One of the passions of Craig’s life has to do with hunting. He’d be the first to tell you that there are many upsides to 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. One of the upsides he counts is the availability of a place to hunt either on the base or in the vicinity of every place he and Becky have ever lived. He’s not just a trophy hunter. He hunts because he likes the taste of wild game and he gets a shot of adrenaline each time he brings home the bacon (I mean venison).
When Jenna was four and William was three, they got their first taste of bear hunting. Craig was stationed at the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Northern California at the time. All I can say is, “Thank God for guardian angels”. Who in their right mind takes two small children with them hunting anything, much less bear hunting?
Like I said, one of Craig’s passions is hunting. Trust me, he and his Marine Corps buddy who was hunting with him weren’t out in freezing weather and snow covered terrain simply because Becky told Craig it was his turn to take care of the kids. That’s not to say he wouldn’t have made the same choice had that been the case. He was out there because he wanted to be out there.
Does it relate to brain chemistry, learned behavior, temporary insanity or a combination of all three? It has to be closely akin to the “call of the wild”. A hunter has to hunt. Reportedly, the kids were never at risk. Both were being carried in backpack like devices made to carry small children and the kids were wearing coats, caps and scarfs to protect them from the elements.
We went to visit Craig and his family in Northern California shortly after Craig’s lucky shot or pinpoint accuracy as a skilled marksman. Never say I’m not a good sport. I sat down to a culinary experience like no other I’ve ever experienced. I tasted bear for the first time. Actually, it was the only time. You’re not going to believe this, but bear tastes “just like chicken”. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I made that up because I thought it was funny. What I most remember about the bear filet mignon that Craig prepared on the outdoor grill is that he wrapped it in bacon and added jalapenos. It actually was pretty tasty. I guess that’s a “no brainer”. Wrap anything with bacon and throw in jalapenos and you’ve got a meal.
The General’s dad was a hunter and he took Craig hunting many times. He would have taken me many times, but I’m not a hunter and I don’t like hanging out in cold weather unless I’m on a ski slope. Besides that I like my “New York Strip” medium rare.” That’s not to say I haven’t tasted venison. Actually, I’ve had it fried with mashed potatoes and gravy and it could pass for a chicken fried steak.
We were living in Mertzon at the time and hunting is second nature to a lot of people in that part of West Texas. We were friends with a couple at church that was at least ten- years older than us. They had three sons and they were about as country and country comes. They were all hunters. At any rate, they invited us to dinner one evening and I was amazed at how good the meal tasted. It was the first time I ever tasted venison.
Yesterday Craig was feeding a passion that is even greater than his passion to hunt. It was the passion to orchestrate a hunting experience for his children that would build memories for a lifetime. Yesterday morning, I was at my computer crafting my blog when Craig walked in my office and said, “We’ve got to go. I’m taking William hunting.” They were off and out the door on their way to Johnson City about the same time I left for work.
Craig said before he left, “I hope William gets a deer. If he does, I’ll take Jake hunting this afternoon.” I reminded Craig that it was Jake’s birthday. I’m sure I learned it from the General, but I attempted gentle redirection: “You can’t take Jake hunting because he’s requested a special meal for his birthday and he’s having a Star Wars birthday cake.” Craig replied, “You’re right. It is his birthday and that’s exactly why we’re going hunting. Jake wants to shoot a deer more than anything else for his birthday”.
If it is the “call of the wild”, all of Craig’s kids have it. All of them love the experience of going hunting. Can you think of anything more boring than setting in a deer blind and waiting on the outside chance that a deer drops by to say “Hello”. Jake would say I’ve watched too many episodes of “Tea With Mussolini”. Actually, I don’t remember ever watching that movie, but apparently Craig has told the story that I subjected the family to its viewing. Periodically, Jake will jokingly asked if I’ve watched “Tea With Mussolini” recently. The kid is a character.
About 8:00 a.m. yesterday morning, I got a text message from Craig. Without further details he wrote: “Call the taxidermist!” Instantly the General chimed in with: “Yippee!!!” I had no idea that she was ever out of bed that time of morning. I guess you could say that group texting is a way to learn a lot. I decided to respond by providing the name and telephone number of the taxidermist in Johnson City. Craig hasn’t asked, but I’m sure he’s wondering how I knew that?
Did I mention there are a number of reasons I don’t hunt? One of the reasons is that once you shoot a deer, you’ve then got other issues with which you have to deal. It was an extended period of time later that Craig reportedly made it back home.
William was on top of the world. Not only did he shoot a deer, he shot a big deer. The rack had a spread of eighteen inches and included 12 horns. What do you do but have that professionally mounted? By the time it’s all said and done, you could have a freezer full of “New York Strip” steaks packaged in white paper from the grocery store and a very large handful of money left over. Of course, you’d have forfeited memories of a lifetime for both an eleven year old and his dad.
True to Craig’s word, he took Jake hunting for his birthday yesterday afternoon. Bingo – Jake got an eight point. “Thrilled” doesn’t even begin to express it. Another memory logged into a treasure chest that will forever be chiseled in stone for both the son and his dad.
I’m not a hunter, but my son and his children are. It makes me proud that Craig invests the energy and resources to craft those kinds of experiences for his children. It is a passion worth pursuing. Any investment you make in the life of a child is meaningful because your investing in their future treasure chest of shared memories.
I mentioned that Craig is not a trophy hunter. Actually he’d say anything he kills and takes to the table is a trophy. When Craig and Becky lived in North Carolina, William would point to the bear hanging on the wall and tell his friends: “This is the bear my dad helped me kill.” Soon there will be a very large mounted deer head hanging on the wall. That, too, is fully attributed to the marksmanship of young William. The way I see it, Craig wouldn’t have a trophy mount of any kind were it not for his oldest son. He, too, is a hunter and a hunter has to hunt.
All My Best!