I have known for years that I needed to get around to shining my favorite boots before they were worn and dried out beyond repair, but didn't have the supplies and was afraid of ruining the most expensive shoes I own. As it turns out, the process was remarkably simple, required a very minimal investment, and the boots look far better than I thought a simple shining would accomplish. More than that, I found it to be an incredibly gratifying and therapeutic process. It forces you to slow down, focus, and connect with generations of men long past that engaged in this task on a regular basis simply because they were men and that was something men did. I plan to shine my boots regularly now, just because it brings me joy. Alright, enough shoe philosophy (sholosophy?), here's how to shine your boots!
Inside EVERY man is still a 12 year old boy who wants to go on an adventure, to play in the dirt, and he wants to do that with the people he likes the most (that's you). And in much the same way that boys on the playground don't understand that pulling a girl's hair doesn't communicate affection the way they intend it to, men are not always sensitive to the fact that guys and girls tend to like different adventures. We can't fully fathom why a week in the woods chasing animals wouldn't seem like the best time ever to the woman that we love, in the same way you can't fully understand why a Saturday at a farmer's market makes him want to gouge his eyes out with a rusty spoon. It's a wiring issue...we're just built differently.
Most concealed carriers aren’t renegade cowboys or wannabe Navy SEALS; we aren’t overly paranoid and convinced terrorists are going to take over a small Montana town like in Red Dawn. We have simply come to the conclusion that “it could never happen here” is one of the most dangerous things a person can think. We have accepted the harsh reality that “it” could happen anywhere! I live in a fairly nice suburb with terrifically low crime statistics, and the odds are that I will never have to draw my gun in self-defense as long as I live. I truly hope and pray that is the case! But I refuse to let that lull me into a false sense of security where the one in a million actually happens, and I have no way to effectively protect myself, my family or other innocent human beings.
Here is what I have come to believe: that is total horse-crap! For just about anyone in just about any situation, the "I could never do that because..." fallacy is total garbage. It's a lie your brain (and I would argue, the devil) tells you to protect you from the discomfort associated with change. Even if you're not happy with the status quo, change ALWAYS brings unpleasantness of some form, and so our brains work to keep us stuck where we are because it's familiar and comfortable. How many dudes live quiet lives of desperation because there is some dream in their mind that they have convinced themselves could never be a reality?
We had been in the wilderness all of 5 minutes when Hendric jumped up and proclaimed he had just sat on a cactus. Sure enough, a small prickly pear near our tent had escaped his notice, and he had literally sat on it. Of all the fun dad jobs I've ever had to take on, pulling cactus spines one at a time out of your son's bare butt cheeks is up there with one of the most bizarre. (For the record, this would be one of three encounters he'd have with a cactus over the next 24 hours..."watch where you're going" is the most repeated lesson he learned on this trip)
As a man, if someone tells you that you are too weak (especially too weak to simply hold your skeleton together) it drives you to change. I immediately began researching strength training programs, got a gym membership, and got to work! Now, if you've ever perused the internet for fitness advice, you're surely aware that there are more opinions than there are brands of overly priced yoga pants (what is LuLu Lemon, anyway?!). Not only that, all the opinions contradict each other. Muscle confusion, hypertrophy, sets of 5 or 8 or 10 or 30, cardio is awesome, cardio will kill you, squats are the best, squats will kill you...it's a nightmare!!! Eventually, all that advice becomes overwhelming, you fart around the gym for a couple months, progress and motivation stall, and you quit working out but keep paying for the gym promising yourself you'll go back next Monday. Ever been there?
Most of the time, a weekend of scouting for game is the most relaxing part of hunting. You walk around the woods, observe some nature, but you don't have any of the intensity of actually hunting an animal yet. Basically, it's a purposeful nature-walk, and is generally low key and very refreshing. This weekend, however, was NOT one of those times. It seemed that everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and you know it's a bad day when you actually think through how you'd direct a rescue helicopter to your location. The things we do for this glorious sport!
It was the 3rd morning of a rifle mule deer hunt in the desert southwest of Phoenix. I had been drawn for big game in AZ at least six times over ten years, and still had yet to bag my first animal. Due to scope issues with my rifle, by this point in the hunt I had missed two large bucks, and burned through a whole box of ammo trying to sight in again. We arrived before dawn on that third morning and I was determined that this was the day my slump would end. As I gathered my gear and loaded up my rifle, I found myself with four rounds in the gun, three in a spare magazine, and one lonely .30-06 round sitting in the box. “I’ll just leave this in the Jeep,” I thought to myself. “After all, who could possibly need more than seven rounds to put down a deer? Plus, who walks around with a loose bullet in their pocket? I’m not Barney Fife”...
As I approached the trees in a surgically slow army crawl, I popped my head up to check that the bull hadn’t grown suspicious. To my horror, the bull was now standing where he was bedded and staring right at me. Haltingly, I retrieved an arrow from my quiver, knocked it, and waited for him to avert his gaze for just a moment to give me the chance to draw. He stared through me to my partner who was blowing cow calls 40 yards behind me for what felt like hours. Flinching through an intensifying hamstring cramp, I forced myself to remain perfectly still. Finally, he moved briskly behind some thicker timber, giving me the chance to come to full draw. He stopped for another cow call, just on the other side of the timber, quartered away, with his vitals inside of an 18-inch window in the trees. I took a deep breath, squeezed back on the release, and watched the arrow sail through the air…