Tribute To Dad
In this day and age of mouth watering social media posts and wanderlust fishing and hunting pictures it’s easy to forget where we came from and why we are here. For me it’s a direct result of my father and what he taught me about living off the land and the sea.
It really wouldn’t do justice for me to just talk about my Dad’s impact on my career in the outdoors without recognizing where he came from and who molded him into the outdoorsman he is today.
Long ago in the late 1800’s when life was much simpler in some ways and much harder in others my family made the move from South Carolina to Georgia. Then they decided to head south towards Cuba because the hunting, fishing and farming was famed to be so incredible. They never made it past Fort Myers, Florida where they chose to settle.
The Kelly Family consisted of a long line of farmers, hunters and gatherers. Arguably some of the very first spearfisherman in Florida as well. They began hunting the Everglades not long after they arrived in Fort Myers around 1914-15. My dad recalls Granddad Kelly (my great-grandfather) asking his older brother Spain Kelly if he wanted to go hunt the glades on any given time and his answer always was, “let me go get my gun.” No matter what he had going on in his life he always went.
Granddad Kelly was a master in everything mechanical even had the privilege of advising Firestone on some of the tractor tires he manufactured. Fort Myers was a small town back then and everyone knew everyone. Granddad Kelly was often found frying fish in his old cast iron pot that he caught, cast-netted or speared, providing food for the likes of Edison, Ford and Firestone on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. Grandad Kelly engineered one of the very first “swamp buggies,” for hunting the vast expanse of the Everglades.
Farming, Hunting & Fishing were a way of life for the Kelly’s and the only way to survive through times like the Great Depression and flourish in better years. The Kelly’s farmed off Mcgregor Boulevard and into Six Mile Cypress. My grandfather Jack Kelly put the first road through Six Mile Cypress but before that came about there was a bridge to access it from Daniels Parkway and a check-in station if you decided to go hunt. One of the stories I’ve always loved to laugh it was one of Grandad Kelly quail hunting with my grandfather Poppa. Poppa went to check-in at the station and they heard one shot fired from Grandad Kelly’s shotgun. As they approached him they saw him gathering up twelve quail that he got in one shot. The other man approached Grandad and told him he couldn’t “ground-shoot,” quail. With a witty smile and fiery response he proceeded to tell the man that he didn’t shoot them on the ground, rather he shot them on the bridge!
My dad had the privilege of growing up in the woods and on the water with both sets of his Grandparents, his father and many other relatives. Back then the hunting wasn’t a means of sport but rather sustenance. They didn’t turkey hunt like we do today rather shot as many as they could with one shot. There were very few deer back then in the Glades due to a few reasons we won’t get into here but they made every shot count when they came across one. Quail hunting provided food year round for the Kelly family, often shooting as many as 300 or more a day in low palmetto flats of Cape Coral and then storing them in giant vats of lard to preserve them. Fortunately for my Dad and I nowadays we don’t have to go to great lengths like they did to preserve their meat. With the invention of the GameSaver® Big Game™ Vacuum Sealing System we are now able to keep our game and fish up to 5X longer and it prevents freezer burn to ensure we make use of everything we take from the woods or the water.
When my family would kill a deer, gut and hang it. Cook the backstops with eggs in the morning. Then wrap it in cheesecloth and laid it in the shade in the palmettos. They would keep eating on it for days without ever touching any ice.
One of my favorite things about my Dad is his recollection and ability to tell the stories that he’s experienced while being in the outdoors with our family. A block of ice back then was pure gold. Fast forward to today and we’ve now got the ability to take the Big Game on the go with it’s 12 volt DC Adaptor, harvest and seal our game or fish and preserve it for enjoyment later without little hassle. I guarantee that my family couldn’t have fathomed some of the modern day inventions we have today that make our time harvesting and gathering food so easy. Even the ability to marinate food in the FoodSaver Quick Marinating Containers would have blown their minds.
The majority of my childhood was spent spearfishing with my family. It’s by far my Dad’s very favorite thing to do in the world. After many years of running a cattle ranch in Fort Myers with my Poppa he decided to venture out and become a commercial realtor. Meanwhile on the side he got his SPL (saltwater products license) and starting commercial spearfishing to make ends meet. Summers were spent in the FL Keys commercial diving for spiny lobster (haven’t missed one yet)! In order to preserve the lobster tails for consumption throughout the year we vacuum seal them with our Food Saver. Now that the Big Game is apart of our family we can process the lobster tails faster with up to 80 consecutive seals (or 240lbs).
While I am thankful for all the tools we have been provided to make our days in the great outdoors even more enjoyable there are times that I just wish I could go back and experience it like they did. On the flip side it sure is nice to be able to preserve our game in a much easier fashion.
Father’s Day is right around the corner folks. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for your Dad then don’t hesitate to jump on the Big Game!