On a fishing trip the other day, I noticed a big female bass sitting on the nest, getting ready to help ensure that another generation of largemouths are spawned and that the next chapter is written in Texas’ storied bass fishing history.
Happening only a few days before Mother’s Day, it wasn’t long before I was thinking about the role that moms play in the outdoors world. While dads that hunt and fish sometimes get the most recognition and credit in helping a child learn to love the outdoors, moms often play a key role too.
Take my own mother, for instance. Known to most as Phyllis, she’s simply known as mom to yours truly. While that three-letter word might seem a simple one to most, the truth is that the word mom is one of the most powerful ones known to man.
That’s certainly been true in my life, even when it comes to outdoors adventure.
Case in point were my early fishing days near Baton Rouge, La. — Geaux Tigers! — where my mom played a key role in the bass fishing trips that my late dad Bill often took me on.
Dad was the one who made sure the reels were spooled, that the tackle box was in the car, and that the 7.5 hp motor we put on the back of a rented aluminum jon boat was tucked away in the trunk. He guided us to likely areas on False River and Old River, taught me how to cast, and helped me figure out where to look for a lurking largemouth.
But mom—who celebrated another birthday yesterday — played a key role too. For starters, even though she wasn’t going fishing herself, she would rise well before dawn to make sure that dad and I had a hot breakfast in our bellies before we headed out the door.
When we came home after several hours on the water, she would listen for long stretches — always with a smile — as a talkative little boy recalled the trip in earnest detail.
And when we kept some bass to eat — the early 1970s when I learned to fish were prior to the catch-and-release era that defines most bass fishing today — she would turn the filets into a scrumptious meal.
A couple of treasured mementos in my office also point to the role that my parents played in my love of the Creator’s outdoors world.
The first is the MirrOlure jointed crankbait that my dad provided for me to catch my first largemouth bass on, a bait that hangs proudly in my office. The other is a fading, treasured photograph showing me holding up that two-pound fish on a warm summertime day in southeastern Louisiana. Who took the photo? My mom, of course.
When our family moved back to our Memphis, Tenn. ancestral home in the mid-1970s after my dad took a job transfer, the pre-dawn breakfasts prior to fishing trips continued. So did the provision of sack lunches as my dad and I prowled lakes in the Midsouth region, from Herb Parsons Lake in western Tennessee to a private lake in northern Mississippi to Horseshoe Lake in eastern Arkansas. No matter which side of the Mississippi River we found ourselves on, dad and I never left home without something to eat — my mom made sure of that.
After my dad took a job with Texas Instruments in 1979, our move to Denison brought an increasing interest in duck and deer hunting for yours truly. My mom played a role in that too, helping St. Nick ensure that the right camouflage clothing was under the tree, that the right duck decoy brand was purchased at Barrett’s Cut-Rate Drugs, and that I had photos and mementos of my various outings into the wild.
In fact, I still have a scrapbook that she gave me a number of years ago, one that always brings smiles when I peruse its pages again.
In the years before I acquired a driver’s license, my mom also made one of the most unbelievable maternal sacrifices I’ve ever heard of.
That happened when the college aged friend from church who was mentoring me as a waterfowler couldn’t go out on a chilly morning over the Christmas holiday break. When I got that news over the phone, my mom could see the disappointment on my face and hear it in my voice.
What did she do? She set her alarm early for the next morning, rousted me from sleep, helped me load the car, and drove me to the small lake I was going to throw the decoys out on. While I sat and hunted ducks for a few hours, my mom remained in the car on a chilly winter morning, content in the knowledge that she was doing all of this for her son.
I’d like to tell you that I remember getting a banded mallard that morning, or a mixed limit of greenheads and pintails, or even my first Canada goose. But as I recall, I didn’t bag a single duck that late December morning. But I was left with a priceless memory, one that I’ve treasured and thought of dozens of times down through the years.
My dad is gone now, and my widowed mother is slowing down as the years pass by. Even for me, an empty nester in his mid-50s, the memories are turning hazier and more golden with the passage of time.
But they are still there, still bringing a big smile as I consider a lifetime filled with rich blessings that I don’t deserve. My mom and dad weren’t rich, but the childhood that my sister Amy and I enjoyed certainly was. I’d like to think that even though my wife and I aren’t wealthy either, we’ve left our three kids with a similar heritage.
My own heritage includes the legacy of an exceptional mom, one who sacrificed repeatedly for her family. And that includes making sure that my love of hunting and fishing could grow, nurtured by a mom who despite not participating in those activities herself, always made sure that her little boy could.
As the Lord has allowed my outdoors passion to turn into a career with work for companies like ESPN Outdoors, Major League Fishing, and now Outdoor Sportsman Group, my mom deserves much of the credit for my lifetime spent loving the Creator’s world and the words that describe it all.
She’s a hall of fame mom in my book. And one of the few that I know will always read the outdoors drivel that spills forth from my keyboard, no matter how suspect it might be.
For all of that and more, thanks mom. You’re simply the best — happy Mother’s Day!