I’m writing this in honor of all the diehard hunting and fishing 6 year olds out there.
My Dad laughs when he tells the story of my last day of kindergarten. Mom usually picked me up from school, but the family was prepping for a fishing trip northward to Wisconsin so Dad stepped in for her. I recall sitting in the gymnasium with all the other kids who were waiting to leave and seeing Dad talking with my teacher, Mrs. Kaufman. He nodded and smiled politely while she spoke, though I couldn’t hear what they were saying. My kindergarten mind perceived it to be a primarily one sided conversation, more of a talking to than a talking with.
My 3lb. smallmouth trophy from the Chippewa Flowage. – Summer vacation 1985
Some years later, on one of our regular rides down to the Illinois River to fish for walleye and sauger, Dad let me in on that conversation from years past. We were swapping mostly-true fishing stories when his tone shifted a little, like he was about to admit something, then said,
“You know, your kindergarten teacher told me she thought you needed more interests. When I picked you up on your last day of school, she pulled me aside and said that while you were very bright, she was afraid that you were too focused on fishing because it was all you ever talked about.”
He paused to crack a smile and finished with, “I told her not to worry because you also love hunting. She still didn’t seem to approve.”
From the Morris, IL Daily Herald circa 1986. Proof that I was still as focused as ever on fishing…and unnecessary exclamation points! Also, makies=muskies.
Grateful doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about Dad’s polite disregard for my teacher’s unsolicited perspective, but it makes me wonder how many kids’ hearts have been extinguished because their natural passions were snuffed out by an adult who “knew better”. Almost thirty years later, I’m still doing what I’ve always loved and if you ask me (and no one else) *I’m an extremely well-adjusted and sophisticated individual. I can’t begin to measure the amount of joy, satisfaction, experience and knowledge I’ve been blessed with from living my life in the outdoors. I couldn’t imagine things being any other way.
I guess the assumption my teacher held was that a person can’t be balanced if they have only one or two all-consuming interests. That assumption is wrong because it views an interest as only having one dimension. For those of us who hunt…successfully, we become students of meteorology, animal anatomy, biology, firearms, forest ecology, archery, butchering…to name just a few of the required disciplines. Hunting is not simply one monolithic experience. It’s a multidisciplinary pursuit. The same goes for fishing.
Let me do a little advocating for any modern day little Timmy’s. If you have young ones in your life, recognize that their passions are a force of nature. You can guide and nurture them, but you cannot shut them down without doing considerable damage in some other part of their being. It’s like trying to contain a river with levees and dams. For some time things may seem to flow smoothly, but in the absence of natural outlets, they crest those artificial boundaries and can leave deep scars.
27 years after that Wisconsin smallmouth, Dad & me with some Missouri crappies. – Spring 2012
Kids need to know the spectrum of possibilities in this big world. It’s our job as adults to give them as much exposure as we can. But once they find something to sink their hearts into, we must follow them in head first. My little Sofia may not end up being America’s next Whitetail killin’ cutie, but you can bet she’ll have the opportunity to decide that for herself. Maybe her dreams will wrap themselves around dancing or geology or tax law. Whatever aspirations, I’ll do what I can to fan the flames she’s been blessed with.
*This is the opinion of the author and may not be held by others.