Throughout our lives we are presented with many opportunities. One such opportunity is that of being a positive role model for our youth. Hopefully, the wisdom we gather through the course of our lives will be passed on to younger folks. Along with wisdom, and perhaps no less important are the traditions and values we hold dear. When we avail ourselves of these opportunities we help to develop and therefore enhance the lives of those who will become our future. Our efforts will help further develop a productive, healthy and strong society.
So, how do we become this positive influencer for our young people? The sacrifice of small bits of our time when the chance arises demonstrates to them an interest and thereby creates a trust. This involves listening and sharing of our own life experiences. The hope here is to impart our values and ultimately, in a small way, help to shape these young lives.
Helping a young person to anticipate the consequences of their decisions and actions will prove valuable for his/her entire life. One of the fond memories of my childhood, around age 12, was the occasional weekend hunting trip with my father and his friend, Gary Hanna. These were short; day trips to a mountainous area usually an hour’s drive from our home in southern New Mexico. One week, dad capitalized on one such trip and created a learning experience that always stuck with me. Early in the week I was told to mow the grass. Then later in the week it was re-emphasized with the hunting trip being contingent on this mow job. I was apparently ill-equipped to imagine the following scenario. Saturday morning at the designated time, around 4:00 am, I was packed and anxious to get on the road and have the experience, upon which I had come to attach such a high value. Dad emerged from his bedroom and asked if I was ready to go. Did I have my fishing rod and tackle box? And what about my .22 cal rifle? He noted the possible quarry we might encounter. I responded in the affirmative and we prepared to depart. Almost as if he expected the fulfillment of my previously assigned obligation (surely he knew the answer), dad asked “Guess you got that yard mowed, right?” “Not yet” I responded, “But I’ll get it done later.” Expecting him to overlook this slight infraction, I grabbed my gear and started for the door. “Well, that’s too bad; maybe you’ll get to go on the next trip once you get that lawn mowed.” OH MY GOD! I watched my dad go to the car and ostensibly head out to pick up his buddy and have the adventure that had come to mean so much to ME. But, in reality, I suspect he had called Mr. Hanna the night before and called things off when he saw I had failed him. He surely just went to the shop and put in another day of work. Needless to say, THIS was a valuable lesson for me.
Later, when I was 15 years old, I attended a military school in eastern NM. The school was a 30 minute drive from the operation of another of dad’s friends, one Lee Jurras. The year was 1976 and Mr. Jurras was engaged in the development of the .44 Auto Mag cartridge. This was just a short time after the demise of his Super-Vel ammo company. He built many custom Auto Mags that are highly valued by collectors and demand incredible prices today – expensive that is, until one understands the whole Lee Jurras story.
Anyway, I suspect my father (250 miles away) asked Mr. Jurras to check in on me periodically. He did way more than that, and thereby became another huge and positive influence on me. Lee would pick me up on Saturday morning. Every 3rd weekend I had a furlough or permit to leave the campus as long as I had kept my nose clean for the previous 3 weeks; I always did. We had many adventures afield; he with his latest Auto Mag creation, and me with my prized Dan Wesson .357 pistol Pac. This gun was a gift from yet another of my dad’s friend’s, Skeeter Skelton. Our quarry was usually jack rabbits or more often, prairie dogs. I should say here that Lee was far more effective on the prairie dogs with a scoped Auto Mag than I with my Dan Wesson, as we usually shot from a couple hundred yards away. I’m not sure I even scared any back into their holes.
I’m rambling here, but wish to convey to the reader the value one can have on an impressionable mind. Today’s kids often react to our interest in them with a seemingly indifferent attitude. I don’t want folks to get discouraged and think we’re not penetrating the thick skulls of some kids. Often I see them react with shuffling feet and rolling eyes; only to later witness them spreading our words to their peers, possibly before they themselves even understand them. So take heart, dear reader, and proceed with confidence. You may not reach each mind you engage, but you WILL be a positive influence on more lives than not.