It was the day before Thanksgiving which meant there was no school. At the ripe age of 14, Josh was looking forward to spending his holiday vacation hanging out playing new video games he purchased with money earned raking leaves. Then the phone rang. It was his grandparents calling from their rural farm in northern Kosciusko County. They wanted to make sure Josh and his mother were coming to spend the holiday weekend.
Unfortunately the young boy lost his father who had died six months earlier after fighting a battle against pancreatic cancer. His mother had picked up another part time job and he knew this would be the first time she had been off work in a while.
“To be honest, the last thing I wanted to do was go to my grandparents’ house for a long weekend,” he explained. “I love them very much but I knew there was nothing to do way out in the boonies and for me it would be boring.” But he also knew how much it meant to his mother so he quietly acquiesced.
After what seemed like forever, the mother and son arrived at the family farm. It was a beautiful fall day and both elderly people were sitting on the porch when they arrived. An old beagle hound lay curled up on the wooden porch barely moving. Both grandparents rose in unison when Josh and his mother pulled up. The dog never moved.
The grandmother immediately rushed over, greeting her daughter and grandson with a hug and kiss on the cheek. The old man just stood there stoically accepting a kiss from his daughter and passing hug from his grandson. He then sat back down and began looking Josh over carefully, from head to toe, then nodded and sighed. “Looks like we need to fatten this city kid up a bit,” was all he said. “This is sure going to be a fun weekend,” Josh silently thought to himself sarcastically, as he followed his mother into the house.
The next day while enjoying the traditional holiday meal of roasted turkey, it was Josh’s turn to study his grandfather. It looked like the old man hadn’t shaved in a few days, his face covered with gray stubble. He also noticed how his skin was leathery. Although the man was thin, the veins and muscles stood out on his arms from a lifetime of hard work.
While the women gathered the dishes Josh and his grandfather retreated to the living room. While the old man turned on the TV Josh sat staring out the window, boredom tightening its grip.
“You think there is nothing to do and probably didn’t even want to come here, did you?” he asked. “I didn’t mind coming,” replied Josh, hiding his true feelings in an effort not to hurt his grandfather’s feelings.
About an hour had passed when the man quietly rose from his chair and left the room. A few minutes later he came back holding clothes in one hand and an old Remington 20-guage shotgun in the other. “Put these clothes on and come with me,” he said, reaching out to hand the boy some coveralls and an orange hat.
Josh was amazed as they walked out on the porch. The old hound that seemed frozen in time immediately perked up and began jumping up and down like a puppy, running circles around them. “He always does that when he knows we are going hunting,” said the old man, smiling for the first time.
The pair walked through the barnyard and into a large abandoned pasture filled with brush. “Now I know this isn’t video games but who knows, you just might have some fun,” he remarked.
The beagle hound took off with nose to the ground. Only a few minutes passed when the pair heard the dog barking, growing into long howls. It was the first time Josh had heard the dog bark. “He’s running a rabbit,” said his grandfather, with another broad smile.
“I was amazed when grandpa handed me the shotgun and explained where the rabbit was going to come,” Josh recalled. “Make darn sure the dog is in the clear before you shoot,” the old man said sternly. The words were no sooner spoken when a rabbit rocketed from the brush with the dog 20 feet behind it. The boy flipped the safety off took aim and fired. He had taken his first wild game. “My heart was beating like a drum,” he recalled. “It was a feeling I’ve never had.”
The elderly man picked up the cottontail and stuffed it in the back of his coat. “That was a good shot for a city boy,” he said, patting Josh on his back. For the first time he actually felt a relationship begin to develop between him and his grandfather.
After several more hours the pair collected two more rabbits. Returning home he was shown how to properly dress them. They were then given to his grandmother who finished the cleaning process before putting them in the refrigerator. The next day the rabbits were fried and eaten for supper. “It was a meal I will never forget,” said Josh, recalling that special weekend.
That was four years ago and since getting his driver’s license he now makes weekly visits to his grandparents farm during the hunting seasons. “Although he can’t hunt with me any longer, he wants to hear every detail when I get in,” he added.
It took several years for it to soak in but Josh realized that original trip was a healing process for his mother and a learning experience for him. “My grandfather taught me a lot about the outdoors in a few short falls,” he added. “But most of all he taught me I didn’t need video games or TV to entertain me when we have outdoor opportunities to enjoy.” More importantly he explained how hunting created a special bond with his grandparents, even when he thought there wasn’t one.
“I owe them a lot,” he said thankfully.