Each November, countless youth enjoy an annual right of passage, trudging through the hills and valleys of the Mountain State on their first hunting excursion.
I, certainly, was no different, going on my first adventure through the great outdoors when I was 12 years old.
To this day, I remember the excitement before that first trip with the man I looked up to more than any other - my dad.
The excitement wore off quickly, though, once we hit that first steep hillside in the wee hours of the morning in the backwoods of Wood County.
As the trip started, my dad told me he knew the perfect spot for me to bag my first deer. Looking back, that likely was a ruse, as I never really remembered my dad bringing home anything bigger than a squirrel following a hunting trip - and only one of those.
That was the farthest thought from my mind, however, as we slogged what seemed like 10 miles into the forest, me trailing far, far behind during most of the
Finally, after what seemed like hours, we came to rest on a large felled tree overlooking a quaint little valley.
For the next several hours, we sat frozen - literally - sipping coffee and starring at that small inlet waiting for our prize-winning deer.
Alas, as late afternoon approached, the mighty hunters, clad in their Elmer Fudd attire and blaze orange began the long walk back to the car - emptyhanded.
Throughout the years, we had many, many more trips with the same result - a lot of sitting and no fruits for our laborious trek.
Notwithstanding the lack of success on the hunting front, I still would not trade those many wonderful memories for anything in the world.
You see, those adventures were not about hunting at all. Even if we would have seen a deer, which we never did, we likely would not have raised a gun or fired a shot.
The trips were more about bonding and spending time together, something that always was in short supply with my dad's busy schedule at the glass factory and mine with my studies.
During our many travels, we never really talked much, and when we did, it was never about anything too important. For us, we had that unspoken bond that we would be there for each other in times of need and for those everyday moments as well.
On Nov. 30, it will be 15 years since my dad lost his battle with cancer. There still are not many days that go by without at least a thought toward the many good times we enjoyed together.
Whether it's hunting, fishing or just a Sunday drive, memories from those excursions can last a lifetime. They certainly have for me.