Remembering and honoring a Pennsylvania hunter father
The father of my two closest friends and hunting companions died this past week.
Bill, or Willie as I chose to call him, had fought a long and grueling battle against the cancer that had invaded his body, only to lose at the end.
Out of respect for his entire family I owe an attempt to venerate the man, but knowing full well I cannot, in a few words, adequately portray his accomplishments of a lifetime.
I first met Bill through the athletics both his sons and I were involved in. Yet it was because I had bonded with his two oldest sons in the world of hunting, that I came to know the man totally.
These two sons, like me, have an unlimited passion for the outdoors. They hunt just about everything with an open season, hunt primarily with primitive guns and bows, and spend uncountable hours afield.
Bill on the other hand, was like most hunters – he truly enjoyed hunting, but never really spent a lot of time doing it because of obligations and other interests.
Although he was a good 10 years my senior, Bill was nurtured on hunting much the same as I, with abundant small game and plenty of room to hunt. When small game seasons opened, the first day would find him hunting with relatives on his father-in-law’s orchard, which boasted many wild pheasants and cottontails.
Perhaps two more following Saturdays would be on his schedule, but that would fill his season for small game. Deer hunting was early season buck hunting, sometimes an additional Saturday, and then “doe” season.
But like so many hunting fathers, as his sons grew, his hunting always gave him a chance to spend significant time with the boys, time beyond everyday life.
With his sons grown – he had three – it was hunting once again that enabled him to spend some additional time with them. It was these times that I also got to hunt with Bill, in the pursuit of rabbits hunted with beagles.
Often too, his home was the meeting place of we “younger guys” when we gathered before and after muzzleloader hunts, in which he did not participate, but always shared in the stories of the hunt, and the occasional skinning of a deer, which was usually performed there. They were good times, which now supply nice memories.
And so I am able to pay respect to this man through the lens of hunting. And I am able to say that he was a good man, who worked hard all his life supporting his family, which also included a daughter. I know, too, that he was a man who enjoyed his days afield, and through sharing that delight with his sons, he set in motion their own dedication to the natural world.
He left behind children he could be proud of, and there is no higher praise of this man I need offer, for that is praise unsurpassed.