Tonight, I hunted the Wes man stand. I realize how cheesy the name sounds even in typing it. The name could have been something more appropriate like the “all the way back” stand, considering its location on the property, or I could even handle something of the more gory type like “slaughter ridge” etc. But my 7 year old brain couldn’t comprehend the heftiness of such a decision those 20 years ago. I have often made several attempts to rename it on my own, each attempt felt like a lie rolling off my tongue. So the name stays and I endure the awkwardness of saying it aloud as little as possible.
I got to name the stand way back when because it was the first spot I ever killed a deer. I was just a boy with a .410 sitting in his grandfather’s lap on a warm fall afternoon. Tonight, I’m a grown man with a rifle and a scope, but its still a warm fall afternoon. So tonight, I’ll blame the lack of deer showing on the heat and appreciate the gift my grandfather gave me in this spot. I’ll take a moment right now to thank him for letting me use his lap as my stool and land as my own. The truth is I’ve been using my grandfather my whole life.
I’ve used that old man in every sense of the word, down to it’s simplest meaning. I have to admit that I’ve probably been using him for as long as I knew how to. It started when I was a boy. I used him as a ride home from school and as a play time partner when everyone else was too busy. I used him for his lab, Chief, who was also a friend whenever I wanted him to be. I used him to learn about the cotton and corn fields he let me roam. I used him to catch a fish and pay for my many boxes of dove shells. I used him to go deer hunting after school and to miss a few hours in the morning to hunt a wood duck hole, too.
As I got older, I still couldn’t help but use my grandfather. Being old enough to drive meant that I didn’t need him to take me anymore, but he was always there for me to use when I needed him. I used him as a guide to hunts out west. I used him as a sounding board when things weren’t going how I thought they should. I used him for a pat on the back when they did. I used his skills to profit for myself, especially in the woods and on the water. I took full advantage of every thing he gave me and then I took some more.
I still use him now. Tonight I sit in a stand on his property and I hope to kill a deer for myself. Whenever I find myself in a predicament I use his advice as my compass, thinking back to what he might have done. When my wife complains about how many decoys I have in the garage, or how many days I spend in the woods instead of at home, I use my grandfather as my scapegoat. I tell her to blame him because he got my into this mess. Tomorrow, I’ll probably train a pointer pup of my own and I’ll use some tips I gained from watching him. But if I decide to go hunt again or maybe catch a fish, you can bet that I’ll be using him to help me along the way.
I’ll probably still be using him even after he’s gone. If I ever have kids, I’ll teach them the same things he taught me. I’ll take them deer hunting in the same spots and I’ll buy those dove shells they need. I won’t get upset when they accidentally cast the entire rod into the water with the bait. I’ll use his advice to help them along on their way when life doesn’t seem to shake out right.
I guess I don’t really feel that guilty for using my grandfather all these years. No, honestly, I feel bad that I didn’t use him more along the way. Sometimes, I wonder if I used him enough to make it the years I have left. I’m not sure I could get by in this life without having him to use. I hope I never have to find out.