It was 2006, in the moments before a late-September dawn, my two sons and I were setting our duck decoys and were about to take cover in the thick cattails. Our special guest in the duck boat was my grandson, Carson, who had just turned five years old. Despite his young age he was eager to follow in the footsteps of his elders, at least when it came to hunting, fishing and the outdoors. He was actually excited to crawl out of bed at 4:00 a.m. to experience his very first day of duck hunting. It didn't matter that he couldn't hunt himself. He just wanted to be with us. And the feeling was mutual.
In the pre-dawn darkness, Carson asked if he could throw out some decoys. With his very own headlamp flickering back and forth, he carefully placed each decoy where instructed, making sure they stayed upright. It seemed a minor privilege to us. To Carson, it was a big deal.
Once we were tucked into the cattails Carson took charge of watching the time, knowing we couldn't shoot until the first legal minute. His constant updates spoke to his excitement for getting the show started. But it had already begun. Blue-winged teal zipped over our heads, splashing down among the decoys in the shallow North Dakota slough. Mallard wings whistled overhead and Canada geese honked in the distance. It was a perfect morning — maybe not for duck hunting — but for sharing.
Then, without warning, Carson shattered the quietness of dawn.
"Grandpa! Look!" he yelled as he pointed to the east.
"What? What?" I answered, expecting to see a grizzly or pterodactyl or something equally astonishing.
As if he were about to explode Carson blurted, "The sun is coming up!"
Those words hit me with enough force to be forever etched in the granite faÃ§ade of my memory. A daily event I'd witnessed countless times, over more years than I care to remember, was a moment of awe for my young grandson. I admit to feeling a measure of shame. How could I take such a grandiose moment for granted, thinking little of it until Carson recognized the wonder of it all? He'd seen many sunsets in his young life but this was likely his first sunrise. I sat there, allowing the true meaning of this epic moment to soak in. I have to admit it lead to a welling in my eyes.
Meanwhile, my 32-something sons were on full alert, watching for incoming ducks, but there weren't many birds in the calm, blue sky. Just as well. The sound of gunfire would have broken the spell.
To be honest, I can't remember if we shot any ducks that morning, but I have cherished every single sunrise since.