Country is a lifestyle.

For me, it is the way I was raised. Being country means the outdoors, loving hunting and fishing. It’s being respectful — to your parents and to everyone you meet.

My reckoning with being country came when I was three years old. My mom met the man who would have one of the biggest impacts on my life. They would get married and he would be my stepdad. He took me in like I was his own, started teaching me what it meant to be country and how to be country. He thought me how to hunt, fish, to love and respect nature. This man, my dad, taught me about work ethic. He showed me you never do something halfway, and you don’t quit until it’s finished. 

Hunting and fishing aren’t just sport; they are ways to provide for your family. And hunting is key to sustaining our critical wildlife population. If one species gets to be too big, it could tremendously hurt another species’ population.

Hunting showed me a way to love and respect wildlife, especially the wildlife I choose to kill. Fishing is another provision I cling to. When I was young, I didn’t fully understand what hunting and fishing were all about; I just thought it was for fun, that you kept all fish and killed every animal you saw while hunting. I have since learned to appreciate fun and sport in the context of respecting animals and the relationship between humans and wildlife. This is the way of nature.

Respect, there’s an idea. It’s not very common now days, but I was taught it at a young age. Respect yes ma’am and no ma’am, yes sir and no sir. It’s doing what you’re told, the first time without talking back.

Work, really one’s work ethic, defines what kind of person you are. I whole-heartedly believe that. And work ethic defines the type of person I am; it shows what I am capable of. To me, it means doing your task the right way, the first time you do it. Like my dad says, you don’t do things half way or quit in the middle. You get it done.

To be country is a way of life. It’s your actions. It’s your love for God’s creation. It’s respect and care for others. But that’s not all of is. These elements are really what define us as humans — respect, working hard, not quitting.

I learned it at the beginning of my life, what it means to be country, and it’s how i plan to live out the rest of my days.