Each one of us has one or perhaps several of these people in our lives. I’m talking about the folks who influenced you in discovering and enjoying the outdoors. Perhaps it was a father who made sure you got to tag along in the boat while fishing. Or maybe it was an uncle who allowed you to traipse with him while squirrel hunting in the woods. No matter what the circumstances or who the individual may have been, undoubtedly if you enjoy the outdoors you can thank at least one person for helping develop this life-long interest.
I have such an individual in my life. When I was a mere 10 years old one Saturday morning (32 years ago this past Thursday) the preacher came knocking on my door only to inform our family that my father had died on the way to work. As you can imagine this sort of news has a way of turning your life upside down. Yet, through the caring and strength of both family and friends eventually your boat stabilizes, and life turns back to some semblance of normalcy.
Today I want to honor and recognize one of the most influential people who has ever touched my life. Gary Urness, who technically is my first cousin, once-removed, gave of his time unselfishly to make certain a young boy had all the experiences that his father was not able to provide for him. Gary took me hunting, he took me fishing, he showed me how to shoot a gun, and how to build a deer stand…he showed me how to enjoy life. His guidance set me on a course that very easily could have taken a very unsavory path…but people who care about your development won’t let that happen.
Earlier last month during deer season I was walking through the woods when I came to the tree where I had my very first deer stand. Gary’s deer stand was a short distance away. I sat down by that tree for several hours and contemplated the many good times I’ve experienced in my outdoor life and I did it in one of the very places it all began. I remember when both Gary and I first started deer hunting it was a learning experience for both of us, but I believe our bond grew stronger because of this shared interest and thirst for knowledge. In time, our experience and motivation to spend time together with our mutual outdoor interest allowed both of us to greater enjoy activities that, had it not been for the other person, we would not otherwise have singularly experienced in life.
Indeed, that is one of the true pleasures in life. When you are given the gift of spending time with another individual to experience a shared interest there are few greater pleasures that life can afford to the both you.
Gary often likes to remind me that the year I was born was the year he graduated from high school. That proved to be important in our friendship because what it meant to me, especially during the first years, was mobility. Not only was Gary a mature and positive influence in my young life, but often times he was the means by which I was able to travel to the lake fishing, to the gun show, to the trapping supply dealer, to the sporting goods store, to name but a few. I recognize now and appreciate the fact that when I asked Gary if we could go to one of the aforementioned events or places, his regular plans for how he might have spent the day usually took a backseat to whatever suggestion I was asking of him.
During this holiday season I hope you take some time to reflect on the many good experiences that you have had in the outdoors and be sure to thank those individuals who have made positive influences on your life. We all have such individuals; we just don’t always take the time to give them their due.
**SPECIAL NOTE TO GARY**
Gary, I just want to thank you for giving so generously in your life. The memories you’ve helped me create will be fondly embraced for the rest of my life. I know these past two years have not been easy for you as face health struggles, but I do certainly hope that some of our adventures spent together will continue to put a smile on your face, much like they do for me.
As you well know life is a precious gift we should not take for granted…and I would say that the two of us didn’t squander the opportunities that were given to us. Thanks for helping a confused, little boy turn into a man who has been blessed with a passion for the outdoors. You, more than any other person in my life, are responsible for developing this interest.
© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.