One would assume that after years of mental torture, I would not enjoy going through baby pictures. On the contrary, I love looking at my little self doing things that I no longer remember. But there is one picture that I love more than the rest. It is a smaller me next to a pond, fishing with an ancient-looking pole.
My Granddad, Nana's husband of 51 years, loved to fish. Years after his death, Nana's living room still has pictures of him catching big sea fish. There are old fish statues on the walls and in the basement, huge posters flank each side of the staircase, covered with kinds of fish. Ever the sportsman, Granddad loved Wyoming. I never knew, or even thought to ask, if he loved Cheyenne because of the fishing and hunting or because that is where he met Nana. I'd like to think that it was a combination of the two.
After I harvested my first deer on Thanksgiving, my mom was quick to fall back into her memories of the day. She told me that she remembered Granddad, her uncle and other men would go hunting in the morning while the women cooked. They would cook or hunt, depending on their respective sexes, until about 2:00. The men would get home and immediately troop into the basement. Soon, the smells of gun oil overtook the scent of turkey roasting in the oven. (Today, my mom loves the odor of gun oil.) The men thoroughly cleaned the firearms before ascending upstairs. Thanksgiving would then begin as the famished hunters tucked into a home-cooked meal. However, once my Granddad became a father to his two young daughters, he quit harvesting deer. He would go out and help with a push or be a spotter, but you would not see him pull the trigger. This was because "Bambi" came out in theaters. Granddad told my Nana that he had no idea how to tell his girls that he killed Bambi, so he stopped. Giving up something like that for his family shows why my Granddad was (and is) such a great man.
The co-owners divided the summer and winter months among the various families. Any days outside of hunting season were open for the clans to visit and spend some time with mother nature. My family would go up for a week each summer. My Granddad and Nana would drive up to visit us and supply our vittles for our stay. We spent time together, as a family- away from the bustle of normalcy. Granddad taught me how to fish at The Land. In some cosmic sense as well, he taught me to love the outdoors.
When the above picture was taken, I was little. Truth be told, I don't remember much of my Granddad. He went to the happy hunting ground when I was 10. But, this picture shows me where I came from. My Grandddad taught me how to fish that day but since then, the foundation that he built has flourished. I love the outdoors and have a reverence for nature. Although it took me years to figure out, hunting runs through my veins. Granddad wasn't there when I shot my first gun or took my hunter's safety course, but he instilled his passion for the outdoors within in me. Through my continued examples of safe, legal hunting, I have continued the tradition that my Granddad began when I was two years old.
A couple of months ago, I went to see Nana. Every time I visit, I always poke around upstairs to see what I can find, from old photographs to even older letters and newspaper clippings. DU had been talking to Nana but noticed my lengthy disappearance. They both came to the rescue and found me sitting in an upstairs closet, looking at pictures of Granddad. Nana started leafing through some of his old clothes, assuming that DU would want some of it. When she came across his old hunting vest, the orange still vibrant, she asked if I wanted it. I took the vest in my hands and turned it over. Inside of his tag holder I found his tags from the year he passed away. I told her I would be honored to hunt with Granddad looking over my shoulder.
I was wearing that vest when I shot the deer on Thanksgiving that we never found. I asked for Granddad's help while following the blood trail that came to a sudden halt. We never found the deer. But although he didn't help me that day, I'm assuming he's waiting until we can talk it over so he can tell me exactly how that deer got away.