Hey there. You don't know me yet, but I hope you will. I only heard about you a few months ago. There is much excitement and anticipation as the family prepares to meet you. In truth, I am not sure what to make of it yet. I look forward to meeting you and all, but I just don't know what to make of it.
You see, you haven't been born yet, and I am your grandfather.
I have been thinking about you a lot lately. I can be up on a high ridge, and I will pause and look over the valley far below. Then I wonder what is down there, and what about that next ridge on the other side? (Don't tell anyone, but your granddad has spent a lot of time stumbling around in the woods under the guise of hunting, when he was probably just going to see what was over the next hill.) I think about what it would be like if you were there with me, hunting. Oh yes, I meant to tell you that Granddad is a hunter.
I hope that hunter thing is OK with you. By the time you are old enough to read this and understand, who knows what the climate will be for hunting. We live in a crazy mixed-up world right now, and it seems to me many things have changed very quickly. When your granddad grew up, hunting and shooting firearms for pleasure were perfectly normal and accepted pastimes. Now we as hunters are often questioned about the validity of our hunting heritage and culture, something that you will learn is very important to me.
Because it is important to me, I want to introduce you to the world of hunting, fishing, guns and the outdoors. All I can do is give you a glimpse of all this while I am here and hope the bug will bite you, as it did me. Firearms and the outdoors have been an important part of my life, and I hope it will be for you as well.
Probably at the risk of jumping the gun, I sometimes allow myself a daydream about taking you hunting and fishing, or maybe going to the shooting range. I can see Daisy BB guns, kid-sized .22 rifles and maybe some pink rubber boots in the future. I don't know — you may prefer camo, and that would be fine, too!
Now here is another aspect of all this that maybe you wouldn't think about, but it dawned on me. As I write this to you, I am 67 years old. I know that is going to seem ancient to you, but here is the thing. For you to be old enough to go with me to the squirrel or the turkey woods, or maybe a trout stream, how old will you be? Perhaps 5, maybe 6 years old?
I plan on being around for a long time, little girl, but one of the things you will learn is there are no guarantees for tomorrow. I may be here when you get big enough to go with me and your dad on an adventure and be around long enough for you to remember me; I sure hope so. If I'm not, the family can tell you about me if you are interested, and there are lots of my stories around that you can read. Some of them may even be true.
There is so much I would love to teach you! I want to show you how to use open sights on a rifle before you move on to a scope. How to swing a shotgun, trap a muskrat, call a turkey and skin a squirrel. Some will laugh at all this, but these are things I just feel you should know.
I would really like to be there and see the look on your face when you hear your first turkey gobble, catch your first bluegill and bag your first squirrel. I would love to show you geese honking on a blood red sunrise, a pack of beagles bouncing a cottontail past you and the peace of floating down the middle of a lazy river. These and a thousand other things are all part of the outdoors, a world I hope you will embrace.
So maybe we can leave it there for now. When you are old enough, we can read this together and laugh and make big plans. If not, your mom and dad, your aunt and your grandmother can tell you what ol' Granddad would have told you and taught you.
OK, little girl, until then ...
"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.