I grew up with free run of most of the 87 mostly wooded acres owned by my family in rural Star, Mississippi. You would think that I would have grown up with a great love and appreciation for the outdoors. While this is very much true, my outdoor love usually took place in a very non-wooded lot with long white lines forming a 90-degree angle and nine players on each side.
I jokingly blame my lack of interest in hunting and fishing on my dad. My memories of hunting were walking with Dad “over to the back side.” We didn’t stay still long enough for the squirrels to stir, so my memories of hunting with my dad could be adequately titled, “Hikes with Guns.” My uncle lived next door and was more of a hunter. He took me once or twice, but all I got out of that experience was the fodder for the chapter in Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales) entitled “Up (to My Waist in) the Creek.”
Fishing was a similar matter. I did catch a few little bream from Tommy Ross’s pond, which was a short hike through our woods. However, I wanted bigger fish, and Dad took me fishing at Sy Corley’s pond to try to catch some bass. This sometimes called for boat fishing, and the guys on the TV shows caught fish after fish from the boat. Surely, I would, as well. As it turned out each time we went, the fish weren’t biting but the overhanging limbs were. I caught some of them several times.
Learning to Appreciate God’s Great Outdoors
I began to have a little success fishing with my friends Trey and Steven in Cleary Lake in Florence, though Trey once caught the cap off the top of my head and launched it into the water, unbeknownst to him. It did not prove to be an effective lure.
When I was in college, my friend Jeff and I often drove to my Uncle Hob’s place out from Collins to fish in his pond. That’s where I caught my biggest fish to date, a ten-pound catfish. Never mind that I caught it on a piece of catfish food….
I didn’t spend much time in the more natural parts of God’s great outdoors for the next decade or so after college. My return came through what I felt was a crucial parenting moment. I have taught my boys for many years that baseball is a great game but a very poor god. When Older Brother was nine years old, I told him to pick something besides baseball in which to develop an interest so that the sport didn’t become all-encompassing in his life. I pledged my help and companionship in whatever quest he chose. He took some time to mull over his direction and came back to me several days later.
“Dad, I think I’d like to learn how to fish.”
And learn he did. Now, as a high school baseball player, Older Brother often comes home from a long day at school and slips away to the fishing hole for a while to decompress. And guess who else we have drawn into our secondary recreational activity? Yep, my dad. The photo below is one that I post on my blog or social media from time to time. It’s my favorite photo ever.
Why? Well, that’s the point of this whole post. That photo speaks to so many things besides the nice haul of fish we had on that day several years ago. Stories of that day knit together three generations of men in the Ainsworth family. That’s one of the aspects of God’s great outdoors that I’ve appreciated almost as much as the beauty of nature itself, the stories that time spent together outdoors produces.
I never developed that love for hunting that is so prevalent among men in the South. Though I seldom have much to share myself, I love to sit in a group of hunters as they swap stories. When those hunters are father and son, grandfather and grandson, or all three generations together–well, that’s just something special.
God’s Great Outdoor Expo
I have an opportunity to help sponsor Longview Heights Baptist Church’s God’s Great Outdoor Expo tomorrow. I have enjoyed a behind-the-scenes experience with this event. I have seen the idea of the expo explode into a must-attend event with something for everyone of every age group who ever ventures outdoors.
With plenty of demonstrations, scores of vendors, and about a kagillion door prizes, there’s still one thing that will outnumber every other part of the event: the stories that will be swapped at God’s Great Outdoor Expo.
I’ll be spending as much time of the expo as I possibly can around my baseball color commentary duties on Saturday. I’ll also be speaking briefly as a sponsor at the wild game dinner and set up in the main atrium for the purpose of helping people pass along their values through these stories that they tell…and re-tell. That’s values storying and nobody does it better than outdoorsmen (and outdoorswomen).
If you live in the Mid-South area and you love God’s great outdoors, you won’t want to miss this! I hope to see you there![bluebox]In my first-of-the-year post about this year’s goals, I wrote about a book that I am writing with some of the best coaching practices I have seen through the years as a player, as a coach myself, as a fan, and as a dad of two sons who play baseball. I am nearing the end of the manuscript and look forward (sort of) to the editing and re-writing phase. This is a book that has the potential to transform how parents, players, and coaches interact with one another.
Click here for more Coach Dave updates as this project comes together.[/bluebox]