Sometimes I question whether or not Dad realizes what an example he set for his children – or at least me, as I can’t speak for my brother or sister. He, along with my mom, spent the last nearly 46 years owning and operating Russell Canoe Livery and Campgrounds, Inc. and are still actively involved in the business. They purchased the canoe livery from my paternal grandmother, Judy Reid, in June 1977, a few months prior to their wedding. Growing up in and with the business, I saw firsthand what my parents and grandparents did to grow the business, including the sacrifices they made.
As a child, whenever anyone asked what my dad did for a living, my response of “he owns a campground and canoe livery” fascinated many. As the canoe livery developed, Dad focused on creating a business that not only worked around our family life – it complimented my mom’s teaching career and our school schedules well. It also allowed him to pursue his hobbies of hunting and fishing in a way impossible for most people.
I admit it: I know more about hunting and fishing than any non-hunter, non-fisherwoman I know. All thanks to Dad. I grew up feeding Beagle hunting dogs used for rabbit hunting; with various mounts in our basement; and learning what a Pope and Young record meant, once my dad killed a Canadian black bear with a bow and arrow. That bear now infamously resides in our main office/store in Omer, a legend in his own right.
As a young child, when I asked Dad why he hunted deer, he took the time to give me the full, true explanation. At six years old, he explained how deer hunting helps control the deer population in Michigan. If they weren’t hunted, there would be many more car/deer accidents, and they could become over-populated, causing starvation and disease. I have never forgotten that lesson. Even though I am no hunter myself, I have no issue with it – as long as rules are followed and as much of the animal is used as possible.
What I admire most about my dad is how he was able to create a life for himself in which he prioritized what he wanted out of life – and it wasn’t money – it was about lifestyle. Even though he didn’t directly use his degree in wildlife biology in his career – he didn’t become a conservation officer – that knowledge allowed him to more fully understand what was needed to become a better hunter and fisherman. Dad’s passion for his hobbies, even today in his 70s, still inspires me.
What I’ve long realized is that I am just as passionate about reading and writing. He may not see it or recognize the correlation, but I do. It is the reason why I earned my writing certificate from Delta College, took additional humanities courses when possible, joined Mid Michigan Writers, attended several writing workshops, and so much more. Everyone should be so lucky. I am never bored. I am eternally grateful that my dad was able to find a way to make it all work and set an example for me to follow. Per usual, I’m just doing things the “hard” way. I will get there … eventually.