~ Happy 12th, Zack! ~ June 2, 2020 ~

The significance starts with your birthday, Zack ~ which in the prism and perspective of your later life,
we predict you'll come to see twelve as an almost magical age.

You are full of curiosity about what's around you, engaged in daily trial and error in understanding how everything works, and (in a real wild guess here) in the care and guidance of your father, you're beginning to see the woods as the finest reality of life itself.

Listen to the woods; just listen. There is nothing synthetic here. Nothing. The rocks, the trees, the streams, the birds, the deer and other wildlife are "wild" by their celebration of this reality. So far from the citified look and feel of Atlanta or Sandy Springs.

I loved the woods at twelve ~ and spent a lot of time there ~ alone. But that's another story for another time. This time is about you, and what you might glean at the age of twelve from someone so "old" ~ who doesn't seem like a "woodsman." Though of course he was, in every aspect of his life.

But he was many other things as well ~ as you will be. Because taking lessons and observations and conclusions from the woods to use in other places is likely to be an ongoing staple of your life, in ways and at times and for reasons you won't even realize at the time.

He was a prophet, a poet, a teacher, a king ~ in charge of the life he forged, not just in the woods, but in academia, and with his own three boys and family, as his feet and his heart had a proud, lifetime presence in all these places ~ as you're nearly bound to see.

But let's take a break from all the words, as this doesn't want to be a staid "tutorial" any more than the woods want to be.

This man with the funny name literally wrote the book on hunting in the South. And now you own his signature book.

Don't read it all in a sitting, Zack! You won't ~ and you shouldn't. Because like a friendship, if it's to be a good friendship, it'll happen naturally, in little bits and pieces, here and there, over time.

There are stories about hunting deer, turkey, and those crafty little aristocrats of the forest ~ quail. A most formidable adversary, I can tell you. Hard to find, hard to shoot, and hard to clean ~ for little meat. But like so many things in all of life, quantity is not the aim, nor goodness knows in most natural habitats is ROI (return on investment). Rarity is the satisfaction. I'm sure you'll see and know in time. I hope you do.

Good dogs are such a pleasure in the hunt. But often dogs used for birds and those used for deer are very different dogs. Well trained and experienced, they can be an indispensable part of the team either way. Just don't feed them quail!

And you never know (though your Dad might) ~ whether Tucker is an aspiring birder.

Archibald Rutledge and one of his many dogs at Hampton Plantation.

The Mercersburg Academy Chapel

Representing the second connection with Rutledge, as he mentored your Great Grandfather. Meaning he took a special interest.
Your Great Grandfather (Johnny) and your Great Grandmother (Betty) met and fell in love at Mercersburg some years later.

The Fifteen ~ a highly revered group at Mercersburg ~ and Dad was President.
He's in the center ~ with Rutledge front row left.

The Academy Senate ~ of which Dad was Secretary.
Dad and his friend, Dr. Rutledge are front row right.

Dad's Senior Picture ~ suggesting a significant future.
OK ~ that's it. We just wanted you to be aware of these connections as you contemplate the book.

Read, Hunt, Enjoy, Repeat.
And if the Gods are good, pass it on, with love!