My great grandfather Andrew Faulkner was 97 years old when he passed away in the home that he had built with his own two hands. As he struggled for his last few breaths of life, he tightly gripped my grandfather’s arm and said with a weak and fading voice, “Can you hear that Chester? Shh, listen close! I believe I can hear old Tip barking. I think he has treed another coon over on the next ridge. Hurry up, let’s go to him.” Those were the last words of my great grandfather and he had spent the remaining hours of his life talking passionately about past hunting trips he had experienced with my grandfather.
It was not long after my great grandfather’s passing that my grandfather Chester Faulkner, fell and broke his hip hanging flowers for my grandmother. Ironically, he was a paratrooper in World War II and had jumped in numerous missions in the South Pacific without ever breaking a single bone. He had also climbed about every tree in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky while coon hunting and deer hunting without any major injuries. Breaking a hip can be a serious ordeal and according to the doctors such an injury could really slow down a 78-year old man.
The doctors apparently did not know my grandfather very well. Before we knew it, the hardheaded old man had laid the walker down and was walking on his own. He said that he was not about to be laid up during deer season! Unfortunately, a few weeks later my grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer followed by congestive heart failure. The doctors had to use the paddles to bring him back to life. At this point, no one was giving my grandfather much of a chance of surviving.
My father and I sat beside my grandfather in the hospital for days hoping he would somehow pull through. One night, my grandfather -- who had been unconscious for some time -- rolled over and asked my father if he could hear that turkey gobbling toward the top of the mountain. After all he had been through, hunting was so deeply entrenched in his subconscious that last spring’s turkey season was still the first thing on his mind when he awoke. It took my grandfather a little while to realize that he was in a hospital bed and not in the mountains chasing longbeards.
In my family, hunting has always been much more than a mere pastime or weekend hobby. For more than five generations hunting has served as a legacy and a family tradition that has kept our family extremely close. My great grandfather was a poor Kentucky coal miner and farmer who shared his love for the outdoors with his family and passed the tradition of hunting down to my grandfather. Since then, hunting has been an avenue that has allowed my family to gain a deep respect for nature and the splendor of God’s creations.
We live in a world today where many ask or wonder where have all the heroes gone. I have been very fortunate in my life, because I have never had to ask this question or search for a hero. My heroes are my father Jim and grandfather Chester Faulkner, who I have spent countless hours with hunting in the beautiful mountains of southeastern Kentucky. Hunting has always served as a classroom where I have learned many valuable lessons in life. My father and grandfather have been both my teachers and a true source of inspiration.
Without question, my father, grandfather, and hunting have had a positive influence on me throughout the course of my life. As a young teenager, it was this special relationship that hunting forged between my father, grandfather, and myself that allowed me to avoid the pitfalls of peer pressure. I have always been able to fall back on my family and hunting when life would occasionally take a turn for the worse. Hunting trips with my family served as a release that would enable me to temporarily forget all about life’s problems and dilemmas.
Hunting also has a unique way of building an individual’s character. The virtues of honesty, integrity, hard work, strong family values, and self-sacrifice are all lessons that can be learned from living an outdoor lifestyle. Sharing a love for the outdoors can keep families close and strong. My experiences in the outdoors with my family are directly responsible for shaping and molding the person I am today.
Some of my best memories in life are of the times I’ve spent hunting with my father and grandfather. As a young boy, I loved sitting around the table just listening to my grandfather, great uncles and father sharing past hunting stories. I will never forget our squirrel hunting trips and the way the mountains looked in fall with the gold and crimson colors of the leaves. I can still recall the overwhelming feeling that came from squeezing the trigger on my first buck during that cold November morning and how I could not wait to tell my family about the hunt. Hunting has touched me deep within my heart and has always kept my family strong and united.
Passing on the hunting tradition has now come full circle and my own son is following the footsteps into the woods that my great grandfather left behind many years ago. I was fortunate enough to be with my 9-year old son this past year when he shot his first buck. It was during this special moment that I was finally able to really appreciate and fully understand why my grandfather and father took time out of their busy schedules to take me hunting. My father would work extremely hard all week long and would still jump out of bed early on Saturday morning to take me hunting along with my grandfather. These hunting trips allowed the three of us to spend invaluable time together and formed a strong bond that has kept our family close throughout life.
I can still recall the overwhelming feeling that came from squeezing the trigger on my first buck during that cold November morning and how I could not wait to tell my family about the hunt.
My grandfather’s love and passion for the outdoors has had a profound impact on my life. And even after he’s gone from this world, the experiences and memories we have shared together in the woods will never be forgotten. His hunting legacy will live on through my family.
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