The Lifeblood of Tradition

Like most of life's best moments, my youngest son, the middle child, posed a big question out of the blue: is there anywhere in the world left to discover, places that no one has ever been?  If so, it was plainly evident by his earnest demeanor, he intended soon to explore and to discover them, barefoot of course, with nothing but his trusty, iron-sighted air rifle slung over his shoulders and a pocket full of loose pellets so that they didn't noisily rattle in the canister like they would, later and inevitably upon his much celebrated return, clatter in his Mother's ill-fated dryer.

A thousand images of a young adventurous boy probing the wildest and most impenetrable corners of the world overwhelmed me.  Before I could speak he continued with the fascinating depiction of discovery and fame that only a young boy with a trusty pellet rifle can conjure.  Good stuff.  I smiled and soaked it in. As it grew quiet except for the hum of all-terrain tires over asphalt, I sensed he awaited an answer. It's a big world full of dark woods and long rivers, I told him, but whether someone's been there before, or even if it's smack in the middle of the world's third-largest city, I shared, it's our true selves that is the most enduring discovery.  Unimpressed, the conversation abruptly turned to the downrange trajectory of flat versus conical pellet types.

I remember sharing a sunny afternoon on the reservoir with a high school friend.  The water seemed clear enough, but the crappie were lock-jawed. We spent more time catching up than catching fish.  He wondered how someone that had traveled extensively could be sated while dangling tiny, chartreuse-colored plastic towards stubborn fish right in our own back yard.  Opening Day Mississippi dove hunting remains my last-meal-request type favorite hunt on the face of earth, and it's been asked many times how someone that hunts places where epic dove flights seemingly obliterate sunlight can still find joy hunting for a couple more than a baker's dozen mourning doves in Mississippi.  It's pretty simple, really.  It's home.  It's what I do.  It's who I am.  If anything, travel makes us appreciate home more.

There are so many fascinating places in the great State of Mississippi, not to mention the continental United States, that we could spend the remainder of our lives exploring and still not see its entirety.  And yet we feel it in each and every of our heartbeats.  We hear it in story-form anywhere there's a gathering of like-minded humanity - among the hallowed shadows of duck blinds, at dimly lit skinning racks, around supper tables and camp fires, from creaking saddles and behind packs of baying hounds.  Countless stories, each of them unique, that say the same thing: we are Mississippi; we are home outdoors.

Stories are the lifeblood of tradition.  They define us.  They shape our lifestyle like nothing else can.  Like nothing again ever will. Make them. Tell them.  Their remembrance warms our insides like good single-barrel bourbon, compels us to oil granddad's beloved shotgun like only he could teach, scratch an old dog's ears like only they can appreciate.  Our stories burn eternal in the hearts of our children.

It's duck season somewhere,

Ramsey Russell GetDucks.com

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