I was being ruthless. Determined that my first born son was not going to grow up a sissy. I had allowed him to go rabbit hunting with me and my friend, and I sure didn’t want him to reflect softness in front of my friend George. After all, I reasoned, he is almost five, and needed to experience the rigors of outdoor life as quickly as possible and on his own feet–not being carried by daddy.
I needed a son to go with me when hunting or fishing, and this one was my older son, nominated that day to help me carry rabbits. The problem was that following the hounds, crossing fences, and tearing through briar patches and thickets was more than he could do at the speed I was requiring. I kept leaving him behind, and then allowing him to catch up while he complained that I was going too fast.
I eventually noticed him sniveling a little, until he finally said, “Daddy, I’m just a little fellow, and I can’t go that fast.” At that moment I realized what I had been doing to my very young son. As his words soaked in, the depth of my callousness struck me as being enormous, and a keen sense of remorse swept over me as I put down my shotgun and swept him up in my arms to reassure him that everything was alright; that we would go more slowly.
From that day forward, Steve was my constant disciple on outdoor ventures involving fur, fin or feather. And he became good at it as he grew older. Better than I. In his high school years he began trapping furs for spending money and eventually defrayed some of his college expenses in so doing, his primary target being muskrat, followed up by raccoon, fox, beaver, and an occasional mink. And one skunk, which made a beautiful black & white pelt. He arose and ran his trap line before dawn, then skinned and stretched the pelts before school each morning.
Number two son, Marty, had a different orientation. He also loves the out-of-doors and is more attuned to fishing as a preferred recreation. Perhaps he didn’t have the opportunities to receive the indoctrination that his older brother had. But he managed living in the Teton Mountain range in a remote cabin to and from which he had to ski because the depth of the snow made driving impossible. He became the only member of our tribe to bag an elk. The point here is that he was not exactly an indoor pussycat either.
Ironically, now that I have entered my eighth decade of life and Steve is about to enter his sixth one while Marty is following by about four years, I find it discomforting as I walk with either of them and have to say, “Son, don’t walk so fast!” I try not to start sniveling and try to just “man up” to the pace, but it is about to get beyond me. I reflect on five year old Steve’s words to me, “Daddy, don’t walk so fast!”