There are few traditions in our society that are passed on these days. But, after interviewing Curtis and Tamara McFarland, it was very clear that tradition is important. Curtis came from a hunting background himself, learning from his father and uncles. He got his first gun at 8 years old and had his first kill Christmas morning. Carrying on the tradition, Curtis and his wife of 27 years, Tammy, enjoy the outdoors together. She isn’t much for hunting, but does enjoy spending time with him when he goes. Tammy spends her outdoor time fishing. And, as a family, they would spend time out driving, just looking for animals. It only made sense that Curtis would have his young children, Tamara and Curtis Jr, out hunting birds with bb guns at 5 and 10 years old, respectively. Tamara was so young that she would go out making all kinds of noise, while shushing her brother, dragging her gun by its barrel. But, just having her out there, enjoying the outdoors was what was important.
To be able to spend more time outdoors with this children, Curtis started a youth hunt program in his county. After teaching his own kids, the biggest lesson he learned is that it takes a lot of patience to teach the ins and outs of the outdoor world. Kids have a short attention span, it’s important to let them have fun and not force them to stay in hunting mode. Curtis knew from an early age that Tamara, now 22, would embrace the outdoor life. She was, and still is, right by his side. Whatever he taught or asked her to do, she did. Reminiscing, Curtis recalled when Tamara shot her first deer. At 6 years old, not able to hold the gun herself, she sat in her dad’s lap and fired a lucky shot. Her first kill, with a shot to the neck. Curtis was so proud that he could not hold back his tears of joy. It is such a special relationship that these two share. Several times, I was struck by just how palpable the strength of their bond really is.
When asking what it has meant to her to share this outdoor bond with her father, Tamara was moved to tears. The only words she was able to say was that it meant the world to her. Gaining her composure, she was able to add that she is blessed. A lot of girls don’t do what she does, especially with their father. That is their time together, and it’s cherished. I then asked her, how their relationship would be different if she hadn’t taken so strongly to the outdoor life. Tamara touted her parents’ influence and said that she was raised well so she knows that she wouldn’t be out getting in trouble, but she does think they wouldn’t be as close. Tamara definitely plans to carry on the tradition when she starts her own family, but until then, wants to get involved with the youth hunt that Curtis founded. She thinks it’s important to take the time to help mold children into what they can be in the future. “If we don’t, who will?”
Although the McFarlands enjoy all things outdoors, hunting is their sport of choice. Both choose deer season as their favorite, but neither find the kill to be the best part. Tamara likes the adrenaline rush of it, even just seeing a deer makes her happy. While Curtis enjoys the competition between him and the animal. He has become an archery hunter, so for him to be close enough to take the shot, he has to avoid detection in every way. A sense of accomplishment that you’ve done your job is well worth it.
The outdoor life is so engrained in Curtis that he wears camouflage clothing daily. He is asked almost every day if he’s hunting today. He doesn’t mind though, it gets people talking about hunting. Their family is very well known in the community. Though, that doesn’t mean things are always easy in that regard. Being black and a woman, Tamara has had to deal with some adversity in the hunting world, dealing with it every season. She gets drilled on her knowledge, constantly having to prove her expertise. But, she doesn’t skip a beat. Curtis, on the other hand, doesn’t feel like he has faced much adversity. Growing up as a young black man hunting, things were segregated. Most black men in white hunting camps were cooks. But, when stepping into such camps, Curtis was always treated with respect. He played a part in integrating his county as a child, attending an all-white school. Ever since, he has experienced diversity over adversity. He does think it’s important for minorities to get out there and get involved, be represented. The outdoor world is virtually uncharted territory, and diversity is significant in continuing the growth of the community.
It is important to both of them to not only pass their family traditions on, but also to get other people out there hunting, regardless of race. It’s also about conservation, teaching why we hunt. For those who may be interested in learning but have never had the opportunity; patient, experienced hunters are crucial in passing the torch to the next generation. Tamara had this to say, “Show me a child who wants to learn, I’ll show you one who can.”
To say that Tamara is like her father in a lot of ways, well, that would be an understatement. His influence was quite evident when their answers to my questions were almost identical. I got to know these two in a matter of a short interview, and I was so impressed with their connection. However, I was equally impressed with their overwhelming love for nature and for people, but also their relationship with God. Both live by the golden rule, treat others how you want to be treated. Tamara ended with a reminder that we should all enjoy what God created, but if we have someone to share that with, it is a wonderful thing.