time from your busy schedule
to take a child camping, fishing or just an afternoon hike. Instill
the wonder of nature in a young mind The memories you form will live
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