Along The Trail 6-22-17

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The alarm buzzed me awake at 4:30am…I shake the cobwebs loose and wonder how anyone can consider themselves a morning person. I race through my morning routine, toss my gear in the back of the truck and point it North to the Michigan line. If all goes as planned, I should pull into the Berrien County Sportsman’s Club in five hours.

Every Father’s Day weekend for the past 7 years, I’ve traveled to Michigan to attend the Compton Traditional Bowhunters Rendezvous. I’ve written and probably bored many readers of this column over the years with stories about the rendezvous. Each year, bowhunters from all over gather a few miles from the shore of Lake Michigan and spend upwards of a week at the event. It’s one of those “have too’s” for the traditional bowhunters out there.

The gathering consists of dozens of vendors, guest speakers, seminars, competitions, kid events, auctions, games, camping, eating, and plenty of story telling. It’s a family friendly place full of kids running loose, hooting and hollering, laughing and playing. For traditional archers, it’s a place full of camaraderie, a homecoming. Think of it like a family reunion, but full of people you actually want to spend time with. (That was a poor attempt at sarcasm and humor)

The past 3 years, I’ve served on the board of directors and helped host the event, so my shooting out on the ranges and time shopping the vendor tent is limited. Until I became more deeply involved, I had no idea of the logistics and behind the scenes work it takes to pull off an event that attracts a few thousand people. My appreciation for volunteerism grows each year when I see the hard work that folks put in to make this, or any large scale event for that matter, a success. But, aside from my involvement with the event, the biggest change for me the past couple of years has been the absence of my sidekick, my son.

Both my kids have traveled and spent a lot of time with me hunting and in the outdoors as they grew up, but my daughter was busy with school, athletics and well, being a normal, teenage girl at the time. She was laser focused on her future and I couldn’t be more proud of the young lady she is today. My boy on the other hand was bitten by the bowhunting bug at a young age and was hooked on shooting stickbows and traditional gear from day one. Drew became a fixture at the Rendezvous for several years and had gotten to know many of the folks at the event. He had grown out of being David Hewitt’s son and following in my shadow. Now, it was “Hey, aren’t you Drew’s dad?”…

Last year, he wasn’t able to attend as the reality of a job before college took priority and this summer, he’s off in the wilds of Ontario, Canada spending a summer semester working with wildlife biologists to further his education and prospects for his future. I’m excited for him, but as I drive up U.S. 31 and cross the state line, there’s still that part of me wishing he was in the passenger seat. It had become sort of a Father’s Day tradition for us. But, I wasn’t completely without something from the kid. He had sent an envelope along with me with strict orders not to open until Sunday.

The Rendezvous went off without a hitch and before I knew it, Father’s Day morning had arrived as I sat behind the steering wheel of my truck getting ready for the last day of the gathering. I slipped the envelope open and read a handwritten note from the kid scribbled out on spiral notebook paper. I’ll leave the details between my son and I, but an immediate lump came to my throat and tears welled in my eyes. I’ve never been paid a greater compliment in my life than the one I had read. I carefully folded the note into my front shirt pocket and will keep it as long as I’m upright.

I’ve been truly blessed with two wonderful children, now young adults. None of us as parents know if we’re doing it right, but if I can give once piece of parenting advice, it’s this. Spend time with your kids, they will remember even when you think they won’t. I hope every Dad out there has as great of a Father’s Day as I did.