Tag Archives: hunting

In memory of an impulsive father

thecottagebybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

My late father was a loving, loveable guy. His impulsive actions, however, often masked those admirable traits.

Combined with his affability and innate friendliness, his good intentions sometimes wrote a recipe for embarrassment if not potential disaster. Even when in the wrong, Dad would turn a negative into a positive.

Dad was definitely gung-ho about everything he did in life. With his many interests, he did a lot in his 89 years of living. He went full force, no holds barred. Dad was simply passionate about life.

If he knew this about himself, Dad certainly never acknowledged this reckless abandon approach to life as a fault. The way he lived, he had to have seen this passion as an attribute.

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My wife and I surprised my parents on Father’s Day in 2009 with a visit to the cottage they had built. We had purchased it from them, and remodeled the cottage. Dad died on Dec. 21 that year.

Dad loved sports, especially outdoor activities like hunting and fishing. He also amassed an extensive Indian artifact collection. Dad was involved in many community activities, almost always in leadership positions. The end result was that he made many friends in his lifetime.

Dad’s enthusiasm sometimes got the best of him, and others, too. The story my nephew shared at Dad’s memorial service three and half years ago pretty well summed up my father’s impulsiveness. The story is true with no hyperbole interjected.

Mom and Dad had a cabin on Clendening Lake in southeast Ohio. They loved to host friends and family as frequently as possible. My younger brother and his family attended one such outing.

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A favorite activity of Dad’s was to pile everyone onto his pontoon boat for a combination cruise and fishing trip around the 14-mile long lake. The scenery was always enjoyable. The fishing on the other hand often was more bait than catch.

On this particular voyage, Dad had found a spot right across the lake from the cabin. My nephew reported that the fishing was good until my father’s impetuosity intervened.

Dad cherished interacting with people, often to the point of being late for supper or forgetting an appointment altogether. I think he invented the word “relational.”

While my brother and his family were concentrating on catching croppies, Dad noticed another boat on the opposite shore. He thought it looked like the owner of the cabin next to his.

fallfishermanbybrucestambaughDad suddenly announced to his surprised passengers, “Hey, that looks like Bennett over there,” and up came the boat anchors. Lines were reeled in, and across the lake they went at full throttle.

Since Clendening isn’t a very wide lake, it didn’t take too long to reach the spot where Mr. Bennett was fishing. My nephew recalled wondering why his grandfather wasn’t decreasing the pontoon’s speed as they got closer and closer to the south shore.

Seeing the inevitable, my brother motioned for Dad to slow the boat or change coarse. He did neither.

Dad instead responded by yelling a series of “Hellos” to Mr. Bennett, who at first waved back, then tried frantically to wave Dad off.

Dad greeted his neighbor by ramming the pontoon boat into the much smaller bass boat, tipping it and its owner into the murky lake. Fortunately the water was shallow there. But all of Mr. Bennett’s rods, reels, tackle boxes and stringer sank straight to the lake’s bottom.

Dad had finally stopped the pontoon by the time Mr. Bennett had popped up soaking wet. What was my father’s first comment to Mr. Bennett after the crash? An apology? Not exactly.

Dad matter-of-factly hollered, “Hey, Bennett, are you catching anything?”

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My older brother, Craig, and I accompanied our father, Dick Stambaugh, on an Honor Flight trip to Washington. D.C. on Sept. 12, 2009. We posed in front of the Ohio pillar at the World War II Memorial.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Everyday should be Earth Day

fullmoonsettingbybrucestambaugh

I learned the love of nature from my late father and the discerning eye to capture it from my late mother.

By Bruce Stambaugh

As far as I’m concerned, everyday should be Earth Day.

I got that attitude from my late parents. They weren’t environmental activists to be sure. But they appreciated nature, each in their own way. They respected the environment and taught their five children to do the same.

Dad loved to hunt and fish. As we grew up, he had each of his three sons tag along while he hunted. I don’t know why he didn’t involve our two sisters. I remember Dad once being so keen-eyed that he caught a cottontail rabbit with his bare hands. No buckshot was every fired.

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The late Marian and Dick Stambaugh at the cottage they built in southeast Ohio.

When we were old enough, we joined him hunting pheasants, squirrels, rabbits and grouse. Dad saw the benefits of hunting, being outdoors, bringing home game, teaching his children about wildlife and conservation.

Since I tended to be a fair-weather sportsman, I preferred fishing. Problem was, when you went fishing with Dad, it was an all day deal no matter whether the fish were biting or not.

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A pontoon boat on Clendening Lake in southeast Ohio.

Dad loved to take his grandchildren on lazy cruises on his pontoon boat on his favorite fishing lake, Clendening. He would motor up Coleman’s Run to one of the many giant, sandstone outcroppings, and tie up. It didn’t matter if we caught much or not. We lounged in the warmth of the afternoon sun and the fellowship.

