A few months ago, while interviewing for a job, I was asked, “What interests you about the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance?” My answer was a simple one: “It reminds me of my dad.” His family and friends called him Pee Wee because he was the youngest and shortest of 11 children. To me, he was a towering gentle giant—he was my dad. Born a Randolph, he came from a long line of hardworking sportsmen and women. Being a Randolph meant loving nature while learning to respect it for all its beauty and worth. Fortunately, I was blessed with the best possible teacher.
Some of my earliest and fondest memories as a child are those of hunting and fishing trips with my dad. I’ll never forget my first big catch. I was nine years old and a whole group of us were fishing and camping on Dale Hollow Lake. One night, a few of us stayed up later than normal to fish. While some had dozed off in their chairs, I was still wide awake and fishing my little heart out.
Suddenly, I felt a huge tug on my line and put all my 50 pounds into reeling it in as hard as I could, while yelling “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! My dad ran up behind me, put his hands over mine and helped me reel it in, while cheering me on and screaming, “Come on Baby Girl, you’ve got it….you’ve got it.” Finally, with the fish in our sights, my dad screamed, “You did it. You did it! Everybody come see what my Baby Girl caught!”
Inevitably, there would be no more sleep for the rest of the campers. After waking everyone with his screaming pride, my dad hugged me so tight I thought he was never going to let me go. Then he picked me up with my catch in hand and paraded me around the entire campsite bragging to everyone about how proud he was of his Baby Girl and her first big catch.
Unfortunately, I tragically lost my dad a little more than 14 years ago. It was the most difficult and painful time in my life. For quite some time, I cried myself to sleep every night knowing I would never be able to see him, hug him or talk to him again. I was completely devastated until, one morning I grabbed the tackle box and my dad’s favorite fishing pole and headed for the lake. I stood quietly casting my line and slowly reeling it in over and over again until it finally happened—that beautiful feeling of a tug on my line. Then I heard the… most amazing sound. I heard my dad cheering, “Come on Baby Girl; you’ve got it. You’ve got it.” And suddenly, I felt his arms around me. It was that same enormous hug he had given to me so many years ago.
That was the first day I had gone fishing since my dad died. It was also the first day I realized he was not lost to me; he will always be here, teaching, guiding and cheering for me whenever I need him. All I have to do is grab the tackle box, round up his favorite fishing pole and head for the lake.
I Love You Dad