Am I the only person that feels like 2021 has gone by in a flash? I feel like we just turned the calendar yesterday! After what many perceived to have been a dreadful 2020, this year felt like a new start. Many restrictions were lifted early in the year, and the hope of vaccines getting us back to normal was a New Year’s wish that I’m sure many made. Obviously, that didn’t exactly work out and here we are about to turn the calendar again in hopes that 2022 will bring back some normalcy to our lives. Don’t bet on it.
For myself and our family, 2021 was filled with many new obstacles, as well as many new triumphs. We made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and made enough memories to last multiple lifetimes. We endured another year relatively unscathed by injury or major sickness (always a blessing) and watched our children reach some milestones in their lives. Aside from watching politicians attempt to burn our country down, 2021 hasn’t been so bad, after all.
The year began as any year should begin…with me bagging a nice buck. Oddly enough, the end of deer season was the beginning of the New Year. That’s the good thing about the Mississippi deer hunting season, you get to start your year off the right way. The buck turned out to be the oldest deer that I’d ever killed and one of my favorite bucks of all time. Even better, one of my very best friends and his son were at the camp to experience it with me. 2021 was looking up already!
Deer season quickly turned into baseball season, as it has done each year over the last thirty years. I traded in my rifle for a fungo and camouflage turned into a pinstripe uniform. In case you were wondering, that’s where the name “Pinstripes to Camo” is derived from. The sounds and smells of spring filled the air, and I became acclimated to hotels and late night meals. Our team was winning, which always makes for a fun spring. The temperature heated up a little more and so did our guys. We rolled through our conference tournament in Mobile, AL for our first conference championship since 2009. That momentum carried into our regional in St. Louis, MO and to within one game of going back to the NAIA World Series. My heart broke for our seniors as I watched them hug their teammates for the last time. Losing the last game of the season is never a good thing, but I was grateful for their efforts and proud of their accomplishments.
Taking a spring gobbler in 2021 eluded me again…continuing my streak of 35 years. I’m beginning to feel like a Chicago Cubs fan by saying, “Just wait until next year.” Maybe 2022 will be the year I finally put one of those beautiful feathered fans on my wall. Then again, our schedule for the month of April is almost 100% on the road so I wouldn’t bet on me bagging a Tom. 2021 afforded me one turkey hunting trip, which turned into a final farewell to our camp, where I’d made so many wonderful memories with friends and my children.
Summer rolled around and I was ready to go fishing. I attempted one handgrabbing trip, but the river would never cooperate with me, and I never stuck my hand into a hole. By the time I returned to my truck, some jackwagon had stolen my catalytic converter. River trips were put on a hold for a while after that. I decided, in an effort to make my wife feel better, to stick to public lakes for a while. During this time, my oldest two daughters learned how to drive the boat, which should prove handy in the future. I plan to teach them how to run trotlines and bank poles in the summer of 2022. This should nearly complete my mission to make sure no boys ever talk to them. The last phase will include learning how to properly chew tobacco.
Just before fall baseball started, I made my first ever solo camping trip on the river. It was a bit nerve-wracking, especially being my first trip back since the theft. Not too long into the night, the sounds of the river soothed me and made me feel at home again. I was able to catch a few fish, while at the same time proving to myself that I can go out alone and get it done. I highly encourage everyone to experience this at least once. There’s a peace in being alone at night on the river that cannot be duplicated anywhere else.
Archery season finally arrived in Mississippi and a whole new world was opened up to me. Camping and hunting has provided an entirely new challenge. Not having a kitchen, or a bathroom, has probably kept a lot of friends from joining me this season. I’m ok with that, but I do often miss the companionship while hunting. I’ve experienced all kinds of new things this deer season and have learned to embrace my fears of being in the woods alone for multiple nights. When you’re alone in the woods at night you hear every little sound. You can either let it drive you crazy, or you can lay back and learn to enjoy it. However, I don’t care how tough you are, when an owl lands on the limb above your tent and begins hooting at 3:00 in the morning it’s going to scare the crap out of you.
The best thing, without any doubt, to happen in 2021 was watching my oldest give her life to Christ and follow through with baptism. I don’t care how much good, or bad, the world throws our way, there’s no substitute for the feeling I got watching her. There will never be a buck killed, a fish caught, or a championship won that will match that feeling. I don’t know what 2022 will have in store for us, but beating the memories of 2021 is going to be hard. I hope you and your families all have a safe and happy 2022 filled with good health and new outdoor experiences.