Fishing pole in one hand, a cold can of Pepsi with a blue and orange koozie in the other, we’re sitting in a 17-foot Blazer flat-bottom boat on Lake Pomme de Terre. For my grandpa and I, the day couldn’t get any better. But to our surprise, it got better.
Pomme had endured weeks on end of relentless rains and flooding, so the water was 22 feet higher than normal. We thought of the absurd idea to drive his boat from one cove, over the land, to another cove. We fired up the 40 horsepower engine and drove straight through the foot and a half-deep water, emerging out of the brush in front of our family in the other boats. Both my grandpa and I were doubled over in laughter because no one could understand where we came from.
It’s the long drives, the sitting in the treestand, and the fishing on the boat days that become unending memories with Grandpa and me.
How is it possible for a 70-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy to be best friends? 54 years of age difference means different life experiences. He was only given a roof over his head and food on the table; my parents provide everything I need and more. He was in the Vietnam War when he was 22; I’ll be at some college party at that age. We lead different lifestyles, different experiences, different everything. Yet still, something brings us closer to each other than anyone else we know.
It all started when I was learning to walk. I was his shadow, learning how to survey Kraft cheese, shoot a .22 rifle and bait a hook without getting worm juice all over my fingers. I watched his every move, wanting to be exactly like him when I grew up. He’s taught me everything a person could know about hunting, fishing, cooking and being an all-around good person.
When my grandpa and I are together, we couldn’t care less for what’s going on around us. We drove in his truck to the bunkhouse in Osceola, the sound of him bursting out into the chorus of classic Willie Nelson. The smallest of things will spark endless laughter, which eventually turn into some kind of ridiculous joke, that no one but us can understand.
The night I shot my first deer, which happened to be a small doe, Grandpa snagged an old pair of antlers. Before we skinned it, he had me hold the antlers up behind the deer’s head to make it look like it was a huge buck. We sent the picture out to our family members and told them I had shot the big buck we’d been seeing. To this day, we look back at the picture and laugh, thinking we’re the funniest guys in the world.
The biggest thing that brings us so close together is we see ourselves in each other. Despite growing up in opposite environments, there’s a sense that we both live within each other. We share the same love for hunting, fishing and family. Every time we get the chance to sit in the deer stand for a few free hours, we jump at it and make the most of it. Whether it’s sitting around the small wooden table, eating homemade chicken chili, or sitting in the treestand, darting back and forth, asking “Did you hear that?” Grandpa tells me every time we hunt that he cherishes and loves that I am able to share his passion with him.
On one of my first hunting trips, we were sitting 15 feet in the air in a treestand built for one person. We sat there with the red Coleman propane heater blowing on our toes, smashed together trying to stay warm. I looked up at him and said, “Grandpa, I think we need to get a bigger stand.” Ever since, he reminds me every hunting season of that freezing morning.
Everyone knows my grandpa as “Frog” or “the guy who does the big cookouts”, but I consider him my best friend. He’s not just a grandpa to me. Our relationship isn’t just a love forced by blood, it’s a friendship.