In honor of the start of hunting season in Texas this week, here’s a story about a little girl and her first shotgun.
My grandfather was an avid outdoorsman who believed in raising his daughter to hunt and fish just as he did his son. She grew up to be a sweet and confidant Southern lady who knew her way around both firearms and fishing poles.
Granddad passed away when I was only in elementary school, but in the brief time I spent with him, he had already taught me the fun of fishing off the pier and watching the skies for birds. A few months after he passed away, my Mom handed me a beat-up long leather case that contained my Granddad’s prized shotgun. “Bessie” was a beautiful Winchester Model 12 pump, well-used but in incredible condition.
My granddad could have left that gun to one of his friends. Or to his son-in-law. Or my brother. But he didn’t. He willed that gun to me, his 8-year-old granddaughter in pigtails.
It was a few years down the road that I had my first opportunity to hunt with Bessie. I can still remember the feeling of sitting by the lake on a sweltering September afternoon, holding that gun in my hands and breathlessly waiting for a glimpse of dove flying overhead.
I can remember the thrill of my first duck hunt that winter, watching the bird hit the water and my big brother wade out to retrieve it. I can still remember how my mother served up the duck on a fancy platter for dinner. It was one of the proudest moments of my young life, knowing that I had provided the food for our meal. What an incredible feeling that was! To this day, I’ve never forgotten the love and laughter shared around the table that night, nor the pride in the eyes of my family.
Over the more than 30 years since his death, I’ve contemplated all that his gift really meant. My Granddad was not just passing down a gun, he was passing down a message. He wasn’t thinking about who I was at that moment, he was thinking about who I would become. He believed in me. And this is why he believed in the importance of taking girls hunting.
The lesson of self-reliance is so hugely important to instill in today’s girls. Growing up in a pop culture that highly values the ephemeral notions of beauty and celebrity and in a political culture who continually labels them as victims, where do they learn true self-worth and a sense of accomplishment?
Today, there’s a pretty weak picture of “feminism” painted by the Left. The brand of feminism I embrace is that taught by my foremothers — tough Texas ladies who didn’t have the time or the inclination to sit around and complain about what they lacked and whose fault it was. Pioneer women who forged a homestead in a land that demanded self-reliance for the very survival of their families.
It is these lessons that I want so much to pass down to my girls … the most important of which is self-reliance. Don’t wait for someone to bring you flowers; plant a garden. Self-reliance. Don’t depend on AAA to come to your rescue; learn how to change your own tires. Self-reliance. Learn how to put food on your table — both by knowing how to work and knowing how to hunt. Self-reliance.
Granddad’s vote of confidence in my ability has been something I’ve reflected on many times, as a source of courage and confidence in my life. I’ve never forgotten his faith in me, nor have I forgotten the incredible lessons I’ve learned in my own time out-of-doors. Because my granddaddy gave me that first gun, because my mama took me hunting, because my big brother taught me that camo was its own kind of cool … I grew up knowing that I could do anything.
Bait a hook? No problem. Clean a bird? No big deal. Stand up to a bully? Without blinking. Fight for my principles? Absolutely. Raise my girls to be fearless? Without a doubt.
Each hunting season brings an incredible opportunity to take our kids afield. Teach them how to handle a gun safely. Show them you believe in them and their abilities. Instill in them the unique brand of self-reliance that is fostered by time spent outdoors.
In the words of my granddad, “When you raise a child hunting and loving the out-of-doors, you can almost guarantee that they will grow up with the right values and stay out of trouble.”
This hunting season, may your opportunities be plenty, your aim be true, and the time spent afield with friends and family be blessed.