Matt’s youth and the outdoors

Rick Cunningham, The Hays Daily News contributor
Rick Cunningham

If you’ve read my articles, you’ll know that Matt is my son and I’ve said several times that I’m very thankful he shares my passion for the outdoors.

I remember when Matt couldn’t have been much older than 6 or 7, on a Sunday morning when we were getting ready for church.  Matt was outside with his BB gun and came in to inform me that he had killed a tweety bird.  He really felt bad for the bird.  I, on the other hand thought it was great!

Matt’s first kill.  I had him pose with his bird and gun.  The picture is still in my man cave.  I told him he could say a prayer for the bird in church if he wanted to.

Another story I love to tell is when Matt was only 8 years old.  I had begged Matt many times to go with me and sit in a tree stand after school.  He told me several times that he would rather play with his friends.  Finally, one afternoon I picked him up after school and he said he’d go.  It was a beautiful warm evening.  I took him to a ladder stand so we both could be comfortable.

We had a small whitetail buck walk by, and Matt couldn’t stop giggling.  I asked him why he was laughing.  He said he thought it was so awesome that the buck walked by without knowing we were there.  The outing was already a great success.  When I heard another deer coming and we saw a Pope & Young muley jump the fence, I begged Matt to be quiet and sit still.  He did great, and we were able to get the buck.  I still tell him that deer is shared by both of us.  What a miracle!

On another occasion, I was going dove hunting with 3 or 4 of my friends one late afternoon.  Matt asked if he and a couple of friends could come with us and bring their BB guns.  After being reassured that they would be safe, we let them go off by themselves.  

When it was time to go home, we noticed a little red mark underneath one of Matt’s friend’s eye.  When questioned, they said Andrew had jumped off a feed bale and had hit a feed stock.  We took it hook, line, and sinker.  Later, Andrew’s mom called to inform me that they were shooting at each other and Andrew had been hit just below his eye.  Thank God it didn’t hit him in the eye.  We talked to the boys about telling the truth and gun safety.

When my mother was still with us, she used to tell us of many times when my brothers and I got into trouble, being very lucky to have escaped without major injuries.  That’s what kids do, especially boys.  I guess that’s part of growing up.

I remember taking 6-year-old Matt fishing at one of my favorite ponds.  I would rig him up with a worm and bobber on his Snoopy pole.  He was happy to catch small bluegill.  Matt started yelling at me; he couldn’t reel a fish in and needed help.  I went to help and sure enough, it was a big bullhead catfish.  It weighed almost 3 pounds, and he earned his first master angler award.  When I fried it up and we ate it together, I’m sure it tasted extra good because it was his fish.

For anyone who shares special times with kids, you all know how special these outings can be to both the adult and the child.

May God bless you all.

Rick Cunningham is an avid outdoorsman from Ellis.