Walking Stick

On The Shoulders Of Giants With Andrew Curtis

Andrew Curtis | August 15, 2023

Andrew’s most memorable walking stick is from a cedar tree that had been used by bucks to rub their antlers.

In the corner of my grandparents’ lake house, a group of dried sticks leans against the wall. Each one tells a story. Each one I have used. From cold winter strolls, to humid summertime treks, those sticks have accompanied me. Many times I was not alone, with either my grandfather or my brother, or both. It was our thing, to go walking in the woods with our walking sticks. We ALWAYS had our sticks. My grandfather is to thank for that tradition. Oh, how much I learned from those outings. It’s the stuff that can’t be taught in a traditional classroom. It’s learning by immersion in nature.

Sadly, those sticks do not get used like they once did. It is not because of lack of want. If I could, I would pick me out one of those sticks every day and take off to my special spots in the woods, to my childhood haunts, to a time when everyone I loved was still alive and when all my dreams were attainable. But the real world interferes and time marches on. People pass on, and many childhood desires melt away.

Even so, those feelings will never be gone. Somewhere in me, the heart of my youth still beats and persistently tugs at my grownup mind, urging me quietly to be like a kid again, to continue to dream as big as I want to.

Those walking sticks serve as tangible reminders and motivators to not let the meaningless distractions and stressors of life get in my way. The old sticks seem to call to me, telling me when the time has come to get back into the woods.

Each stick is special (I have nine of them). Each one has a back story, and each one I have made my own by putting the tips in the dirt to cover miles and miles of wooded terrain. One, though, holds a certain sentiment, eliciting treasured memories of my youth perhaps more so than the others do. Let’s step back in time for a bit; it wasn’t always a stick, you see.

I remember when the stick was alive, I was not much older than it was. A buck rub marking the tree was what drew me in the first time. It was located just beside a shallow ditch behind my grandparents’ lake house. Even though the cedar was small, I envisioned a huge buck savagely raking the trunk with his dark antlers. The optimistic imagination of a child ran wild. The orange shreds of soft bark were evidence of a trophy buck to me. I dreamed of killing a big buck… even before I had killed my first deer. It was the start of a lifetime passion, the pursuit of mature whitetails. Every time I went to that piece of land, I sought out that tree. It was my place. It was where I dreamed of being a real hunter one day.

Two years in a row, bucks rubbed the hardy cedar tree. The second year, the rub went all the way around, which does not bode well for future tree growth. I watched the green needles of the once vibrant cedar gradually turn brown, and though I knew it was gone, I hoped with my heart that the tree would live. Only 7 feet tall. That’s all it ever would be. I remember feeling sad about the tree dying because it marked one of my favorite spots on this earth. I had imagined each year finding the tree’s diameter increasing, and with it, the size of antlers on my dream buck, the buck I had never seen, but the buck that kindled the fire inside this child’s hunting spirit. The feelings are difficult to describe, but they were and are still real to me. All I have to do is close my eyes, and I see that tree the way it was. It brings back the excitement I felt way back then.

A year or so after the tree died, I saw the tree as something else, straight and smooth. I gripped the thin trunk in my hand to test my thought. Yep, it fit nicely in my palm. I merely pulled the dead tree at the bottom, and the dried, brittle roots tore away, revealing a widened, ergonomic grip for me to use as the handle when inverting the tree. The rubbed trunk from two years of bucks would be a preserved reminder of my dream buck.

As I continued through the years to dream of my trophy buck, that walking stick was as one of my guides in the woods as I scouted. It helped me locate the spot where I would kill my true dream buck, my first Pope and Young, on the same property just a few hundred yards away from where the small cedar tree once grew.

I guess it was the span of 16 or 17 years from the first moment I imagined my big buck as a child to when, at the age of 24, I got to hold those dark antlers in my hands. And even though my reality buck was not as large as my childhood dreams had drawn up, the antlers were meant for me. I am not sure there will be a more meaningful buck in my life.

And it all started with a rubbed tree… that became a walking stick.

Andrew drew this, his dream buck, when he was a teenager.


On The Shoulders Of Giants With Andrew Curtis

Andrew graduated from UGA in 2006 with his undergraduate degree in Animal Health and from UGA’s veterinary school in 2010. His passion for fishing and the outdoors began when he was a young boy spending time with his grandfather at Lake Oconee. Now he enjoys passing on what he has learned to his two young boys at their home on the Alapaha River. Turkey hunting and south Georgia river fishing are among his favorite pastimes, but his main interests involve mentoring kids in the outdoors while spreading the Word of Jesus. Andrew has discovered the joy and power in writing and hopes to benefit others through his words.

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