My father and I didn’t have that many great father/son moments. We did, however, try a lot of father/son activities. Fair is fair: he’d have spent all the time with me I wanted, had I only wanted to.
We used to hunt and fish a little, though I was never really gung-ho for either. One year my father decided we should go duck hunting. (I never asked whether he knew how to cook a duck.) Dad borrowed a bunch of decoys and obtained permission from a farmer way over near Roosevelt. For those not familiar with Roosevelt, WA–and that includes most Washingtonians–it sits out in an emptiness. There’s not much there, nor is it near much. We got up well before dawn on an October morning, drove out to the guy’s wheat stubble field, and made ready to shoot ducks.
While my father distributed the decoys in some pattern which he assumed would be irresistible to ducks, I got busy ‘preparing a duck blind.’ It couldn’t be called digging; we had to hack a hole in the frozen ground, large enough for a husky 5’10” adult male and a husky 5’6″ teenage male. Think of coal mining without the coating of ebony dust. We didn’t finish until the sunlight approached in the east. Dad loaded his .12-gauge, and I loaded my .410. We got into the hole, knees drawn up, pulled a piece of plywood mostly over us, and watched the skies for the expected waterfowl.
An hour passed, a dull and chilly hour sitting in a frozen hole in the wheatfield. No ducks even came within sight of our location. (You’d think we were a Rose Bowl victory.)
Another hour, and the sun was up by now. Didn’t do us much good. Still no ducks. (You’d think we were a national championship victory.)
Now, I was not the smartest hunter in the county, nor even in that hole, but neither was I a complete idiot. I was about ready to bag it, but I didn’t want my father to resent me for asking to quit early. I didn’t have much finesse, but it was clear enough to me he was as uncomfortable as me. This called for diplomacy and a voice of good humor. “You know, Dad, of all the father-and-son activities you and I have tried together, this has got to be the dumbest sport there is.”
The thunderbolt did not come. So help me, the old man looked at me, smiled, and laughed: “You know, son, you’re right. Let’s fill up this hole, pick up our stuff and go get some breakfast.”
From that day forward, such ducks as strayed into Washington were safe from my father and I.