My outdoor journey started in the shadows of my great-grandma. Anna (Annie) Elizabeth Walker was an extraordinary woman that laid the foundation for my continual draw into the outdoors. For grandma Annie, the passion I have for hunting today was simply a way of life to provide for her family.
Grandma had three children, my grandpa being the youngest was born in 1929...the year that ushered in the Great Depression. The challenges they faced were (and still are) so foreign to me but were never far from the surface as I grew up hearing stories about the struggles faced and how they relied heavily on trapping, hunting, raising livestock, and growing produce. The struggle was so imprinted on my grandma, we found medicine bottles with rolled up cash hidden throughout her house for years after her passing...a mentality driven by a time in our history that I simply can't grasp today.
As a toddler growing up on the family farm, I'm told grandma started packing me along to check her trap line. As I got older, so did grandma and she eventually wasn't able to run trap lines for cottontails or explore the hardwoods for squirrels. At that time, the torch was passed and I was sent out frequently throughout the fall/winter to bag game, sometimes with specific targets per her request. As I brought back game, grandma would teach me how to skin, clean, pluck, and prepare everyrhing from dove to deer.
Each spring, I was "volun-told" to help put out the garden and harvest the fruits of it throughout the summer. Many hours were spent snapping green beans, shucking corn, and shelling peas under the shade tree swaying in the breeze on the bench swing. I would give up quite a bit to go back there for one warm summer day and try my best to download so much I feel got left behind. I only realized later just how special all those moments were growing up on the farm.
It's true that one often doesn't appreciate what you have until it's gone as that statement rings so true as I type this out, what I would give to go back for a day and run that trap line one last time with grandma. I suspect Grandma Annie's legacy is not unique to many that survived those difficult times in our country but I suspect not many in my generation can thank their great-grandma for opening the door to hunting, fishing, and trapping. I often remember grandma with her heavily worn knife and aged wooden handle when cleaning my own game, I bring those memories with me at the conclusion of each successful hunt.
My youngest daughter, Anna Elizabeth, has been stepping in my footprints in the pursuit of wild game. Little does she know, I'm stepping in the footprints left behind by the very one she shares a name. Thank you grandma, I hope you're proud and I'm able to pass along those things you entrusted with me so many years ago.
To all those that share a love for wild places and the game it holds...I encourage you to pursue your legacy in the outdoors by passing it down to the next generation. It will change your life, their life, and the lives of people you'll never meet. Whether it was a grandparent, parent, uncle, friend, or neighbor that introduced you to hunting, fishing, or trapping, we follow in their steps and it's now our turn. Until we cross paths in the field...and hopefully with someone you decide to bring along...keep following the hunter with the longest nose!
Image: Anna and Rex getting ready to hit their first field as a team to chase wild birds in Nebraska.