By Cameron J. Kirby
My Dad has never been a man of many words, yet two of his favorite sayings have always stuck with me: “Life sucks and then you die” and “Work smarter, not harder.” I suspect that was mostly his hernia talking. As in many father-and-son relationships, communication was never paramount. To this day I’m lucky to receive a “Yup” or an “OK” response via text. However, I realized long ago that Dad and I bond through action and problem-solving. I’m sure it dates back to the early hunters hatching a plan to kill a beast ten times their size. Equipped with only a mildly larger brain than their prey, and pointy sticks, connecting through dialogue was likely very low on their priorities list.
Growing up, there were a handful of things Dad and I discovered that were mutually interesting; fishing being at the top of that list. Fishing allowed me to be outdoors and scratch the itch that only wild places can satiate. Fishing allowed Dad to drink on a boat. After one such day, I found myself alone, sitting on my tacklebox and re-rigging my line. I heard a shout from across the lake; Dad’s buddy, Don had caught something big. Around that time Dad came running up excitedly from the east side of the lake.
Earlier in the afternoon, he had identified a clump of Sundew, or Drosera Rotundifolia, blooming. Ever the botanist, Dad was about as thrilled as I had ever seen him. This carnivorous plant is fairly widespread throughout North America; knowing this, he decided to explore the area and locate more. Upon his return, he enthusiastically told me that he’d also found an aquatic carnivorous plant called Utricularia. You’d think he had struck gold. Then Don returned with one of the largest lake trout I had ever seen. I split the difference between hunting and gathering, coming away with a sunburn for my efforts.
We returned to our motorhome, and Don left. As the sun set, Dad and I stared at each other awkwardly. “What’s for dinner?” I asked. Other than beef jerky, cashews, potato chips, and a large cooler full of beer, there was no food for our weekend camping trip.
Dad cracked a Natural Ice and said, “So what’s the plan?”.
“Taco Bell?” I asked.
He fired up the V8 in the old C class and we merged onto the highway, losing elevation as we listened to Elvis on the tape deck.
Taco Bell was close to home, so we brought my mom a burrito. She could have been more enthusiastic about us being there, claiming we missed out on some quality father-and-son time. I suspect it cut into her plans for watching romantic comedies and drinking wine in peace. Unlike Mom, I did not feel I’d missed a thing. A night of strained conversation due to proximity wasn’t how we’d draw closer. It didn’t matter anyway, we’d already accomplished that while fishing.
In today’s world, we have all the information available, all the time. It’s easy to pull up tutorials on YouTube or research forums for just about any project. Instead of that, call your dad. Ask him about his favorite fishing hole, or how to adjust the carburetor on that vintage poor-life decision parked in your garage. As a father with two boys of my own, I hope to get the occasional call from them asking how to perform some arcane task. I’ll know it’s not just a request for information, it’ll be them reaching out. I realize I’m preparing my boys for a world that doesn’t exist with experience built from one that’s already passed. I hope that will be enough.
But if it’s not, they can always give me a call.
About the Author
Cameron J. Kirby is a native of the Pacific Northwest who enjoys exploring the wild places with his family. As an avid outdoorsman and naturalist, he enjoys hunting, fishing, a good book, and an even better whiskey.