My Uncle Paul gave to me an incredible gift. There is no question that my enduring love and respect for nature was seeded on his watch. He taught me to fish, to shoot a bow and was the first to teach me about firearms, masterfully emphasizing stewardship and safety. Many times he said that I should never kill a living thing just for the thrill of doing it, and though that would later become an important guiding principle in my life, I can remember the very moment that it began to hit home.
One day when I was about 10 years old, I had my BB gun out and I saw a red winged blackbird at the top of a tree. I shot at it but I was not prepared when it actually fell, striking branch after branch as it plunged lifelessly to the ground. For a moment, I just stood there, not sure if I should be excited or ashamed. When I turned around and looked behind me, there was my Uncle, watching me. He just looked at me, not uttering a word as he walked toward the Gazebo.
We had a funeral for that bird that morning…Me, Ginger and Charlie…and, of course, Uncle Paul, quietly watching from his chair.