As Father’s Day approaches, I have to say it’s been a real privilege and a great experience to be both a dad and a grampy. And every Father’s Day I think of my own dad and how blessed I was by him.

I dedicate this column to dads and grampies, both those who are with us and those who are in our memories.

I was so young my head barely pushed above the tall field grass as Dad and our English setter leaped from the car. Carefully loading my shotgun, I looked with anticipation at the lakeside field Dad had chosen for this pheasant hunt. Jipsy, our setter, was straining at the leash; she knew her job and was anxious to get started. I was even more anxious — it was my first year hunting.

I had done lots of clay pigeon shooting at Dad’s sportsman’s club and was prepared for this day. We proceeded into the field, the dog working the edges. Jipsy quickly picked up the scent of a pheasant and proceeded out to the middle of the field.

Head bobbing above the field grass, shotgun at the ready, I stalked carefully beside Dad. And suddenly, it happened. Forever after, even today at the age of 70, I still vividly remember every bit of the next 60 seconds.

The pheasant flushed out in front of us. I let off the safety and took careful aim, wondering why Dad had not shot yet. Finally, I shot, and the pheasant dropped to the ground, Jipsy pounding up the hill to retrieve the bird. My first pheasant. I have never forgotten it. And dad, for the rest of his life, displayed in his den a photo of that small young boy proudly holding his first pheasant. Thanks Dad!

Spring fishing would officially get underway when Dad announced at the supper table that the family would go perch fishing that evening. White perch were everywhere and voracious.

Dad really didn’t get a chance to fish because I was hauling the fish in so quickly, but he never seemed to mind. When we got home Dad cleaned the fish while I “helped.” It would be a long time before my help was really helpful. These are my first fishing memories. Thanks Dad!

As a kid I really enjoyed trapping with dad. In the early morning before school we would head to Monmouth where my trap line wound along Wagan stream. I caught lots of muskrats, which dad would skin, “assisted” by me. I actually made quite a lot of money selling those muskrat skins.

I also enjoyed duck hunting because it was a lot of action. One cold foggy morning we paddled up a stream and set out our decoys. We hid behind a small stand of bushes and I cautiously peeked out of one side, and Dad the other. Some big black ducks flew in just as the sun rose behind us.

“Here they come,” whispered Dad.  “Get ready.”

Off came my safety. Swinging the gun around, I was perspiring in the morning cold. “Now,” whispered dad, as the ducks settled in amongst our decoys. I stood and aimed but waited for Dad to shoot. “Fire son,” Dad said in a louder voice as the ducks took off.

So I fired and a duck went down. Then Dad fired and another duck hit the water. That was my first duck and one I have never forgotten. Thanks Dad!

Dad and I hunted together for 53 years, a great privilege. Some of our greatest adventures, towards the end of our shared hunting experiences, were spent turkey hunting with our friend Harry Vanderweide. One time we were sitting in the dark with our turkey decoys in front of us, when a coyote jumped out of the bushes right on top of one of our decoys.

One day towards the end of his life, when Dad was in the hospice unit at Togus, we were sitting outside on the deck when a dozen turkeys came up along the lawn. Dad was ready to send me home for his shotgun when I had to explain that having a gun on the Togus campus was a felony.

I did take Dad fishing on the campus stream a bunch of times. I would drive him over to the stream, which ran through the Togus campus, and wheel him up to the stream in his wheelchair, and he would fish. The first day was 85 degrees and I told dad it was way too hot for the fish to be biting, but he could do some casting. And of course, on his first cast he caught a huge brook trout.

Thanks Dad!

 

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


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