Sixteen and Confident
Sixteen and Confident. Two words that hate one another... at least when I was 16 years old. When I was 16 I had 6 siblings which included a 2 year old sister. Embarrassing, right? Every other question about my family by strangers was "Catholic or Mormon?" or "Don't your parents believe in birth control?" Yeah, like I wanted to talk about birth control with anybody at 16. Gross. I was a tomboy. I was taller than every boy in my class. I played sports which was great, but more than anything I wanted very badly to fit in with the "cool kids."
When I was 16 my Dad took his best friend (RIP Bobby J), my brother Jim, cousin Bill and me (yes, that is correct grammar) to Sitka, Alaska to go fishing for King Salmon and Halibut. Yeah, I guess it was cool to go to Alaska. I was more excited to see my cool older cousin, Bill.
While there, my Dad asked me if I wanted to go black bear hunting. I thought, "Well, whenever in my life will I get to do that again?" and I reluctantly and sulkily agreed, as any teenager would. I was a Daddy's girl through and through he hadn't asked my brother, he asked me, so part of me had to do it just to show my little bro how it was done (by a girl).
After getting the bear tag, off we went leaving the boys behind. We took an overnight boat trip traveling through the Chatham Strait to Kuiu Island where my Dad and our guide helped me pick a black bear that was old and big enough to shoot. Looking for bear wasn't the first thing I noticed though. It was the absolute silence. It was the unparalleled beauty of the nature that entranced me. I wondered if any person before me had actually stood where I stood. Alaska is truly the last frontier.
Back to the story....
I had shot guns plenty before, but never at a bear and never something so far away. My Dad guessed it was 200+ yards away and I was nervous. We saw several bear, as Kuiu is well known for its bear population so who knew what was around us. The guide and my Dad helped me set up and sight in. Wow. Nervous. I shot once and the bear took off, I quickly shot again forgetting to set the gun against my shoulder I "scoped" myself. Rookie mistake. Bear went down. We hiked to the spot and the first thing I noticed was the ungodly number of mosquitoes. It was like nothing you have ever experienced before. The guide (thank goodness...remember I was 16 at the time) did all the skinning and cleaning and packed everything out for us to go. We returned to the rest of our group and finished out the fishing trip, quite successfully I might add.
I will always be grateful for this trip. It taught me so much, although I don't think I realized and was thankful for it until much later in life. My Dad had the bear I shot made into a rug. For many years when I would bring guys that I was dating to the house, he would show him his trophy room and just as they would start to sweat he would turn and point at my bear to tell them that "that's the bear that Lauren shot." Game Over.....for the wimps.
There was not only a level of confidence this gave me (because I was the only 16 year old I knew who had ever done this sort of thing) but also a level of respect from then until now, 20 years later. I have puzzled on it many hours and I still haven't figured out yet why, but the level of respect, especially from men, is fascinating. If this ever came up in conversation I was treated much more as an equal, as a friend and not an object. I felt as if they could speak with me comfortably. Maybe it's just my imagination...then again, maybe not.