As my family gathered around the table to break bread for Thanksgiving dinner, the first thing that struck me was how empty the room felt. Ten years ago there would have been twice as many people. Both of my grandfathers and a cousin, who left us way too soon, have passed away. Another cousin has moved south and started his own family, drawing my aunt and uncle to their distant table. Another uncle was lost to divorce. Yes, my family has experienced our fair share of loss.
Focusing on the negative is no way to spend Thanksgiving. So after letting those thoughts of loss pass, I forced myself refocus on positives from 2012 and thought I'd share with you a few things I am thankful for.
My daughters are growing to love the outdoors
My little girls are seven and six. They're at such an incredible age. Both are beginning to assert a little independence, yet each still crawls in my lap multiple times per day. They've been exposed to an outdoor lifestyle since the day they were born, but lately I've been able to watch a love of nature blossom in each of them. I am so thankful for the gift of happy, healthy children and their growing desire to spend time outdoors.
Living in the United States where we are free to possess firearms and hunt
Well, the election is over and that's something to be thankful for in and of itself, but a lot of people are upset with the outcome. No matter how you feel about our president, I hope you still love our country. Because even as those predicting doomsday constantly spout off about how bad things are, I still wouldn't trade my US citizenship to live anywhere else. I shoot rifles in my back yard and eat animals I kill myself. I'm thankful for the right to do so, and I'm thankful for those who fought to give me those rights.
State and federal game agencies dedicated to protecting and preserving our natural resources
A lot of people express frustrations with the Department of Conservation, Department of Natural Resources and US Fish and Wildlife, but consider life without them. We are so fortunate to state and federal resources, people and money, dedicated to ensuring the future of natural lands and wildlife. I worked for the Indiana DNR for a few years, so I know the stresses the leaders of such agencies face. It is impossible to please everyone. I believe these agencies honestly try to do what they can to represent the masses, and they are not thanked enough for their efforts.
Passage of the RESTORE Act
Early in 2012, I made my first trip to our nation's capital. I was there to lobby on behalf of the RESTORE Act which guarantees that 80 percent of the fines collected from the April 2010 BP oil leak are distributed for coastal restoration states along the Gulf that were affected by the tragedy. I am thankful the leaders of nation passed the RESTORE Act and that the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Texas and Alabama will receive billions of dollars to help rebuild and boost their region, which is one of the most important ecosystems of our continent.
I could go on and listing things I'm thankful for, but I'll leave you with just those four and one more. I am thankful to be able to write this column each week and I am thankful you take the time to read it. I hope you and yours have a blessed holiday season.
See you down the trail...