By Ben Smith:
Each passing year brings new excitement, as well as new challenges. 2022 was certainly no different. Keeping with the theme of the last couple of years, I thought I’d do a year in review for my final article of the year. Here’s to hoping 2023 brings more opportunities to keep churning out material!
Just like 2021, this year started out much the same: me killing a nice buck. I wouldn’t mind that being a yearly event. A large portion of people come up with all kinds of what I think are silly resolutions to bring in the New Year. Not me. If there was something that I feel like I should be doing differently, I wouldn’t wait until the year changes over to start it. My resolution is the same every year…kill big deer.
With my final hunt out of the way, January quickly faded into February and the beginning of baseball season. I’ve written about “deerpression” before, so it’s a good thing that baseball fills the empty space that deer season leaves behind. It truly can be an obsession, as my wife made sure to tell me multiple times today. But, there’s just something about the peacefulness of the woods, and the possibility of killing something bigger than you’ve ever killed before. Obsession, usually used in a negative context, is an accurate description of my life from October through January, then again from February to May, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing.
Coming off of a conference championship, and nearly making the World Series in 2021, I didn’t know what to expect for baseball season. We’d lost a couple of our best players, and there were some new faces that would have to fill the void. That’s exactly what they did. We rocked along, playing well at times and not so well at others, and entered our conference tournament feeling good about how we were playing. In the first game, we found ourselves down 12-2 after four innings before making a comeback, and eventually winning the game 16-14. From there, there was no stopping the train. We rolled through the rest of the tournament completing our back to back championship campaign. Having been on the road for almost three solid weeks, I believe the travel finally took its toll on us. Our season ended in Atlanta, Georgia, and we had to say goodbye to another senior class, always a tough thing to do.
Summer was as busy as summers usually are. Between recruiting, camps, and games being played at our field, there was hardly enough time to relax. When things finally began to slow down, my family took a trip to Jekyll Island, Georgia for a week. Had I known that our season would have ended the way it did in Georgia a month earlier, I’d have scheduled a trip elsewhere. However, the town was amazing, and my oldest daughter and I did a little fishing while there. We landed our first ever shark from the beach much to the bewilderment of some folks that had been swimming there just a few minutes prior. I’m not sure why they didn’t realize that they weren’t swimming in a pool and sharks do, in fact, live in the ocean. I’m going to chalk it up to these being the same type of people that promote safe spaces and warning labels on everything. Nonetheless, me and Mackenzie had a good time and avoided the business end of the little monster.
Mississippi summer lasts seemingly forever. Then you get Mississippi “false fall”, then another Mississippi summer. At some point between “false fall” and the third summer, I was able to get on the scoreboard with a doe during the archery season. I was for sure that my good buddy, Matt, had “gar-holed” me on the trip, but it turned out that I’m the only one that got a shot. The weather was miserable, and to be honest, I lost a lot of the urge to be in the woods. However, my spirit was rejuvenated when we decided to have a “Big Buck” contest with USM’s baseball team. When you finish playing ball, you don’t have many ways to compete where you actually get to contribute to the scoreboard yourself. This allows us “older guys” to do just that. Plus, we don’t play USM any more in baseball, so we thought this would be a friendly way to do it. As an added bonus, it encourages guys to get out in the woods…something I think is sorely needed in our world today.
Keeping with my theme from 2021, I have continued to camp in a tent while hunting this year. Even after doing it for a season, I’m still learning new ways to get a good night’s sleep and new ways to try and stay warm. And just like last year, I don’t have a whole bunch of friends just knocking down the door to go rough it for a few days. As much as I enjoy the primitiveness of camping and hunting, I really do miss the camphouse life. Humans are social creatures, and there isn’t much socializing being done camping in the freezing cold alone. The good news is that I was able to get a buck on our scoreboard during the week of Thanksgiving. The girls banished me to the woods after contracting Covid for the first time, and I’m glad they did. It would be a shame to write an outdoor column, host a contest, and not be able to contribute to my team!
With all of the good things that happened in 2022, there were some unfortunate events too. Some of them were my fault, and some were out of my hands. I didn’t take my kids fishing nearly as many times as I wanted to. I still didn’t kill a turkey. But, when you bury a friend, or a relative, none of those things seem to matter as much. This will be the first Christmas of my life that I don’t get to spend with my grandmother, and that stings. So, for 2023, I’m not making any resolutions, I just hope to be better than I was in 2022. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!