There was just something about being out in the fresh air, taking in the natural beauty all around. One time we even heard a black bear scratching its claws on a tree trunk.

Our gentle mother gave us a more cultured look at caring for and appreciating the earth. She was an accomplished artist, and loved painting landscapes, usually in watercolor.

Using both vibrant and soft colors, Mom perfectly captured nature in her many seasonal moods. There is a sparkling stream cutting through a dormant, snowy pasture, a gently curving country road that leads your eye past a vernal woods on the left and a Victorian farmstead on the right, and a glowing array of blazing Holmes County, Ohio fall foliage, and a thousand more.

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Mom painted Dad walking through the woods, shotgun over his shoulder.

Mom even captured Dad on canvas. He is a mere silhouette, shotgun over shoulder, walking back to their cabin, empty handed as usual. Dad admired that painting in part because his lovely wife chose him as the subject. He also loved it for the scene, a lone hunter hiking through a shaded glen, the glassy lake shimmering in the background. It certainly reflected Dad’s child-like spirit of simply enjoying the invigorating experience of nature.

As a youngster, I remember helping Dad plant hundreds of tree seedlings on a steep, abandoned farm field overlooking Clendening. Thrusting those sprigs into the loamy earth was much more than a kind act of conservation. It was a true lesson in hope.

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The pines I helped to plant have grown tall along the lakeshore.

I say that because now I enjoy the view from the porch of the cottage that the folks built. My wife and I bought and remodeled it and use it in much the same way as Mom and Dad. We enjoy sharing the same woodsy lushness, the forest creatures, the starry nights, and the quiet calm as Mom and Dad.

Just like Dad did with his children and grandchildren, I can stand on the porch, point across the lake to the grove of tall pines and tell a story about when they once fit in the palm of a young boy’s hand.

Thanks to my savvy parents, Earth Day doesn’t just happen in April.

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The view from the cottage porch.


© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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In search of the elusive morels

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We found this nice assortment of morels "in the woods."

By Bruce Stambaugh

This time of year, where two or more are gathered together in the world’s largest Amish population, there is certain to be a conversation about mushrooms.

Not just any old mushrooms either. We’re talking morel mushrooms, commonly referred to as sponge mushrooms. They can be gray, yellow, brown and even black. Regardless of hue, they’re all good as far as I’m concerned.

After all, once you taste your first morel, you’ll realize they are better than ice cream. That might be because they are harder to find than ice cream. You can’t just go to your local grocery story and buy a pound of nicely packaged morels. Finding them takes effort.

Instead of talking about finding mushrooms, a friend, my son and I put our words into action. We went in search of the elusive, edible fungus. Everyone has their favorite spot to hunt mushrooms. Usually, it boils down to where they were found in previous years. In our case, we headed up a steep hill and into the woods. For the record, it’s a morel sin to ask exactly what woods.

We walked carefully over the spoil bank where my foody son picked wild garlic, across a lane, and down a slope to a deer stand that guarded a placid, clear stream. However, at some point prior to our arrival, the creek had been angry. Rocky, silted debris littered the grassy flats where I had found the largest mushrooms last year. Pretty pink lady’s slippers took their place.

We gingerly made our way through the tangles of downed trees, briars and undergrowth. We headed back up hill, into large sandstone boulders covered with delicately textured lichens and mosses. The last of the spring beauties still blossomed here and there in the sunlit woods, still without its canopy.

The woods grew thicker, the trees taller, and the forest floor more densely laden with last year’s leaves. Emerald patches of new life broke the brownish camouflage. May Apples, lovely lily of the valley and occasional flowering trilliums made refreshing appearances.

I wandered ahead of the others until a pair of unidentified birds winged overhead. Without binoculars, I struggled to identify them against the late afternoon sun. The birds flew off, one after the other.

I looked down, and there against an ancient and fallen, moss-covered elm was my first morel of the season. Before I bent to pick it, I looked all around for others. Mushrooms seldom sprout solo. But this decent gray was the exception.

I hollered to my partners, who were out of sight but within earshot. My shout was promptly returned. They were less than 100 feet away, on hands and knees carefully scouring for mushrooms.

I circled around and joined them. I sat on the leafy debris carpet, straining to find more. Soon I spotted one, but when I reached to pick it my son shouted again. My hand was about to crush another mushroom. That’s how hard these little fellows were to see.

As the even sun faded, woodpeckers still hammered out their territories. After three hours, we heeded their reverberating warnings and retraced our steps. In all that time, we had covered less than a mile.

But the season’s first mess of mushrooms was in hand. Not many, but enough for a luscious meal of the hearty, flavorful morels. Just one taste of these sautéed morsels made all the effort worth it. I tell myself that every spring when the talk of hunting mushrooms in Ohio begins anew.

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