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From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

Dear Dad:

About the time you read this, Father’s Day will be almost upon us. It is a safe bet Mom will have made her annual call to my brother and me, just like you do right before Mother’s Day. Both of you have the same time-honored ritual, reminding us to call the other parent before the day of honor comes and goes. Alas, the burdens of parenthood never seem to cease, irrespective of the age of the brood.

I’m not exactly sure where you’ll be when you get this. Perhaps nursing a cup of coffee at the kitchen table. Maybe perched on the ranch house porch, half reading this, but mostly searching for the turkeys and hummingbirds that are sure to make their morning pilgrimage over to one of the feeders you so carefully tend. Or, maybe you’ll be overlooking the surf, gazing out onto the stretch of Padre Island sand you took us to when I was a kid.

It doesn’t matter. Wherever you are, I am thinking of you.

I am thinking of the time you carried me down a Colorado mountain, nestled safely under your poncho, in the midst of a torrential summer storm. I was all of 3 or 4, still small enough of a load to be hauled on your back. I slept fitfully through much of the trek down the mountain and stayed pretty dry, I recall. You, of course, did not.

Or the time Mr. Callahan woke you up one Saturday morning to let you know the dozen Rhode Island Reds your 9-year-old son and his buddies had ordered from his feed store were ready to be picked up. You were, how shall we say, surprised to learn I was planning on raising laying hens for a living. I suspect building a chicken coop wasn’t high on that weekend’s bucket list either, but you did so without obvious complaint. We enjoyed a year or so of farm-fresh eggs until the raccoons got the best of our coop. It took me awhile to understand why you weren’t as upset with the raccoons as I was.

Remember the first deer we took on a hunting trip together? It was a plump doe that you shot from a tree stand in the Ward Pasture sendero. You took her with an open sight, Winchester 30-30 rifle, the old-fashioned way. When it was time to clean the deer, you pulled out a blood-stained brochure on field dressing written by legendary TPWD Game Warden Grover Simpson called “Now That You’ve Killed It.” By the way, we still have that publication in the TPWD headquarters lobby today.

How about the first fishing trip you took me to on to the coast with Mr. Lowrance down at Rockport? When I got back I told Mom all about the trout and redfish we caught, as well as how I got seasick watching the two of you drink Pearl beer and eat sardine sandwiches for breakfast as the guide took us to the fishing grounds in a pre-dawn boat ride. You and Mr. Lowrance admonished me later that the No. 1 rule of fishing is that “what happens in Rockport stays in Rockport.”

I remember all those opening days of dove season when you came by in your pickup to get me out of school early. I’d load up with you and Lance to head to the farm. We’d hit the sunflower field early to catch the birds coming in to feed. Later, we’d move to the tank or the creek to catch the birds as they came to water. And, at the end of the day as we sat around the tailgate cleaning birds and watching the sun go down, I was sure life simply couldn’t get any better.

I could gladly fill this magazine with the memories you gave me as a kid. So, too, could many a grateful son and daughter. Thankfully, Texas is blessed with an abundance of opportunities to take kids hunting, fishing, camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, wildlife watching and otherwise exploring the best of our nature. If you need more inspiration, look no further than the pages of this magazine.

And so on this Father’s Day, a special thanks to all the dads out there for caring enough to introduce us to our wild things and wild places. They need us now more than ever.

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