When my sister and I were growing up in Anniston, my parents never had to tell us to finish our supper. Whatever was put before us, we ate and usually had seconds. Many parents tell their children to finish their dinner because there are people starving in the world who are not fortunate enough to have a hot delicious and nutritious meal every day. My sister and I appreciated the food on our table not only because it tasted good but also because we were growing and, therefore, very hungry. Sometimes appreciation for where your next meal comes from is inherent, but many times children must be taught.
Determining the way you will teach your child the importance of food for human survival will depend on your own point of view. If you have a parent or grandparent who lived through the Depression or experienced several years of ration tickets in the 1940s, you may have seen them stockpile pantry staples such as beans, flour or rice. You may have also seen your mother or grandma stretch the meat and stock of a whole chicken for an entire week: fried chicken, chicken n’ dumplings, dressing and rice soup until every bit is used. Wasting food was never an option for many generations, but the ease of our modern lifestyles has caused many people to become relaxed about their own food efficiency.
Not long ago, a young man told me he had purposely shot a small deer that was probably only a year old. After he indicated it was intentional and not a mistaken shot, I asked him why he didn’t let it be rather than killing the deer. He said he just wanted it off his family’s property; it was a nuisance. So, I asked him if he at least gave it to another family so someone could benefit from his kill. He said no, that he left it. That is when his parents or the person who taught him how to hunt should have taken him to task for his behavior. All young hunters must go through a hunter safety course to get their license, but children and parents must understand that becoming a mature hunter is a lifelong process, not just a onetime test you pass and forget.
Hunters are typically some of the most conservation-conscious people – no matter where you live. Parents who hunt usually make sure environmental awareness and responsibility are passed on to their offspring. Children who see Mama or Daddy showing a respect for nature and the cycle of life are more likely to have the same reverence for wildlife instilled in them. Like many families in Alabama, Jason’s family has hunted the same land for generations. Boys and girls are introduced to the outdoors and hunting not long after they are born. Because of this, parents have to make sure their children grow up learning how to be as safe in the woods as they would in their own backyard.
Jason especially teaches Rolley Len and Cason how to be safe and knowledgeable outdoors. Every time they are together in the woods, he is regularly annotating their experience. From showing them how to look for squirrel nests or identifying deer tracks to spotting buck scrapes on trees, they are developing a respect for nature and an understanding of the cycle of life.
Every hunting season provides an opportunity for so many teachable moments. During rabbit season, Jason used one of the rabbits to explain to Rolley Len how the heart and lungs work. While some parents may feel squeamish about dressing an animal to teach their child physiology, it is important to remember this is where food comes from, and children need to appreciate that groceries, including meat, don’t just magically appear in grocery stores.
Rolley Len and Cason both know we eat what Daddy kills. The kids see Jason clean and dress fish, deer, rabbit or anything else he brings home. Jason believes new hunters would benefit if the hunter safety training included instruction in cleaning and dressing the game. Young hunters should be encouraged to appreciate that they might be bringing home their family’s next meal, not just a trophy mount.
Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.