A SPECIAL DAY OF HUNTING IN MEMORY OF DAD
by Troy D. Sparks
Dad with Dashing Crackerjack (Jack), and Dashing Bondhu Kate at Crosley Wildlife Preserve (Nov. '94)
I soon ventured back outside to load the dog accessories, box and guns into the truck. Hearing a bell rounding the corner of my mom's house, I realized that "King" (Sparky's Dashing King) had jumped the fence. I could see the excitement in the three-year-old's eyes as I kenneled him into the dog box. I peered around the corner at the remaining two dogs, "Jack" (Dashing Crackerjack) and "Sally" (Sparky's Dashing Sally), feeling confident that they would not follow King's lead. The very thought of it brought a smile to my face, and I remembered my Dad's musings about his three-legged dog, Jack. That's another advantage to Jack, I thought to myself, no fence-jumping. (As some of you may recall, Jack lost his front leg at the shoulder several years ago in an accident. But don't let that fool you. Jack is one of those rare naturals in the field, and one of the best dogs I've had the pleasure to hunt.) It was at that moment that the purpose of the day hit me. It was to be the first of, hopefully, an annual hunting outing to honor my dad, Roy K. Sparks, Jr. (a.k.a. Kenny and Jonesy) who was killed in a tragic auto accident in April. Hunting brought so much happiness to my dad, and I realized this would be my first trip without him.
I returned to the house as the sun winked over the horizon and noticed a flock of Canadas sounding high overhead. As I opened the door, the warm scent of Mom's cinnamon rolls and coffee gave me just the boost I needed. The first hunters to arrive were my Dad's best friend and long-time hunting buddy Raymond (a.k.a. Blackie) who travelled from his home in Kentucky, as well as my brother and Chris, a friend of the family. After a few more minutes, my two uncles Evan and Dan (my mom's brothers) pulled into the driveway with my cousins Pat and Seth in tow. After exchanging morning greetings, the usual joke-telling and bantering about various handicaps needed for dog and hunter alike, began.
We loaded up and headed for Merrill Carrigan and his Flatrock Hunting Preserve (Milroy, Indiana), only a half-mile away. I reflected on my dad's lesson on what it means to hunt. I remembered back to my first hunt as a boy at the the Crosley Wildlife Preserve (North Vernon, Indiana). As my brother held his H&R and as Dad handed me his 870 Wingmaster, he asked us the difference between shooting and hunting. Roy and I both replied with a shrug of the shoulders. He proceded to explain that while shooting was merely the act of pulling a trigger, hunting was the whole experience of being in the field, admiring nature, enjoying each other's company; and watching the dogs work. Through the years, Roy and I learned to love hunting, but no one loved it more than Dad. It made him truly happy.
Arriving at Flatrock, our group divided equally into two fields. The hunt
was enjoyable as all the dogs (Our Llewellins, "Jack, King and Sally; Dan's Brittanys, "Rick" and "Bo", English Pointer, "Chance", and Llewellin, "Jes"; and Blackie's English Pointer, "Pepper") performed well. After the hunt, Mom took pictures to capture the day, and we gathered in Merrill's poll barn for some of his wife's complementary chili and cornbread. We laughed and exchanged stories of hunts past along with stories of my dad. Over the two days of our memorial "shoot-out", we yielded 55 of 60 pheasants. But, as my dad's lesson taught us, it was not the number of birds we shot or how
individuals performed that was most important that weekend. What was most
important was the camaraderie among family and friends and the precious
memories which we'd always share.
Email My Brother Roy
Copyright 1998-2004, Troy D. Sparks