I’ll never forget finding out for the first time that I was going to be a father. My wife, Amy, cried a little, but I was through the roof with excitement. She eventually came around, by the way. I immediately had all of these glorious plans for what our little one could be. I had plans of hunting, fishing, and sports with dad, because I just knew that God was going to provide me someone to play with.
I vividly remember going to meet Amy at the doctor to find out the gender of our first born. On the way to the clinic, “Danny’s Song” by Loggins and Messina came on the radio. This was my sign! I was going to have a little hunting buddy for sure! I was partially correct. Our first born was not a boy, nor was our second, nor our third! That’s right, I have three daughters. I live in a sea of estrogen where even the dog is a girl, and that is perfectly fine with me. It’s nice to come home to some sweet hugs after spending the day at work with 35 guys. Don’t get me wrong, I love my time on the field with the boys, but I cannot imagine having to come home and deal with more boys.
Having girls shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me anyway. Being a baseball coach at William Carey all but assured me of having daughters. Since the John Stephenson era began at Carey in the 70s, having a boy grow up in William Carey Baseball has been almost non-existent. Coach Stephenson had all daughters. His successor was Steve Knight, who also has three daughters and no sons. Next in line was Head Coach Bobby Halford, who has taken it a step even further. Coach Halford has four daughters (no sons) and all six of his grandchildren are … girls. Who was I kidding by thinking I’d break this vicious cycle? When we were to find out the gender of our third child, I told everyone I didn’t need to pop a balloon to find out. I already know what we are having because I coach baseball at William Carey.
What I’ve found out since then is that little girls are probably better at outdoor stuff than little boys. At least my girls are much better at this age with outdoor stuff than I was. I think it’s partially because they aren’t so caught up in it. Sure, they enjoy it, but it isn’t real serious stuff to them. The pressure of being a boy and killing a deer or catching a monster bass can sometimes be too much to handle. You kind of put it up on a pedestal as a little boy. You think you’ve got to kill or catch something big in order to receive your man card. It can make for some pretty intense moments in the woods and on the water. My girls, however, have ice in their veins when shooting or casting. They actually enjoy it for what it is, leisure time with dad. I love that about them!
Our oldest, Mackenzie, has accomplished much more in the outdoors by age 9 than I ever had as a kid. Part of it is the opportunity, the other part is she doesn’t get too excited. She does like to compare our outdoor timelines from time to time though. We both caught bass over 5 pounds when we were 4 years old. She likes to point out that I was actually trying to catch a bass when I caught mine and she was fishing with a cricket on a Barbie rod. This is her idea that she is just that much better than I was, which is probably true. She also likes to point out that she killed her first deer at age 8, while I was 11, and that she only missed one deer before killing her first. She will make sure to let you know that her only miss also came because someone didn’t have the scope sighted in correctly. Oops!
Collins, our middle daughter, is still a few years away from being big enough to harvest her first deer, but she shows as much promise of loving life outdoors as her older sister. She will tell you she loves to fish, but I think she really just enjoys riding in the boat.
My wife is holding out hope that the youngest will be her shopping buddy, but if I have my way she will be at deer camp rather than Mistletoe Marketplace in the fall.
It’s youth deer season in Mississippi where kids 15 and under can hunt with a rifle. It’s a magical time in the outdoors when a youngster gets to spend time with a loved one and harvest an animal to help feed the family. When we’d eat the meat that was harvested from Mackenzie’s deer last year I’d always try and remind everyone that this meal was provided by her.
Ten years ago I never thought that I would look forward to the youth deer season as much as I do now. After finding out that we were having a little girl, rather than a boy, I could have never imagined that my girls would enjoy hunting and fishing the way they do. I mentioned earlier that I just knew that God was going provide me with someone to play with, and He did, and so much more.
Ben Smith, a baseball coach and history teacher at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, is the nephew of Donna Fitzpatrick of Butler Street and Atmore. He is a husband and the father of three daughters. Ben’s website is pinstripestocamo.com.