November 4th, 2018 was a bright sunny day in Baker Oregon as 11 people loaded up into vehicles for a day of elk hunting. Venturing off onto familiar roads heading for those spots where hunters are spaced off along a road and push down through the area hoping to see their prey. Today’s hunt started like all other days at elk hunting. Everyone rises, breakfast is had, lunch is loaded in the cooler, and off we go. But today was not just any other day.
This year’s elk hunting season marked the first time hunting without my dad and without uncle Dan. Uncle Dan passed away in March of this year with my dad passing in August. It has been a long year for my family and while no one was looking forward to elk hunting this year it needed to be done, for our healing and to honor Dad & Dan. Elk hunting, for my family, was never about shooting an animal. Elk hunting was for spending time with family, playing pinochle or cribbage, and sharing stories. This year was to be no different and yet more special because we told stories about memories of Dad & Dan and at the same time made new memories.
This was a momentous year for my family in that my 4 boys and my brother were all there hunting with us. Some of us had gone at different times over the years but this year we all were there together. Along with Uncle Rick, Aunt Kathy, Uncle Rick T, and Uncle Larry we had family there to spend time sharing and telling stories. It reminded me of the elk hunting season the fall after my grandfather passed away. No one wanted to go because grandpa wouldn’t be there and what I remember missing most was his stories as we drove around.
Sunday, November 4th, we all loaded up and drove up to one of Dad’s favorite spots. Top of the ridge, visibility in every direction and wind in your face. Dad wanted his ashes scattered here. Elk hunting is where Dad could just be Dad and no matter what else was going on in the world, life was good. Family was together, stories were shared, hurts were forgotten and it was just special. This was to be Dad’s spot.
I don’t know how you are supposed to feel or react when you scatter someone’s ashes. Truly, I would have much rather had Dad standing next to me at that moment. We gathered as a group, said a few words, and at one of my uncle’s suggestions walked over and scattered Dad’s ashes on the rocks under this scraggly looking tree. The tree stands alone on top of the ridge, taking whatever the weather throws at it and challenging it for more. That spot is now known by my family as Howard’s Point and at least once a year, during elk hunting, we will drive by and say hello. Some of my favorite memories with my dad were while hunting so this was a perfect fit.
Dad, i’m sorry we didn’t get to all go hunting with you there. Selfishly I wish you were still here with us but I also am at peace knowing that you are no longer in pain and your body is healed. We spread you on your spot just like you wanted and now I just hope I can live a life that honor’s you. I pray that you, Dan, and Grandpa are hunting the big elk, never getting one, but telling stories all the same. I love you Dad.