With a title like that I am sure you thought this would be some woman writing about her love life. Well no, not a woman but a forty-eight year old father and grandfather thinking about the men in his hunting and fishing life.
As I sat on my patio listening to the rain fall on the Saturday evening before Father’s day I reflected on the men who had shown me the “hows” and “whys” of the out of doors. Having just got off the phone talking to one of my three still living uncles who was in the hospital from two heart attacks in two weeks. I started to think how the group of men in my life was growing smaller with each year.
First and foremost was my dad, who took my brother, Walter and I hunting and fishing. From those Saturday mornings at the croaker hole with a pound of dead shrimp, to the annual Thanksgiving trip to my Mom’s home place near Sebring, FL, “the grove” (we later had an orange grove) where we got to hunt with my uncles and cousins. In later times, we hunted in some North Florida wildlife management areas. I would take my first deer in the Nassau WMA in 1967. Between dad and I we fired six loads of buckshot and four rounds from dad’s .38 short. After all that shooting and a lot of running and hollering an eight-pointer with many holes would be ours.
Like most kids growing up in the sixties Dad was the main one when it came to baiting a hook or sighting in a 22 on a squirrel. But my uncles were a part of those wonderful times spent in the outdoors. Dad has been gone for over ten years now and my uncles were the ones that I looked at with the eyes of a boy needing a father figure.
Behind Uncle Ralph’s boat my brother and I learned to water ski and got to fish sometimes. He was married to my dad’s sister and they had places at the lake and a creek and were always going camping. So that gave us many chances to be around the water. He passed away three months before Dad in 1991.
It was on Uncle Pete’s land that my brother and I would get to hunt together after 15 years in 1995. With his two sons, Pete Jr. and Will we spent many enjoyable times at Thanksgiving. First with a BB gun plinking at birds in the orange groves and later hunting turkey and quail. Uncle Pete died in 1996.
Uncle Howard liked to travel up to the big city of Jacksonville so we got to be with him a lot. On one of the many times I hunted with him I got 3 quail with one shot right in front of his bird dog. He reminded me that you should let the birds fly before you shoot. He gave my brother his 30.06, which Walter used to take a 4-point in Uncle Pete’s pasture one month before Uncle Howard would pass away in 1998.
My Uncle CP is an old cowboy and a fantastic hunter. He knows everything and can do it when it comes to hunting. At his house we had fresh deer meat one August. His story was, while working cows the dogs had jumped up a small buck that took off faster than any buck he had ever seen. As the buck ran away it looked back and ran smack into a big tree knocking it out cold. He ran up pulled the dogs off and cut the deer’s throat. As a child, I would believe that story. Then as a young man, I figured he just took it out of season. Years later when I brought it up he would tell me that indeed the buck had ran into the tree. I hunted deer many times with him. But not until 1995 on his pasture standing in the back of his truck would I get a deer. Thankfully he is still with us, though he doesn’t hunt much any more. I still call him and find time to visit and get in a little hunting on his pasture.
Uncle Alvin was in the Army and for a time he was in charge of the rifle and pistol teams at Fort Benning. We got piles of Army .22 ammo and the green metal boxes that it came in. I still use some of them today to hold shells and stuff in the off-season. He lives in Atlanta now. He doesn’t travel much any more. His son AJ and I would get to hunt together at the grove for doe weekend in 2000.
Uncle John was married to my mother’s sister Florine. They lived in Maryland and had a place in the mountains. As a young couple with a small child my wife and I visited them many times. Uncle John showed me a grouse and ground hogs (things you don’t see in Florida) while taking me up on the mountain in a light snow one October. We found warm beds that deer had just left. He had hunting stories of tracking deer in the snow and fishing in mountain streams. John and Florine would retire to Florida (the grove) where he fished a lot and grew a big garden. We got to hunt a little but he eventually lost interest in killing things. Aunt Florine passed away in 1995. Uncle John is the one in the hospital at the start of this story. I have always felt that I could hug him just like my dad if he was still here.
You will hear people say that a boy needs a man in his life, a father figure to guide him, to teach him, to help him grow into a man. Well an old man needs an older man in his life too. Hold dear the memories of the times, the people and the places that you have hunted and fished. If the people are still around be sure and thank them. Remember the years are passing swiftly.
Tom Laubach lives in Jacksonville with his wife Carol. They have two children and two grandsons. He is an accountant and runs Hunters Hotline. You can contact him e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or 904-765-7063 home.