Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lost tradition, lost lessons

It's been over a year since The New York Times published the article, "To Revive Hunting, States Turn to the Classroom," about the hunting-education classes offered by public schools in West Virginia and more than a dozen other states.

My grandfather and my father, at least as a boy, hunted because they had to -- it put food on their table -- but I'm not a hunter and never have been. I do, however, embrace American hunting's rich tradition and the many lessons it teaches.

Because hunting, trapping and basic woodsmanship were woven tightly into the fabric of my upbringing in rural northeastern Ohio, the opening paragraphs of the Times article resonate with me.

"When David Helms was in seventh grade, he would take his .22-caliber rifle to school, put a box of ammunition in his locker and, like virtually all the other boys, lean his rifle against a wall in the principal’s office so he could start hunting squirrels and groundhogs as soon as classes let out.

"Now, when he takes his 8-year-old grandson hunting on weekends, Mr. Helms, 55, searches the boy’s pockets before sending him back to school to ensure that there are no forgotten ammunition shells. But most of his grandson’s peers never have to worry about that, Mr. Helms said, because they would sooner play video games than join them outdoors."

Our world has changed, certainly. That's saddening, on so many levels, and just as sadly accurate.

Mrs. KintlaLake and I often visit the gun shop that Dave Helms manages. More than once we've sat around that cozy Morgantown store with him and the shop owner, usually joined by a handful of locals, bemoaning what happens to our youth when they choose electronic hypnosis over spending time on the land.

Typical of today's society, it's the difference between entertainment and education. We sabotage our nation's future by demanding too little of young people.

I understand that this isn't the America I grew up in -- I get that. I also say that we're the poorer for it.

We've lost so much more than we've gained.