Greg Brady meets Davy Crockett
Someone once described my brother Ryan as a combination of Greg Brady and Davy Crockett. An odd pairing, yes, but in some ways it made a lot of sense.
At age 12, Ryan was on the Pro Staff for Matthews bows and one of the best under-18 archers in the country. As a chubby-cheeked tween growing up in Bozeman, his hunting album was the envy of any hunter who was lucky enough to see it and made my mother wonder what type of child she was raising.
In college, he came out, which didn’t really surprise anyone. To us it didn’t make any difference if Ryan was gay. After graduating, he moved to D.C. for a big job, and when he came home on holidays we hunted just like we always had.
Therein lies the paradox.
After a morning hunt 10 years ago, my uncle and I were eating sandwiches in the truck cab, parked beside a gravel road at our family’s ranch in Paradise Valley. The sun had just crept over Emigrant Peak and was burning off the crisp morning air. The cab warmed up, and I loosened my scarf, my toes tingling as they regained feeling inside my boots.
Ryan pulled up in his black Jetta with tinted windows, stepped out of the car in faded designer jeans, a tight white T-shirt, sunglasses and a pink baseball cap.
After a quick hug and the usual greetings, the three of us discussed plans for an evening hunt. Over coffee that morning, my dad had expressed a desire to all meet at the lower hay meadows a couple hours before sunset, which sounded fine, Ryan said. There wasn’t need for much talk; we had all hunted the place since long before we were old enough to carry a rifle.
Ryan asked if we would mind picking him up in 45 minutes, about a quarter mile down the road. He wanted to shoot a whitetail doe and figured he would have her gutted and dragged out by then. It sounded a bit cocky, but my uncle and I agreed.
Ryan pulled an orange vest and a .270 from the back of the Jetta, slung the rifle over his shoulder and disappeared through the junipers.
My uncle and I looked at each other and shrugged. I couldn’t help but smile: Ryan’s attire contrasted with the old Browning A-Bolt rifle almost made me bust out laughing; I felt proud of my brother and who he is.
Forty-five minutes later, he was standing beside the road with his deer, right where he said he would be. Nary a drop of blood was on his jeans or t-shirt. Still warm to the touch, we loaded the doe into the pickup.
Possessed by some uncanny ability I may never obtain, my brother’s laser-like focus permeates everything he does, typically leading to mastery. Later that weekend he shot a symmetrical five-point buck – by far the best of our season. A decade later, he is finishing his Ph.D. at Princeton in Politics with a specialty in International Relations and Formal Quantitative Methodologies, a field I hardly understand. He is recently married, and I got one heck of a brother-in-law out of the deal.
With Ryan’s schedule, fall has become a tough time for us to get together. He now makes a trip out to visit me, my wife and kids in Lander, WY, each summer, and mostly we just fish. The ranch sold in 2001, so we split holidays between our respective in-laws and our parents’ place in Bozeman. Time and maturity have brought us closer, and we enjoy each other’s company in a way that was more difficult as teenagers.
Ryan’s hunting album is currently in the closet at our parents’ house, collecting dust, but he says he hopes to move West again someday and add another chapter.
This story originally appeared in October 2013 edition of Explore Big Sky.