My father passed away suddenly a little over a year ago. As the raw pain of loosing him has eased I often reflect on how he affected and shaped my life. Now that I am a parent I realize how much my father thought out our training. He definitely had a plan on how he wanted us to turn out. My earliest memories are of him taking me and my sisters and brother up to the mountains to go fishing with him. And not just any fishing mind you. We went FLY FISHING. Which as any civilized person will tell you is the only way to fish.
I must of only been around 4 years old. I cannot imagine the patients it took for him to bring up two to three little kids and plop them next to a very big stream for hours on end. One of his tricks was to tell us that he needed a "fish pool" for putting any fish he caught in to keep them alive. This would consume us for hours as we built a little rocked pool next to the stream. Then just as we were putting the finishing touches on it he would call us over to move up to the next place to fish. I now realize the only fish he put into our pools were the ones to small to keep. They frequently escaped through holes in the rocks and we tried to improve each pool so that they couldn't. He would point out different wild animals to us or wild foods that we could eat as we walked along the creek. he taught us how to walk through thigh high flowing water so as not to fall and not get our feet caught in the rocks. He showed us how to climb steep ravines and how to go down safely. He made us pay attention to our surroundings and cautioned us on how to avoid snakes and bears. You never want to sneak up on a bear he would say.
Many fathers I'm sure would not have bothered teaching a girl many of the skills I learned. But my father told me over and over that he didn't care if I was a girl or not (this was after me and my sister would complain that we didn't want to know how to gut a fish) we were going to LEARN! And we were going to learn it the right way, his way! He taught me how to start a campfire and put up a tent. How to string a fishing line and get a fish off a hook. How to shoot a gun and reload it under duress. It helped that I enjoyed going up into the mountains, camping, and river rafting.
But most of all my dad wanted us to be Prepared! He always made sure to have first aid kits, food, and water ready for any emergency. He explained to us why he did it, and many times I saw the benefits as that preparedness payed off. He was constantly trying to teach himself or acquire training for skills he didn't posses. He read all the time and impressed upon us kids the importants of being a lifetime learner.
The thing I appreciate the most that my dad gave me is self confidence. He constantly told me that I could accomplish anything if I set my mind to it. Of course parents always say that, but then he actually backed it up by making me do things that were out of my comfort zone, that were complicated or dangerous. He was raising me to be a future adult, not a permanent child. He would tell us kids that his first goal was to raise good citizens. And a good citizen is someone who doesn't wait to be saved or fed but someone who goes out and does it themselves.
My dad was all about safety and awareness. When he put a rifle in my hands for the first time he didn't just let me go at it. He taught me firing range safety, he explained the dangers of ever foolishly playing with a gun, and he also detailed the sevear repercussions that would occur if he ever caught me being stupid. I learned those lessons by heart before I shot my first gun. I was ten years old and I can still remember the awful power that I sensed was contained in that weapon.
Many times I was nervous or downright scared by the things he asked me to do. Like go down a white water rapid with my 14 year old older sister at the oars. But every time I conquered a situation I was building up a reserve of confidence within myself. I KNEW I could do things. I KNEW that if I could handle one scary situation and overcome my fear that I could do it again somewhere else. What a precious gift that truly is. I have heard people say over and over that they cant do something because its too hard or uncomfortable for them. They are too afraid to try something new and so allow their life to be limited by that fear.
Never in my life have I thought that I couldn't do something. I have never felt limited because I am a woman or from the city or some other excuse. I have taught myself how to garden, sew, knit,bake, raise farm animals, milk a goat, butcher chickens and rabbits, preserve food, and build a straw bale chicken coop. The list continues to grow. If I don't know how to do something I either teach myself or find someone who is willing to teach me. And all of this is due to a man who had a plan for raising kids. He wasn't always gentle or kind about it (although now that I have 4 children myself I see that he did pretty good) but he cared deeply about raising successful adults.
My father gave me something that is probably the most important skill I have, and that is the knowledge that I can learn and accomplish anything. Thanks Dad!