He cleared his throat and said “It was around 1927 … ” and I was lost in the story. His gnarled 93-year-old hands motioned as he described drooping pine boughs and big antlers. Tales of bad blizzards and the biggest buck he had ever saw captivated our attention.
Spellbound, we listened of the War years when ammo was scarce and all he had was a couple rounds for a .32 Winchester Special. I cringed as he remembered being lost in the big dark woods of North Michigan. His experiences of tenting in the cold and stalking bucks in the snow were book worthy. We smiled as he told of crippling an old car across the miles, just so he could hunt another season. It was an honor to hear sixty plus years of reminisces. When Grandfather had finished I asked if he still had his little red hatchet and he assured me that he did. It was the little red hatchet that he had carried for as long we had hunted together.
It was with that little red hatchet and a swift stroke that Grandpa would send a piece of pine bark flying. Exposing a bright white blaze on selected trees, those marks would become my roadmap to and from where we were hunting. With a Marbles compass and those ivory crescents, he made sure I could find my way in the timber whether in the dawn or darkness. I watched as he used that well-worn hatchet to drive tent stakes and clear shooting lanes. Grandpa even taught me how to cut a buck pole with that little ax. I was just a boy, but this was no ordinary hatchet.
Maybe to me the hatchet is something sentimental but I believe it represents a whole lot more. I see a legacy represented in that pitch stained piece of steel. It is a memoir of a mentor who passed on a heritage of hunting and the great outdoors. Every tree he blazed not only pointed me forward but it pointed back to a man who found it important to give me an appreciation for the finer things in life. From that old Remington to his dog-eared Bible, he had taught me that there are some things you hold on to forever.
Today, my passion and reason for hunting exceeds a high scoring set of antlers. My experiences have taught me how much value there is in spending time in the outdoors. The legacy that began with a little red hatchet is carved deeply within my lifestyle. I now have the opportunity to teach another generation about the best things in life. I may use reflectors and a GPS to find my way but I am still trying to make a mark for my boys to follow. Each of us holds the power to blaze a way for the next generation—let’s pass on the marks made by the little red hatchet. Take a kid hunting!