Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Personal Christmas Wish

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It’s that time of year when folks make some odd wishes. At the age of 69, it’s been more than 60 years since I made a Christmas wish for some goodies I hoped Santa would stuff under our tree.

George and I both had bikes fairly early in our life. They were mostly rejects that other people were getting rid of when they bought their kids new bikes. We clamored loud and long for a new bike like the neighbor children were getting, and Dad being a barber in a small town with too many barbers, told us if we’d work at it we could buy our own bike. There was no way he could afford to buy us new bikes.

It was time, he told us, for the Richey twins to learn about the Great American Work Ethic. In his mind, and in mine, that meant working toward an objective, save money as you go, and pay for it when you have the money. There was very little credit back in those days of 60 years ago. Times were tough, and one didn’t spend money stupidly.

Such things as working toward a goal seldom happens these days. The kids whine and their parents give in and buy them what they want. We knew better than to whine, knowing it would do no good, and it might even earn us a swat on the rump.

Dad told us to grab our little red wagon, and go door-to-door and pick up old newspapers and magazines. We busted our backside knocking on doors right after World War II, and once we collected the papers and old magazines, we’d bundle them up with baling twine and once a week Dad would take us to Flint to sell the paper to earn money.

Week after week we worked hard, made money toward our bike while working at other jobs for spending money, and we finally bought a pair of new Schwinn bicycles with side-view mirrors, a horn, mud-flaps, fender feelers and go-fasters. Each bike was top of the line, and back in the late 1940s, they cost over $100.

That taught us a valuable lesson. If you want something bad enough, work and earn the money to buy it. This story takes me slightly off the path of this blog, but it relates… trust me.

What I want now isn’t something that money can buy. I can’t work hard enough to make the things on my wish list come true. You see, what I want isn’t what very many sportsmen are willing to give.

My goal for the last 30 years has been a matter of preaching to the choir, but in some cases, the choir isn’t listening. I’m trying to help restore our beloved pastimes of fishing and hunting to the point where everyone cares about our resources and our children.

My Christmas wish would be for every one of the thousands of monthly hits which indicate at least one person has read my drivel, would take it upon himself (or herself) to teach a child about fishing and hunting. Children aren’t learning these outdoor skills in school, and in some cases, some teachers are against hunting. They spend their time trying to influence our kids about their preconceived negative notions about hunting.

Children can learn from anyone, but parents who think they can start teaching their kids at the age of 16, are dreaming. Unless children get some positive reinforcement by the age of 10 years or younger, the chances are excellent they will never hunt and probably will not fish.

It’s impossible to lay blame on all teachers because it’s not fair and it’s not true. Many teachers fish and hunt, and many work some positive thoughts into what they teach. However, I well remember a story I wrote after shooting a mountain lion in northern Wyoming with a bow.

This woman, who taught at a school in southern Michigan, made every one of her 40-some students write a personal letter to me. There were several themes, but every child wrote one of her prepared letters about why hunting was bad. I called the school, spoke with the principal, demanded an apology from the teacher or I wanted her fired.

My complaint was she wasn’t being paid to push her anti-hunting beliefs off on students who were in the fourth grade. The principal agreed with me, and she reluctantly agreed to apologize in order to save her job. She told me she hated hunting, and I asked why she was sharing her personal hatred with the children instead of properly doing her job.

She had no answer. Sadly, there are many such teachers who are using some of their work time telling children that hunting is wrong. It’s not wrong at all, and legal hunting is the best way to manage our abundant natural resources.

So ... my wish is for each of you who have children under 10 years of age to take them fishing or hunting. Spend time with them now, give of personal time to help educate them properly about fishing and hunting.

Folks, if all of you don’t start doing your part now, within 20 years you won’t have to worry about it. The pastimes of fishing and hunting, as we know it today, will be nothing but a distant unpleasant memory of where we’ve been and what we’ve lost.

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/23 at 05:57 PM
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