As a kid I visited my dad once a year and we always went out fishing off the Southern California coast or would take long road trips up the east side of the Sierra to Lone Pine or Bishop. In his house, he had stuffed trophy tuna and marlin hanging from his walls from his years spent fishing off shore. But, he also had half a dozen pheasant and duck frozen in mid-flight poses, wings arced and full of air slowing for their final approach, which he had hunted with both his father and grandfather.
This past November I drove up for a visit with my dad who, at the time, was fighting a rare form of sarcoma. On that visit he brought up from the basement my great-grandfather’s 20 gauge shotgun and handed it to me. It was a moment unlike any other, in part because I knew why I was receiving a family heirloom. It was an honor to receive such a gift and yet, it was tinged with complete sadness.
Since I grew up primarily with my mom’s family, hunting was never a past time we partook in and I’d never even pulled the trigger of a shotgun when he passed the relic on to me. As sick as my dad was that weekend, he summoned the strength to drive out a forest service road with me and fire off a few shells together. Though I knew I would never have the chance to hunt with him, I didn’t want the heirloom to lack at least some connection between us.
Now, when Fall comes around, I reach for the old 20 gauge, dust it off, and I take it for a walk. I have yet to hit a bird, but, that’s really beside the point. This past Saturday, my good friend Dean and I went up into the Pioneer mountains in search of grouse. We didn’t come across any, but, again, that’s beside the point! We enjoyed an amazing day hiking up to snowline, ambling through White Bark Pines, and I enjoyed thinking about my dad with the double barrel in my hand. This is an image from Saturday.