Life lessons come in many forms, but the ones found outdoors are the ones that stick
I was raised by my grandparents in a small town called Medford. My mother was 17 when I was born, and with an uncle three years my senior, I became one of the kids. My papaw, or “Pap”, was my best friend. An Oak Ridge fireman, Pap hitchhiked to work everyday, and I remember visiting him with my mom as he fixed us lunch and let me play on the fire trucks. Pap always made time for me.
I sometimes suspect I was Pap’s excuse to go fishing or squirrel hunting. I helped him dig worms in the chicken coop that we took along with our reels and rods to a place called “the old log” along the river. We always caught an abundance of trout, the occasional carp (which we always threw back), and some redhorse. Back at home, Pap always expertly filleted the trout, after which Mamaw fried it up and served it alongside biscuits and gravy.
As I graduated high school and headed to college, I didn’t see Pap as often. I visited my parents when I came back, but generally didn’t make time to go fishing or visit him and Mamaw often. I got too busy with my own life. But as I‘ve grown older, I’ve realized that Pap shared his love of the outdoors with me, and the life lessons he taught me along the way—patience, integrity, perseverance—have remained.
Now, as an avid hunter, I know that Pap protects me on so many of my adventures, and I know he is beaming with pride at my new position as Chairman of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, an organization dedicated to preserving the outdoor experience for generations to come. I am truly the person I am today because of my Pap and the hours spent outside along the river.