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Tradition: Hope for Our Souls

man walks with a turkey

Written by Spence Halford of Rolling Thunder Game Calls

Traditions have a beautiful way of bringing hope to our future.  They give us something to look forward to, and the regularity of their steady faithfulness anchors our soul.  

My life is full of traditions.  Some traditions are small and oddly superstitious, like how uncle Rick likes to stop and eat chicken gizzards for good luck at the convenience store in Elaine on the way to deer camp even though it's the only time all year he eats chicken gizzards at all.  Some of them are culture defining and deeply shape my family history; like how and where I celebrate Easter or Christmas.  Some of my favorite traditions are the most simple.  They aren't superstitious, and they aren't enormous culture defining activities.  They are the simple steady things that seem to profoundly break up the ordinary daily grind of life....  like the breakfast Lindy makes every year on Christmas morning of country ham and hash browns and scrambled eggs. Or the tradition way my mother and aunt and grandmother prepare the turkey and dressing every year for thanksgiving; exactly the same way great grandmother Sanford taught them.  

Hunting is full or tradition; in fact a lot of us refer to the entire sport of hunting as a "tradition".  Maybe for you the traditions are as simple as which gas station you like to meet up with your buddies for coffee and snacks, or to leave an extra vehicle.  Maybe you have a particular block of woods or a particular camp that you like to start your season at each year.  I know I do!  And while year after year it may not always be the best hunt of the season, it's the peculiar familiarity of the tradition the we look forward to so much and that we enjoy participating in.

One of my favorite traditions each spring is to start turkey season with my dad.  A lot of years my children and me brother hunt with us as well.  In Tennessee, the spring turkey season has traditionally opened on the Saturday closest to April 1.  The last few years however, that’s been moved back to April 15th.  Most years, I'm fortunate enough to be able to hunt in Mississippi or Alabama prior to the Tennessee opener, and a lot of years I've already killed a gobbler or two by the time the TN season opens up.  The Inner Tennesseean in me has to admit, though that it's not truly turkey season until I'm in my parents kitchen pouring a cup of coffee and talking with Dad about where we should start.  

We are blessed with an incredible farm to hunt that is right out their back door.  Most mornings we ride a short ways in the truck to where we want to listen, but we could (and have many times) literally stand in the driveway to listen for the morning's first gobble.  It's hard to explain how grateful I am for the farm we have to hunt, but we haven't always been so fortunate.  Mine and dad's tradition for most of the 90s was to hunt the opener or juvenile day together in the public woods of Shelby Forrest state park.

There's something about a long standing tradition that is comforting and familiar.  And while it's wonderful to have great hunting right out the back door, the memories Dad and I have made together on our farm  are no better than the memories we made in the public state park 20 or more years ago - Because the tradition we have established of spending time together is not dependent on hunting quality.  Our tradition is about far more than just hunting.  The late spring flooding in 2017 and 2018 were hard on our birds, but we’re slowly seeing a rebound and a mild setback in turkey population won't stop us from spending time together in the spring woods.  Saturday morning April 15th, there will be a hot cup of coffee and a sense of anticipation in the air that words cannot explain, Because traditions are so much bigger than words can define. they are immersed in emotion and rooted deeply in our souls.

Traditions offer us hope.  They give us meaning, and and Rich color to life’s ordinary moments.  Our traditions provide the soil in which life's roots grow.  They have an odd, beautiful familiarity that comfort us and offers us something to look forward to.

Lord willing, I'll make my annual journey to the Mississippi river bottoms for my favorite cup of coffee of the year.  I'll have my 17 year old daughter, and my 11 year old son in tow to mine and Dad's spring tradition.  The only thing certain about our opener is that I won’t be the one on the gun.  I'll do my very best to savor every moment, and to get someone in position to harvest a gobbler.  But regardless of whether or not we harvest a turkey, we will carry on a tradition that one day will only be a memory.  The worst part about traditions is that they don't last forever.  Our time on this earth is limited, and while death brings us sadness and grief, it is also the singular element that makes the memories of those traditions so profoundly sweet.

So make the most of the time you have with the people that you love.  Establish rich traditions, and pass them on to the next generation.  And while the hope you find in the beauty of your favorite traditions warms your soul, may it be but a taste of of the ultimate nourishment the eternal hope offered in our savior Jesus Christ.

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