By: Norm Rasmussen

My father, Raymond Edward Rasmussen, was as passionate about hunting as Presidents are about politics. My father's passion for hunting passed onto me, the second of his three sons, at a very early age. Though my father never actually enjoyed killing, nor did I, it had to be done to provide meat for the family. It also served as a hobby for both of us, giving us a chance to break the routine of life. Lastly, it served as a means of bonding between us.

It is difficult for some women to understand how a man can have passion for hunting, as it is difficult for a man to comprehend the inner satisfaction it brings to a woman to hold her newborn child close to her breast. God has made our "passions" different, but thank goodness ... He was good enough to give them to us.

I recall my first elk hunt with my father

I recall my first elk hunt with my father. Dad drove the family Nash Rambler nearly 80 miles through a blinding blizzard during the middle of the night to reach camp. Several times we got stuck on our way to camp, having to chain up the car to get out of the mud holes that only a truck was made to go through. I was age 13 and Dad was in his 50's. The year was 1959.  We were hunting south of the town of Ukiah, Oregon. Dad had hunted that country a great deal when he worked at Pilot Rock, Oregon.  

Once we found our camp spot after much searching, due to dense fog and wet falling snow, we began setting up our big military canvas tent. When the tent was standing, next came scraping the snow off the forest floor, and lining the inside of the tent with the bales of straw. The smell of the straw adds a dimension to hunting that few can appreciate unless they have smelled the fragrant aroma it produces. A tent without straw on the floor is like a flower that gives off no fragrance. All they do is just look pretty. 

[The above photograph was taken of Ray Rasmussen, my father, a couple of years later on a different elk hunt, in the early 1960's.  Dad was nearing age 60].

Dad would leave the big wood-burning stove at the campsite from the year previous, so the tent was actually erected around it, (providing no one blasted it apart target practicing during the summer). It was still in good shape, and as quickly as the tent was put up and the straw put down, the stove was lit. We were cold and wet from the snow, anxious to crawl into our sleeping bags to get some much needed rest. Daylight was only about four hours away. It shouldn't surprise anyone that I didn't sleep those four hours. If only humanity could invent a way to speed up four hours of darkness for youth on their first elk hunt, it would be a must-have item for young hunters.

We gobbled burnt bacon and grease-ball eggs and headed to our hunting stands. Daylight took it's lollygag time coming of course, but finally managed to shine through the darkness. Shortly after daybreak shots rang out, and I waited with anticipation, as the big old bull elk would come tippy-toeing toward me. I stood waiting for him . . .

Let's pause a moment. When I was in my mid-30's, I wrote and self-published a book titled: The Dirty Ernie Dig Dirt Hunting Journey. I went by the pen name of Rimrock Rye Lee. It was the first of a proposed 10-book series that I was going to write. The theme of the series?  Dirty Ernie had spent a lifetime digging secret tunnels all over the world and no one knew why . . . except me. If you bought all 10 copies of the series, you would discover why Ernie was digging all those secret tunnels.  It was a book to build intrigue around this mysterious little Ernie guy and his secret tunneling, and written especially for young male teenagers.  (Anyone wanting a copy of the book can obtain one by emailing me.  For a donation of a $1,000,000 or more to the ministry, I'll be glad to autograph it.  For a donation of $1,000,000,000 or more, I'll even see if I can get Dirty Ernie himself to autograph it!)

In the last chapter of that first book, I titled the Chapter: Tribute To A Hunter. It was written to give honor and appreciation to my Dad for the years of hunting I had been privileged to share with him, as well as share a touching chapter out of my father's life where he miraculously overcame a crippling disease they thought was probably MS.

In the process of trying to market the book through advertising in popular outdoors magazines, I was contacted by an individual living in New York City who had seen one of my ads. He called to say that he was thinking about marketing some poetry on audiocassette tapes, and was curious to know how well my classified ads were working, before trying some classified advertising of his own. We dialogued by phone on two or three different occasions, and I grew to enjoy speaking with him. He had worked in Marketing and Sales much of his career, and knew much about people and what motivates them to purchase things; something I knew nothing about.

During one particular lengthy phone conversation, he began to ask me some personal questions about my relationship with my father, and for some reason or another, I began to open up to him like a patient would to a trusted counselor. He asked me a question that related to my "enjoyable hunting experiences" with my father, and I began telling him that hunting with my father wasn't always all as nice as the last chapter in the book portrayed it to be.

"Why so," he asked curiously.

