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It’s Time

Dad's Gun and a fine squirrel

This hunt was a little over thirteen years in the making. To the casual observer, it would seem pretty uneventful and nonchalant. But for me, it was a difficult day that took over a decade to achieve.

It started on September 17, 2000, the day my father died. While he wasn’t what you would call a hunter, he did own a shotgun and used it occasionally at the dove fields near our home. A Remington Sportsman 12 gauge with two matching barrels, and while he seldom used it, it was still his and it became mine on that day. With little fanfare I brought it home, made a simple rack for it and hung it above a closet door in my office where it has stayed ever since. Its annual cleaning notwithstanding, it has never loaded a shell, fired a shot, or see the out of doors since I brought it home.

There were many occasions when I thought about it. Many opportunities to take it down and carry it afield but it just never felt right. I resolved that when the time was right to take it afield I would know, and then I would honor him and the moment appropriately.

The day arrived shortly after Christmas. My youngest son received his first shotgun for Christmas. A hunt was planned to take his first gun on a squirrel hunt, I knew instantly that this was the occasion I had been waiting for. While it was a pretty uneventful day, as hunting goes, the emotions of the day ran as deep as a river carving through an ancient canyon, I knew it was time.

In the predawn light we walked, cradling our guns like a new father holds his first child. A rush of memories flooded my brain as we plodded to our destination. My mind hastily sprinted back to the sights, sounds and smells of our last dove hunt together. I could smell the tobacco that penetrated the faded dukbax vest. Its stretched shell loops and baggy pockets held his briar safely, smoldering with its last puff.  Visions of the old Remington sounding off in the dove field as the doves piled up. Seldom needing fifteen shots to reach his limit of twelve, he was indeed a fine wingshot. Something I most certainly didn’t inherit with the gun.

On this day, we gathered against an ancient oak, sitting side by side as the day awakened. I found it hard to concentrate on the moment at hand, instead finding myself flooded with emotion, missing deeply my dad while embracing the moment with my son. How I wish dad could have lived to see my son. This gun and a few stories are the only things my son has of his grandfather. It was fitting that we were here together, on this day, at this moment. While I am not sure Ridge understood the emotion I was feeling, he welcomed the opportunity to try to connect with his grandfather. Even once offering me the chance to shoot a squirrel first before him so I could feel my dad’s gun recoil once more. After all, this was the gun I used to kill my first squirrel, my first turkey, and many other animals. Smiling I thanked him and told Ridge this was his day, and his grandfather and I were more than happy to yield our opportunities to him. Nothing would thrill me or him more, than for Ridge to get his first squirrel with his new gun on this day.

As the day lingered the squirrels didn’t cooperate well at all. We hunted hard for several hours covering a lot of ground in search of some willing participants. Finally, just before noon, we topped a ridge and saw four bushytails scampering around below us. Unaware of our presence, we made our stalk. As fate has its way of working things out, each of us got a squirrel at this encounter.

Indeed the moment was right. We paused hugged one another took a few pictures and cherished the moment. To be sure, the timing was right, and dad’s gun etched into the timeline of our family a moment that will last for another generation. I am confident it won’t be long before I once again get down the ole Remington and escort it once again into the fields and forest. And cherish the opportunity to carry my dad along as we continue the legacy.