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Shoot, Wellness / June 17, 2016

Our Fathers Built Us

Written by: Renee Howard

The late 70’s was a time when cash in the north was flowing in like the high tide and folks were running from the law in droves. Scholars, professionals, adventurers and dropouts were all part of the same community. It really was a wild west and the final days of the last frontier.

Young folks – many of whom are now sixty-somethings with pension plans and sun visors – were dressed up like Jeremiah Johnson swimming through piles of oil money and cocaine as if the world would end tomorrow. As a young man, my father, Roy flew up to Nome, Alaska to start a new chapter in life.

In the midst of working as a P.A. in remote villages throughout Alaska, he managed to do a bit of hunting. It was different back then. The guys would fly out with some maps, get dropped off and say farewell to the pilot for a week or even longer if the weather was bad. People didn’t bring Satellite phones or GPS’s. There was no such thing as cell reception. Those guys had homemade fire starting kits, canned beans, MRE’s, Vietnam survival skills and a compass. They were clad in wool and leather. It was the late ice age of gear technology.


On the second day of a dall sheep hunt trip in the Tok Management area, Roy slipped in a steep crumbly chute and broke his arm just above the wrist. His hunting partner helped him splint the break with a couple sticks and they continued onward FOR A WHOLE WEEK. Roy didn’t sit around blubbering about how he didn’t have an XXL bottle of pain meds. He didn’t SOS for help.  He kept hunting. In fact, he rested the rifle on his busted arm to harvest a beautiful 42” ram. He claimed the worst part for the arm was cramming his sleeping bag into the stuff sack. Yeah, the shot might have hurt, but he won’t say for certain.


That story left a lasting impression on me about who my father was. It was a good example of how to deal with life’s crappy hands and also the kind of tolerance my father had for complaining. Zero.

Father figures are essential. They built us. Their examples strengthened and reinforced the better parts of our character. If it has been awhile since you visited with one of the good men in your life, maybe it’s time to tell some stories with him. We owe so many of our successes to the men who made us realize what is possible.

My Grandfather, Clinton Howard, was a brilliant man – though only educated to the eighth grade. He was ripe with colloquialisms and a quick wit which he passed on to my Dad. I can look at my Father, and even though he left his home as a young man, his ancestors and the gifts they gave him are written in the lines on his face and hands. They are the gifts of reverence. Competence. Good Humor. Industriousness. Things he generously passed on to a great many people, including to me.


Your father gave you a gift. A gift you can not learn in a book. You may have forgotten. Thank him. Give him your gratitude and your grace. Shake his hand. Throw the old man a bone. Tell him that you love him.

Here is to all the Father’s in this world. Cheers!

about the author

Renee Howard

Renee is a photographer and writer based out of South-central Alaska. Her interest in bridging gaps between all manner of outdoor sports, philosophy, folk culture and backwoods artistry is a significant motivation for her work.

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