The other night, I was covering the top-15 ranked matchup between Miami and Minnesota at Williams Arena. For about the third time in a month, someone asked me why I love to write. I thought about it, but could never express it in complete detail. It's a long, but impactful story.
Well, I guess writing just comes natural to me. In a way, it’s something I can do where my mind escapes and wanders away. Everything going on seems to slip away. When I’m stressed, questioning things, or want to share what’s on my mind, writing is my escape. Whether it’s a sports article, an academic paper, or a piece like this, the words just flow. When I was little (six years old), I’d watch a sporting event, write an article and share it with my family. It was something I just started doing because sports and writing were a passion of mine. I never knew where it came from. My dad worked for his high school newspaper and shared a very similar interest. However, he took a different route in his career, embarking on a 30-plus year journey in the turkey industry. I always wondered where the writing started in our family. Both sides of my family had interest in reading, but growing up, I never could pinpoint where the writing skill derived from. My grandpa loved sports, but never really expressed himself through words. He always pushed me to pursue writing, but never acted like he enjoyed it. Deep down, he was a very soft man, however, he never casually shared his emotions in written form. He would instead have a conversation with you and end it with a wink or a chuckle.
Over five years ago, my family and I embarked on a journey that changed our lives forever. My grandpa was diagnosed with leukemia. It was very tough for everyone involved. We embraced every moment together, and as I’ve shared before, he inspired me to chase my dream. I carry his spirit with me during every sporting event I cover or milestone I accomplish in my life. There are always a few people in your life you want to share every awesome moment with. He was one of those people. Every time something special happens, I think about his smile and the “pretty good, kid” he would always respond with. The exchange was always special. I miss him every day, especially during the holiday season. I just wish I could have coffee and watch the Vikings with him one more time. Every time I watch a game, I can’t help but think about him. It’s even more the case this year as the Vikings are poised to make a deep run into the playoffs. My grandpa was the biggest Vikings fan and we shared a love for the game together. He would love to see them finish it off at home this year. My dad and I watch the games and always think about how much he would love what Mike Zimmer has built. If they make it, I’m hoping I’ll have the chance to be there covering it as a journalist. It is something that would make him so proud and happy.
Recently, there have been so many people asking me how I can express myself so quickly through words. I always wondered how writing came so natural to me. I didn’t receive the answer until my grandpa passed away. Days after we lost him, my dad and I were going through his desk to find paperwork we needed. My dad opened the drawer and found an old, worn paper near the back. It was folded together and tucked away. I’ll never forget opening it and seeing beautiful hand writing covering the sheet. It was a story of some kind. Eloquent words filled the paper from top to bottom. This was the last thing we ever thought we would discover. The story described the pursuit of a deer on my grandpa’s land with incredible grace and detail. He never shared this with us, but we later discovered it was published in an outdoor magazine. It was like my dad and I were meant to find this story when we did. I’ll never forget reading the entire piece, getting to the end, and breaking down in tears. I finally knew who the writer was in the family. I was overcome with emotion because it was unexpected, but very beautiful in so many ways. Every time the snow starts to fall and the holiday season gets in gear, I think of my grandpa and this story. It’s something I’ll carry with me forever. It hangs in my family’s house for everyone to see when they arrive. I’ll share it with you:
5:30 a.m., November, 8, 1990, anxiously, I went outside to check the chimney smoke for wind direction. The wind was light, but constant, the sky was cloudy and overcast, maybe threatening rain or snow. Perfect, I thought, and hurried inside to dress for my deer stand.
Two days earlier, I was scouting the Norway pine woods behind my house and located two fresh buck scrapes near an old tree stand I had built twelve years ago and never used very often because I never saw many deer there and assumed the trail was used mainly at night. The stand is about 300 yards from my house.
At 6:15 a.m., I am settled in and waiting for daylight. 6:15 a.m., the neighbors dog circled my stand and checked out both scrapes. 6:50 a.m., I heard the school bus pass by. 7:00 a.m., a deer passes quietly to my left. Too far away to tell if it is a buck. A heavy snow squall begins and I hope it won’t last long. 7:20 a.m., my sound instincts told me to look behind. Behind me, to my right, and downwind, a deer was walking toward a scrape. I quickly and quietly started my “turn-around” in a tree stand. As I was carefully positioning myself, the old plywood board let out a deafening squeak. Instantly the deer froze in its tracks and the hunter froze in his stand. The waiting game was on.
The snow was coming down hard. I was in an awkward and cramped position and trying to breathe very quietly. The pine woods were very dark.
The deer and hunter were about 40 yards away and several pines trees stand between deer and hunter. 5 minutes pass, neither deer nor I have moved. It seemed very quiet in the woods. 10 minutes pass, deer and hunter have not flinched a muscle. As I stared at the spot where the deer stands, I begin to wonder if it had stolen away. No, I can still make out the outline of his body. 15 minutes pass. What a test of the whitetail’s patience and cunning in a danger sensed situation.
The snow squall is ending. My eyes are watering. Is there a deer still standing there? My body is aching from the twisted and cramped position. It’s getting hard to breathe quietly. I hope the wind doesn’t whip around. A car with a loud muffler passes on the gravel road to my right. Yes, there is still a deer there. The deer turned its head toward the noise and I could plainly see the white on its nose. The deer turned its head back and the wait was on again. Was the deer a buck? I could not yet be sure. 20 minutes, maybe longer, seemed like an eternity, and the deer turns toward me and starts to walk slowly. Five yards maybe, stopped, raised its head high and a splendid rack appears. Yes, he is going to check the other scrape. We will pass within 10 yards. I can’t wait that long. I’m sure he will wind me before then. I take careful aim behind the front shoulders and squeeze off a round. He bolts and charges past me. I squeeze off two more quick rounds as he flashes between the pine trees. Then he is out of sight.
The snow squall is over and I’m wondering if I missed my first shot. I climbed down from the tree and approached the spot of my first shot. Just enough snow to see blood easily, I thought. My trusty 20 gauge did the job well. Blood and pieces of lung are everywhere. No need to hurry.
As I tracked him in the fresh white snow, I thought, what giant leaps, what enduring stamina he has. I hope he has mated with many doe before today. 200 yards in the pine woods he raced before he died on the run.
All hunters must truly appreciate the whitetail deer and gratefully thank our creator for such a magnificent animal. We are sure beholden…
So you ask where my love of writing comes from?
It’s from this special guy and I'll continue using my gift to impact others.