We call it The Spirit of the Wild, for more than obvious reasons, but the depth of spirit in the hunting community of America is more powerful than most people can imagine.
For more than 40 years, I have been contacted by the families of terminally ill sons and daughters to honor their last request in life to share a hunting or fishing campfire with their old Uncle Ted.
I will not even try to explain how on God’s good green earth I could possibly qualify for such an honor, but nonetheless, we have never turned down such an amazing invite and consider every such campfire as the ultimate gift in life.
Recently, Shemane and I heard of a young seven year old neighbor, Gentry Doxter who had tragically died of cancer.
A fellow Texas hunter named Jimmy Bennett had taken Gentry on hunting and fishing trips during his last year of life through his amazing JMB Fishing Foundation charity, bringing forth the uniquely powerful healing powers of nature and God’s miraculous out of doors spirit.
Gentry’s last request was to have a funeral procession of hunting trucks, fishing boats, motorcycles, law enforcement and military.
And that we did. The miles long procession included thousands of loving Americans of every stripe, dozens of law enforcement vehicles, light-a-flashing, roaring bikers and trucks pulling boats.
All along the many miles were camo clad families holding their rods and reels high in a brotherhood salute to Gentry and his heartbroke family.
It was moving beyond description.
Having experienced this heartbreaking moment so many times over the years, I am humbled to the core to be a part of this American Spirit of the Wild family.
On behalf of these great families, I wrote the following letter, not just to Gentry, but all those families who have had to deal with this heart-ripping tragedy in their lives.
We did our best and hope you were pleased. As requested, hunters, fishermen, cops and military heroes from around Texas and beyond showed up to take part in your last parade. It was an honor that none of us will ever forget.
Seven years is not enough, but the Good Book says that none of us know how much time we have. It isn’t really about how much time we have, but rather what we do with that time. The point of life is to make a difference, to hit a lick for what’s right, to leave a positive mark for others to emulate. With your simple yet powerful request, Gentry, you did just that. You were every bit a trail blazer in the image of Daniel Boone and Fred Bear.
At seven years-old you reduced us old guys and gals to tears, shook us to our core because you had vision and wisdom beyond your young years. As we drove in your honor parade you reminded us of what’s truly important. We owe you so much more than a parade for that.
Your parade reminded us that it is the young people that we will leave the future of America’s grand, proud, and tremendously successful heritage of hunting, fishing and trapping to. It is the young people who we will entrust to carry on, to do better than we did, to leave the wildground in better condition than when they inherited it. It is your peers, Gentry, that we must teach and encourage to carry on the torch of conservation, to cherish the wildthings, the soil and water.
Without young people to carry on there is no future for God’s amazing and perfect conservation system that everyone benefits from. Our amazing conservation system literally hinges on those of us who hunt, fish, and trap.
We live in different times, Gentry. So many young boys and girls live with single parents who are doing their best to raise them but there is little time and money to introduce these youngsters to the Great Outdoors. That’s where we, the very people you requested to send you off in a parade, need to step in and step up. Each of us must find a way to reach these young boys and girls and introduce them to Mother Nature who will provide them relief from the modern technological trappings, provide them untold heart-pounding excitement, and let them experience the splendor of the wildthings throughout their lives. It is the Great Outdoors that teaches us to be better, more disciplined, more respectful, and more appreciative. There are no gang members with hunting or fishing licenses in their wallets.
Many young people find enjoyment with computer games. We need to introduce them to the Great Outdoors where no computer game can ever match the heart-pounding splendor of watching an eagle gliding over a river, a wary whitetail buck sniffing the wind and inching closer, a bass striking a lure, a sun sinking below the horizon. You knew these things, Gentry. You were one of the lucky ones to have had family to baptize you into lap of Mother Nature.
We need to do more, Gentry. We must provide young people with better ground and more opportunity. It has never really been about the size of antlers or fish, but rather about lighting a flame for other young people. We must know that it isn’t so much about leases that generate additional vital income for ranchers and farmers, but rather about leases that generate interest in young people who will carry the conservation torch forward for decades to come.
Say hello to my mom, dad, brother John, Fred Bear, Dick Mauch and all those other Spirit bloodbrothers for me. Tell them that I will see them soon, that we will walk down the trails again. In the meantime, this fall I’m taking you, Gentry, hunting with me where we will stalk wary whitetails together. We’re kindred spirits of the wild things. In the wind you will be forever alive and with us. Let’s go hunting.
Your Spirit Bloodbrother forever,
Ted Nugent and family and American conservationists everywhere