One of my earliest memories involving ducks can be traced back to me being about four. I distinctly recall feathers – the iridescent blues and greens of a mallard drake, specifically – and the adults, gathered in the other room, recounting the day’s adventure while I curiously explored every feather of every bird. Not many years later I would start to accompany my Dad in these pursuits, as an observer, and in time, a participant.
I have held for many years that this time spent afield was far and away the single greatest gift my Dad ever gave to me. It was our “thing”, and the foundation for what has become my greatest and most enduring passion short of my family.
As years passed, due to whatever broad spectrum of reasons might apply, Dad spent less and less, leading eventually to no time outdoors. I, however, carried the torch brightly, hunting and fishing my way through college and beyond, conquering whatever field or stream crossed my path. I spent these years missing that “time” with my Dad, and wishing he was still a part of that. And so, when blessed with critters of my own, I started dragging them along as soon as I could get away with it. It was important to me to at least expose them to those same things that I hold dear, just as my Dad had done for me.
I was pleasantly surprised when, just prior to the season this past fall, my Dad called. He might like to get out and shoot a few ducks this season. Keeping my excitement in check, I gave him the line I’ve used for years. “Just say ‘when’, that door is always open.”
Just a few weeks later, about mid-November, he called. And as opportunity would have it, my son would be joining us. What happened that morning was really not much about hunting. Ducks, hunting, all of that, was very secondary. You see, I left out the part of the story where I don’t see as much of my Dad as I’d like to. And the part about how I want my kids to know him better than they do. I long for them to know that man who brought me out to the marsh as a tag-along, knee high kid in my old army-issue jacket with my uncle’s last name across the pocket, hanging to my knees. That man who introduced me to that which I cherish so dearly, the gift of a love for the outdoors. I miss that man, and have for many, many years.. A chance to connect generational dots, to create some historical perspective… where I came from and where I am going, in a duck blind. Knowing that the profound nature of my personal perspective would most certainly be totally lost on either of them, I simply sat back and enjoyed the show.
Watching a 60 yr old and a 14 yr old mess with each other like they were best buddies in junior high school gym class all morning was about as entertaining as it gets – and an outsider looking in sure wouldn’t have been able to guess that these two don’t spend much time together. The way they took to each other, you’d of thought they were best friends. The interaction between them reminded me, just a bit, of me and my grandpa a long, long time ago.
So I got him back for the day. We got to spend some time, the first time, threading together several generations of duck hunters. And the old man had not even lost his touch on the trigger.
Later on in the day, I could only smile as I thanked Nick for his tolerance, for putting up with the “kids” that morning, as it was not your normal, quiet, serious and attentive hunt… but this one, this morning, was not one I would trade or take back for a million others.