PUBLISHED: 4:46 PM on Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Celebrating Father's Day outdoors
I remember spending two kinds of time with my Dad-working and outdoors.

It wasn't that Dad was an outdoorsman. He cared little about fishing and not at all about hunting. He'd probably never done either, except that my brothers and I pestered him relentlessly into taking us.

Dad spent most of his vacations in the Texas outdoors because that's where we wanted to be. He went because it made us happy.

He earned sainthood somewhere between the first time he snatched one of my drowning brothers out of the Cibolo Creek, and the hundredth time he slept in the truck while we waiting on another fruitless deer stand.

He taught us very little about casting or shooting, or fooling a bass or tracking a deer. But he taught us a lifetime about caring.

Maybe that's why I can't separate my ideas of fatherhood and the outdoors. Or maybe it's because so many of my own fatherhood adventures occurred outdoors.

There were deer stands and sunflower fields I've shared with my son and daughter, the weekends camping with the whole family.

There were a few hundred mornings and few thousand piggy perch and hardhead catfish my kids caught (and I unhooked) on our favorite pier on Aransas Bay.

It was the same pier where my dad and I sat and talked and cried soon after my Mom died.


Today it's tough being a dad.

There's more to know, much more to compete with, much less time to spend just hanging out with the kids. Yet dads have a tough time with talking with their kids.

Maybe not about grades or sports or cars but certainly about love, life and the decisions they require.

That's where being outdoors comes in. Being alone together in a boat or blind creates an unlimited opportunity to talk about things that matter, but that don't get much air time.

I'm no better. My son Will and I have driven eight hours to a deer or dove or antelope hunt and have not spoken more than a few sentences. Not because we didn't have anything to say but maybe because it's our way.

There's purity, an honest clarity that comes in the field. You can bluff a grade or talk your way out of a traffic ticket sometimes.

Try that with a grizzly claiming your deer. Or the rocky slide that's almost came from underfoot and dumped you into glacial-cold water, turning a day of fishing into a life-and-death emergency.

Decisions carry a different weight too. Dad can explain to you about life and death and responsibility but until you've made that choice, to shoot or not to shoot, to harvest a deer or pass a difficult shot on an out-of-range pheasant, you don't have the weight in your hands.

Those decisions include screwing up too - making a bad choice that might result in a game animal lost or injured by a poor shot.

Think sending your youngster off for a date and movie is scary? Try sending them off for their first hunt alone. And sitting alone in the woods when you hear a shot from the direction they're hunting, with no way for minutes or hours the outcome of that shot. There's that uncertainty, those "what ifs."

I think that's a measure of love. You can learn a lot outdoors as a dad outdoors. You can learn that kids have better eyes than even 30-year-olds. You learn that being there and being there together is a lot more important than how many or how big you brought home.

Like most things in life, success outdoors comes with preparation. And that's a lesson even Dad's can learn. Especially the frigid morning when your child is shivering uncontrollably because YOU forgot the extra jacket. Or the painful evening when you return from the lake with a crying and blistered child that YOU forgot to swath in sunscreen.

Luckily kids heal quickly!

The fact that my son grew up loving the outdoors enough to make a career of writing about hunting and fishing is just icing on the cake. I used to believe we take our kids afield because we want to teach them how to be a good companion. But they really know how to do that already.

What we really teach them is how to appreciate the best of life.

The real reason we take them afield is purely selfish.

We take them to enrich our own lives with the memory of a grinning 10-year-old with his first buck, of a toddler with an impossibly large fish, of a new "bird boy" retrieving his first dove or duck. And of sunrise painting the sea orange gold, of brilliant ducks spilling from an evening sky over a silvery pond, of the fluorescent purple glow of a king salmon slashing through the water.

These are the things too good to describe, too special to experience except with the ones you love.

Give yourself a Father's Day gift this year. Take the kids outdoors-for them and for you.

Or want to give Dad a real gift today? Ask him a simple question:

"Hey Dad, can we go fishing?"

Leschper is general manager of the Capital City Weekly and advertising director of the Juneau Empire.

E-mail him at