Hey, buddy, you don't know me yet, but I hope you will someday.
You see, you were just born the other day, and I am your grandfather. Not long ago, I wrote a letter similar to this to your cousin Sophia; she is a couple years older than you, and I hope you two get to know each other and will not just be relatives but friends.
Little buddy, you will find when you get older that family and good friends will be your greatest possessions, and when you get to the end of the trail, that is all you really have.
The past couple of weeks, we have mostly been waiting for you to make your entrance. They gave your mom a due date, but you didn't pay much attention to that. We talked about it a lot, bugged your mom with a lot of phone calls, and talked about it some more.
Mostly, we just waited. You may find there is a lot of waiting in life.
Like your cousin, I have been waiting for you for what seems like a long time, buddy. Now I am waiting for you to grow big enough to go with me on some adventures.
Soon you will learn that Granddad is known as an outdoors guy: hunting and fishing, shooting firearms, floating down rivers, raising hunting dogs and just spending time in some wild places. It is kind of what I have always done. It really has been, for better or worse, what I have done for most of my life. So without getting too dramatic about it, this lifestyle is me. It is who I am. I don't know how to be (and I don't want to be) anything else.
I am telling you all this so you can get some kind of a handle on who your old granddad is. If I am around when you get old enough to understand such things, you will see it for yourself. If not, talk to your Grandma Helen, your Uncle Jesse and your mom — they can tell you all sorts of stories about Granddad. They can tell you what they saw, what they remember, what they heard from others, including some of my old hunting and fishing buddies. Some of these stories may actually be true!
Much like I told your cousin Sophia, I figure you need to be about 6 to 8 years old to get up big enough for you and me to take off together and do the things we need to do. And since you may not know it yet, the list of what we need to do is really long. If I could first get you in the mindset of just enjoying being in the woods, on a river or just in wild places essentially, I will have accomplished a lot.
I would be fibbing if I said I don't care whether you will like hunting or not. Again, hunting has been a big part of my life and who I am. So it is only natural that I would want you to learn about it and decide you like it as well and want to do it for the rest of your life.
The things we outdoorsmen love — hunting and fishing especially — we want to share with our kids and grandkids. We not only want to share the things that are important to us, we hope you will continue these things after we are gone.
This hunting thing has gotten a lot of attention the past several years, buddy, and not all of the talk and publicity about it has been good. By the time you are big enough to join your dad and me in the woods, who knows where society will be on this? I know you are smart; you can weigh all the sides when the time comes and make your own decisions.
Like I said before, I hope I am still around when you get big enough to share a sunrise and hear turkeys gobble in the mountains, to teach you the art of slipping up on squirrels in the fall woods with a .22 rifle or following a couple of cur dogs and letting them tree the squirrels for us. We can spend a day tracking a buck in just enough snow to tell where he is going, or do the same on a bobcat, a fox, a bear or any of the other critters on God's earth we decide to track.
We need enough time for me to teach you about tracking, reading sign in the woods, how to swing a shotgun and aim a rifle with open sights. How to let a bait drift through the riffles for trout or a smallmouth bass, when to call to a turkey and when not to, how to set a trap for a mink on a muddy creek bank, and which snakes are OK to pick up and which ones are not.
You probably have the idea by now that there is a whole world, the world of the outdoors and all that goes with it, that I want to tell you about and teach you about. I want to be able to do all this more than anything else I can think of before I leave this world, ol' buddy. Then you can pass it all on to your sons and daughters and grandchildren.
But for now I am waiting.
"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at email@example.com.