I was visiting a friend whose son had just spent his last day in sixth grade. Naturally, the kid was ecstatic. If long-term memory serves, there’s not much that excites a youngster more than the last day of school.
This particular child had an additional reason to be happy. This same day his dad picked up the boy’s mounted canvasback from the taxidermist. It was the kid’s first duck, shot way back in January on Lake Seminole. Such a pleasant surprise. The youth’s demeanor took me back to my own younger days as a childhood waterfowler.
Childhood is a great teacher if we will but listen and heed the valuable lessons it imparts. This can be especially true when childhood’s classroom is a duck blind, a swampy marsh, or any other locale pertaining to waterfowling. I was a good student myself and today remember most of the things I learned.
Here are a few of those lessons for your consideration. If you have any young waterfowlers hanging around your house, perhaps you’d like to clip and save.
Lesson 1: Don’t take up duck hunting before you first learn the difference between all species of wild waterfowl and your neighbor’s expensive, imported Coscoroba swans.
Lesson2: Should you contemplate getting into a fistfight with the kid who’s hogging the best shooting spot, make sure he is a great deal smaller than you.
Lesson 3: It’s okay to try out newly acquired cuss words on your duck hunting buddies, but not on the grownups gathered around Grandma’s Sunday dinner table.
Lesson 4: Just because you are too young to require a hunting license doesn’t mean you’re exempt from state or federal game regulations. Just ask the game warden.
Lesson 5: That young hunting buddy of yours who says he’ll give you his brand new duck call if you’ll just “smoke this big ol’ black cigar down to the end” is more than likely lying to you.
Lesson 6: Likewise, swallowing a whole cud of chewing tobacco won’t kill you. It will, however, make you pray loudly and fervently for death to come quickly.
Lesson 7: Poking a duck-blind water moccasin with a stick or the end of your gun barrel will not make him go away and leave you alone.
Lesson 8: The big hornets’ nest in that cypress tree is not a good practice target, despite what your friends tell you.
Lesson 9: When a supervising adult says, “Don’t tease that skunk,” listen to him.
Lesson 10: Your grandfather is not likely to be amused by the dead mallard you forget to remove from his pickup’s toolbox, especially if he discovers your oversight four days later.
Lesson 11: That pocketknife your mama says will cut you will do just that.
Lesson 12: When your grandmother announces that she will tolerate no muddy boots or sopping wet waders inside her clean house, chances are she means it.
Lesson 13: Not all adults appreciate affectionate hugs from smelly ten-year-olds covered with swamp muck.
Lesson 14: If you must pause and think about whether or not you can jump across that narrow spot in the creek, you probably can’t.
Lesson 15 Carefully survey the vegetation in the thicket you choose to seclude yourself and answer nature’s call. If poison ivy is present, pick another spot.
Lesson 16: Daddy’s new shotgun cannot be easily retrieved from nine feet of cold, murky water.
Lesson 17: Finally, those chigger bites that invariably manifest themselves “down there” always itch worse when one stands, in his Sunday suit, reciting Bible verses before the entire church congregation.
Whew! Rehashing all this makes me a little jittery, even 50 some-odd years later. It also makes me wonder sometimes how we duck-hunting young’uns ever grew up to be duck hunting adults.
Email outdoors columnist Bob Kornegay at firstname.lastname@example.org.