A steady stream of tears soaked the lower half of the steering wheel and dripped onto the rubber floor mat below — sounding like raindrops hitting a canvas tent flap.
A day before, one of the world’s greatest outdoorsmen died at Evangelical Hospital in Lewisburg. Twenty-four hours later, I was taking his 8-year-old granddaughter to school.
"I miss grandpa," she said from the back seat. "I always wanted to go hunting with him and now I’ll never get the chance."
She was out of the car and safely into school before my eyes welled up. I could handle the call the previous morning that my dad had died. I even made it through a small viewing at the funeral home later that day without a major emotional breakdown.
But this was different. Her comment was so innocent — so sincere. All she wanted was a chance to go hunting with one of the world’s greatest outdoorsmen.
And I totally knew where she was coming from. It was the same way I felt about dad when I was her age and we were planning my first squirrel hunt. I couldn’t wait to take the modified .410 shotgun he gave me into the woods. One pull of the trigger later, and I was officially a hunter. Dad’s smile beamed as I picked up my first squirrel and he was grinning again the day we visited taxidermist for my trophy.
I couldn’t wait for each trout fishing adventure, each time we hopped in a boat or even simply the times I tagged along when he was working one of his hunting dogs on a quail or pheasant.
Isn’t it weird, though, how those feelings change as you age? As a teenager I remember more arguments than adventures. I remember thinking how silly it was to spend days on end standing by the same tree waiting for deer that never came. Dad always preached patience, but that was increasingly harder and harder to practice. To me during that time, he was just another guy who liked to hunt — not the great outdoorsman I remembered from my youth.