Guest post by Charles Ray Matthews
I began writing a “sportsman’s journal” about 20 years ago. I’m not exactly sure why…..there was no compelling event other than I liked to write and I felt obligated to start documenting my outdoor adventures. My sons were 8 and 10 years old at the time and they were quickly becoming a cherished and integral part of our hunts and other outdoor adventures. As the pace of our lives quickened, so grew the sense of urgency to capture in words the images and feelings I experienced on our trips. My fear was the same fear every sportsman dreads…….. to wake up one day, discover that you are 80 years old, are ravaged by some cruel, memory robbing disease and have no recollection of the most cherished and exhilarating days of your life. In an effort to forestall the effects of the inevitable, so began my “sportsman’s journal”.
My journal may not be the typical sportsman’s journal. Like most sportsmen, I try and capture the basics of who, what, when and how many of the adventures we are lucky enough to experience. Ironically though, these are the details that I will most likely remember when I’m 80 years old. But regrettably, these are not the most cherished details that I will want to remember when I’m 80 years old. Therefore, my goal is to capture the “essence” and “soul” of our outdoor adventure. I want to chronicle the subtle nuances that make me stop and reflect on a special moment that may seem insignificant to others but means the world to me.
I want to write about the special people we meet on our hunts and trips……like the old man with white hair and a red face who can hardly walk anymore but is in the field participating in the hunt and sharing his wisdom about an obscure fact or detail regarding his Browning Sweet 16 shotgun. I want to capture the joy in the face of an 11 year old as he shoots his first dove on the wing in a September corn field in the low-country of S.C. I want to remember how blue the sky was that afternoon as momentous events were unfolding. I want to remember the rustling sound of the golden, late season corn stalks as they swayed in the wind on a cold, blustery November dove shoot. I want to be able to remember the pride a father feels when his 19 year old achieves a “double” on a covey of quail at a South Georgia plantation using a vintage 1905 Parker shotgun. I want to remember the hickory smell of the BBQ that was served by our host before the hunt that October afternoon. I want to remember the taste of the salt water as it stings my face in rough seas as we make our way to fish for sheepshead at the Charleston jetties. I want to write about the feeling of pride I got when my 25 year old son was the guide on my first fly fishing trip to a remote trout stream on the SC/Georgia border. I want to remember the warm, mellow sting in my throat from the flask as we toasted the first “brookie” of my life. I want to remember how cold and clear the mountain stream was that day in May and how I only fell once on the slippery, green, moss covered rocks. I want to remember that I caught my trout using a 47 year old fly rod that was mine as a kid.
These are the events and details I want to remember as I am warming by the red, glowing fire in my leather chair when I am 80 years old. It will not matter much how many birds we killed or fish we caught that day. But it will matter what we talked about on our journey to the field or stream. So I encourage every sportsman to keep their own version of their journal. I am convinced it will become their most prized possession. Mine is.
No words were ever more true………it is all about the journey.