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I recently read a great story by a longtime friend of Tony Dolle. The story was centered on a lady he met who had won a gold medal in the Olympic shooting sports. He described her hard work, training and the support of many around her, her accomplishments and a particular incident in a public place where this lady was unexpectedly recognized for her achievement. Dedication, hard work and passion for activities come at a price. Minimally it requires time, physical and mental exertion, some financial sacrifice as well as those lonely moments that turn into hours, days and years when you’re working diligently to improve the particular passion you’ve chosen.

When it’s an outdoor activity you choose to pursue, it is necessary to prepare yourself, you are essentially challenging nature (not likely to win that one) as well as the creatures found in the woods, waters, skies, fields and in some cases a most unforgiving habitat. My own tests have taken place in spots as tame as a one acre farm pond and in another case, literally millions of unspoiled acres in the Canadian wilderness area known as the Quetico. I’ve found myself hunting local lands, a giant Southern plantation, in a genuine jungle situations, faced with torrential rains, a full-fledged uncontrolled wild fire, hurricane winds, surrounded by creatures including black bears, wolves, all types of snakes, challenging terrain and crudely mapped glacier lakes. Most of these adventures were prior to the GPS technology widely available today.

The truest test comes when it’s just you and you’re battling exhaustion, the elements, as well as the creatures found in them. None of this sounds like an organized competition, although in some cases it is possible for there to be rules, parameters and help available almost instantaneously. More likely somewhere in a quiet corner of the earth is a parent teaching a child how to bait a hook for bluegills, another is knocking an arrow providing a lesson in ancient archery skills, still elsewhere a stream is the scene of a creek wading family flipping rocks searching for crawfish, along the bank looking for “coon” tracks or just skipping stones. Each is passing on lessons in the hopes of someone else experiencing the same rush of excitement as the “teacher.” Whether it’s “flicking a fly” and watching it settle on the streams surface, plinking at tin cans with “grandpa’s” antique single shot .22 rifle, learning to paddling a kayak or having a scavenger hunt in a local outdoor spot, there’s no gold medal for any of this. You make a perfect cast, followed by a vortex making the topwater bait disappear into the mouth of a trophy bass, a winter quail hunt with the first covey rise of the day, sunset or sunrise on the horizon of any water, there’s no gold medal for any of that. What we pass on to the next generation is as important as anything anyone else does in any form. There’s no gold Medal for that.

In no way is it my intention to minimize what the Olympic athletes do in preparation for participation in their chosen events, but in faraway places or down a rural gravel road memories are being made that will inspire many to “Go for the Gold”.