Thanks, Dad
August 23, 1998

You'd have to know my Dad. He was a very large man and I don't mean that in a Charles Atlas kind of way. Nor do I really mean it in a John Candy way, either. He was about six feet tall and heavy. He was very respected in his field (medicine) and just commanded your attention.

Frankly, I think he scared my friends.

Dad never had to raise a hand to me. I think he may have once or twice when I was really young, but can't really remember any specific time. Just knowing Dad was angry was enough to put the fear of fears into me.

The Long Rides
My mother had an equal if not greater part in the bringing up of myself and my two older sisters. But, there were always those times when Dad just had to talk to us privately, in his own way.....and in his own space.

Dad had an office in the basement of the house, but this wasn't the place for the big talks. Dad had to make more of a production out of things. When he wanted to talk about something it usually meant a long drive in the dark after dinner.

He would drive, seemingly without direction for seemingly a hundred miles. Usually, the radio was off and it was just the agony of waiting for him to get to the point was enough. Heck, we usually knew something was coming by this point. Finally, he'd bring up the topic of the nite's discussion and I'd stare out the window, carefully hiding my face from his view. You see, these talks usually were either because something was wrong or he wanted to talk about something embarassing. Either way, no kid wants Dad to see his tears or his red face.

Eventually, the torture would be over and we'd head home and I'd disappear into my bedroom and call it a nite....until next time.

But It Doesn't End There
It wasn't just the after-dinner rides, though. No, Dad had a bigger plan. Dad had a hobby, you see. Every Saturday and Sunday, he'd go to the gun club. Now, he had put a gun in my hand at age seven and I loved going shooting with him and even competed in skeet for several years.

By now, I'm sure you're wondering what this all has to do with four-wheeling, right?

Well, to Dad, the gun club was not just a place to go fire off some shells. No, it was much much more than that, and it wasn't until after he passed away a couple of years ago that I realized that.

After we'd shot our fill of targets, we'd pack up the guns and head into the club house. This is where Dad would subject me to sitting in on his hour-long discussions with guys that I didn't know about things that I either knew nothing about or had absolutely no interest in.

Getting To The Point
Dad's been gone a few years now and about a year ago I had a moment of clarity. I don't remember where I was at the time but one day I realized why I like four wheeling so much.

Now, obviously, there's the getting away from town, the great scenery, the challenges, the death-defying adrenoline rushes, and the satisfaction of getting over that obstacle that $800 ago you couldn't get over. But, beyond that, there's something else...something deeper...something even more important.

It didn't take long for me to realize that one of the greatest things about four-wheeling is the comradery and friendships that develop on the trails. It never ceases to amaze me how you can go 500 miles from home to an event and just walk up to anyone in the lot and just start talking with them....for hours.

Seriously! You can pick anyone at an event and just start talking about their rig and next thing you know, someone else comes over and joins in. Next thing you know, it's 2 hours later and you've shared stories, tech tips, and maybe even a brew or two. Try that at home sometime. Go walk up to some guy in a parking lot and start talking to him and see what happens.

Earlier this year, in Moab, my Jeep broke on the Golden Spike trail. Without any hesitation, several new friends and even a stranger or two never hesitated or thought twice about helping me get my Jeep back into town. Eleven hours, a round trip to town and back in the dark, and a bit of snow later, we had the Jeep back to town and nobody expected anything more than a thanks and a handshake.

The other thing that always makes me laugh is how we can be 100 miles from the nearest sign of civilization and the next thing you know, we're talking about computers or business or something.

It All Comes Together Now
After a couple years without having Dad around I finally realize what the gun club meant. Seems it's the same thing that the 4x4 trails mean to me. Yes, there's the great fun of our hobby, but there's that extra helping of comradery and friendship there. It wasn't just about going shooting, or in our case, four-wheeling. Now I know why Dad dragged me into the club house and made me sit through those long, torturous, conversations with people I didn't know.

Think about it next time you're on the trail.

Thanks, Dad. I miss you.

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Commentary by
Mike Scott - "TXJEEPER"
Editor: Rockcrawler

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