"Hunting with Dad was hard sometimes. He didn't seem to know how to have fun at it. He didn't know how to say "no" and simply stay in camp and kick back and relax once in awhile. If it was hunting season, he had to be hunting every daylight hour. That got old sometimes."

Every little objection I ever had about my dad I vented on this caller from the big city. He patiently let me vent, and when I got all done making my father now sound like probably the worst father on the planet . . . he shared these words with me:

He said, "I can appreciate how difficult it must have been at times, but would you please allow me to maybe give you a little different slant on things?" I agreed to let him do so.

"Since we've spoken on the phone, it's all been about business. You don't know anything about my childhood, but I would like to tell you a little about it now. Yes, I was fortunate to be able to do well for myself when I got older -- got my college degree and good jobs -- but it was never easy. The biggest reason it was never easy was because I didn't have a father to be proud of me for any accomplishments.

An orphaned child

I was an orphaned child, raised in the heart of New York City, and would dream by the hour what it must be like to hunt and fish with a father. I read every hunting and fishing book I could get my hands on when I was young, and I always dreamed it was me in those stories. I would fantasize by the hour, trying to imagine what it would be like having a father I could call my own, doing father and son things with him.

"I still find myself doing that at times, even now that I am older, because it was something I missed out on in my younger life that I would pay a million dollars for if that is what it would cost to make it happen. So Norm, if you can . . . try to see it from that perspective. At least you had a father who took the time to take you with him. You had a father you can write about, and the memories he allowed you to experience with him. I would trade every bad memory of yours for all the success I've enjoyed in business, just to have experienced what you had a chance to experience growing up. Growing up without a mother and father leaves a hole in a person that never quite gets filled."

I crawled up out of my "hole" and managed to gather enough courage to respond to his gentle chastisement. "I never thought of it quite that way," was about all I could say, squirming inside.

I've tried to hold onto those words of his when life sometimes gets difficult in relationships. I spoke with an elderly lady just a few days ago. She is widowed and in poor health. She reminded me a lot of my mother. She spoke these words to me in her frail health and isolated loneliness. "I just never realized how great a blessing my husband was all those years until he passed. Now that he is gone, I miss his companionship so much. He was so good to me, and I just never realized it until it was too late. If I could only go back and change things...."

I've come to realize that it is very difficult to see good in some relationships when frequent pain is involved in them. Yet is it possible that someone knew what they were talking about when they wrote in the Good Book: In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God . . . (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Now back to the elk story. Cow elk ran past me all day long, but that big bull elk somehow managed to get past me without my ever detecting him. At camp that night, we shared our days' experiences. We listened to each other's every word, because that is the sacred duty of one hunter to another. But what I don't remember doing before going to bed that night was walking up to my father, giving him a big hug, and saying from the heart: 'Dad, I thank you so much for allowing me to come into this world. Thank you so much for giving me this priceless experience this day, because I KNOW there are many boys and girls around this world who would give ANYTHING to have this closeness we have shared today. You're the BEST dad in the whole world, and it doesn't matter that you burned the bacon this morning and caused me to have heart burn all day. I love you just the SAME!'

Dads -- Moms . . . some of you don't have children to hug and say, "Son -- Daughter . . . I am so thankful that I've had the privilege of knowing you. I want you to know that you're the BEST child a parent could ever have . . . even though you try my patience when you refuse to eat my 'burned bacon.'

What if your child isn't "the best" in your mind right now? It's okay to lie to yourself. I believe God does not mind that kind of "lying".

Son -- Daughter . . . what if Dad or Mom isn't the "best" parent in your mind right now? It's okay to lie to yourself as well.

Suppose you stand before God one day and He begins to ask you how "meaningful" your relationship with certain people were during your visit on earth. Let's say you are assured He won't "smoke you" if you tell Him the "truth."

After you have told God everything you disliked about so-and-so, what will be your thoughts if God should say this back to you? "Remember the conversation we had before you were given life as an infant baby? Didn't I tell you that if you went to earth, I would give you some relationships that were going to be very painful and difficult, to teach you certain things? How much do you think you benefited spiritually from those difficult relationships?"

Whether a person believes in God or not and a hereafter are individual matters. All I can say is that the words I heard from the phone caller in New York were words I needed to hear. My father was not perfect, and I'm sure if you asked him, neither was I. But this I've come to believe. He was the best father God had . . . for me.

Hunting and fishing provides food for the table. Yet it does far more than that. It writes memories in the heart that are engraved with the purest of gold. The trophy hanging on my wall of my heart that I'm most proud of is a picture of my father and mother. Some people have no trophy to hang.

If you would like to read Norm's born again testimony, click here:

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