Nothing like nature to help father and son bond

August 30, 2010 

Collins Doughtie, right, stands in a stream with his son, Logan.

SPECIAL TO THE PACKET

This past Thursday my 22-year-old son Logan met up with me, and we headed up to the mountains of north Georgia for some one-on-one time together.

Having just graduated from Florida State, he is in that very difficult process of determining what he should do with his life, a period of my own life I remember all too well. With the economy like

it is, I figured that two heads are better than one and maybe, just maybe, we could come up with a plan for his life while we trout fished together in the wilds of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

One thing I do know about both my kids is they are a heck of a lot smarter and well-rounded than I ever was. When my folks dropped me off at college for the first time, I was terrified. I had always gone to very small schools, so when my folks took me to college and dropped me in the middle of 30,000 other kids, I felt completely and utterly lost. In contrast, when I dropped off Logan at Florida State that first day, he couldn't get rid of me quickly enough. It kind of hurt my feelings that he didn't need me, but at the same time I was proud that he had a great degree of self-confidence, which eluded me at his age.

He also has a love of the outdoors that rivals my own.

Logan and I carefully picked our way to the river in an area that few other people go. It had rained the day before; all it would have taken is one false step and we would have gotten to the river, all right -- at 60 miles per hour.

Having made this same trip annually since Logan was about 8-years-old, I was amazed at how much he had changed just in the past four years. He would stop and tell me to look at something, such as a fungi growing at the base of a tree, or call my attention to a certain birdcall. I knew right there and then he was slowing down enough to really see nature, something that has taken me nearly my entire life to appreciate. Though I didn't say anything to him at the time, I was pretty darn proud because it meant he actually listened to me all those years when I didn't think he ever heard a word I said.

As we worked pools and other likely spots where a rainbow or brown trout might be lurking, we talked.

"So what do you want to do?" I asked.

"Well Dad, I could teach history, but right now I am thinking about moving to Los Angeles with my girlfriend," he replied.

I gasped "L.A.? But that's so far away and what would you do?"

He paused for a second and said, "I have applied to AmeriCorps and would be working with the underprivileged in the inner city."

I continued to fish and tried to put myself in his shoes. The "inner city" -- gangs, guns and Lord knows what. I felt that old insecurity creeping up. I am terrible when it comes to "what if" scenarios, but after a few minutes of listening to the water spilling into small pools and feeling the cool breeze of that mountain stream, I calmed right down. My fears as a parent were replaced with admiration as I told him, "I'll have to give it to you, you are one brave soul."

As we continued, we discussed the things he might encounter, the pluses and minuses of such a move, whether he ever wanted to have kids and a host other questions that I had for him and

he had for me. It was just one of those rare, down-to-earth, bonding experiences that one is lucky to have with one's kids.

Looking back, my own dad and I learned more about each other while we were fishing together than at any other time. There is something about being out in nature or, better put, sharing nature, that seems to lower a person's guard, allowing you to really reach in and touch his soul. Maybe it is because at any particular moment in nature's world you are sharing a unique experience that will never be the same any two times. Think about it, have you ever had any two days of fishing, hunting or exploring in nature that were the same? I know I haven't.

After three days of fishing, Logan and I headed back here to Bluffton, and both of us agreed that we were more at ease with what his future might bring. He had worried I wouldn't accept his big move, and I in turn was worried he wouldn't be able to find a job, especially with the job market in its present state. But nature brought us together and allowed us to accept each other for who we are.

Right before he loaded up and headed back to Tampa, he turned and said he had one more question for me. Fearing that he was going to unload something he hadn't wanted to tell me earlier, I braced myself.

He said, "Dad, can you catch trout out West just like we catch them here in the South?"

I just smiled and said, "Absolutely!"

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