Daughters on a drift boat

Daughters of Trout Unlimited:
Samantha Carmichael

Deputy Editor of TROUT Magazine (daughters Penelope and Daphne)

Daughters. I have watched my husband happily announce that I was expecting a girl twice in our marriage. Mouths smile, but eyes squint, and brows furrow, and comments range from “Another one?” to “Well, maybe number 3 will be a boy” or “you are going to try for a boy, right?” 

There isn’t going to be a third child and my husband is perfectly happy with Penelope and Daphne. Two girls that he has taught to rip out drywall, let them “help” as he installed a turbo on his racecar, girls who beg to bake cookies while wearing princess dresses and who happily help us pick a spring break cabin on a river in the middle of nowhere so they can fish and play in the dirt and attempt to climb trees. He’ll tell anyone who feels bad for him that there is no need. 

I tell our girls about their Grandma Sue who in the ’70s, as a 10-year-old, practiced with her uncle’s baseball team wearing a hat, her bowl cut tucked inside and going by the name, Sam. Players’ parents would ask why Sam never got to play in games and her uncle would say, “because it is my niece, Susie, and she isn’t allowed to.” I am Samantha because my mom was Sam, and I am proud that Sam is a part of me. My daughter is Penelope Sue because there is no greater lineage to carry on. 

I retell my girls all the stories of their grandma hunting and fishing with Great Grandpa Lou, because he didn’t leave her home just because he had two boys, and her knowledge of all things outdoors. The story of how Grandma Sue and Grandpa went fishing instead of going to prom, Grandma was on crutches so Grandpa had to carry her down to the water so they could fish. I remind them it was Grandma who tied corks to their fishing poles and helped them practice casting in the back yard. And like her father before her she can get any line unknotted and out of a tree.

The author's daughter, Penelope, fishes

My dad is all things outdoors too, he sat with me at the shooting bench while we sighted in rifles, he was by my side when I put the rifle in my shoulder as I harvested deer. But just down the valley, my mom was sitting on a log with my brother. Was dad stuck with me? No. It is how we paired off. Is it different to hunt with me vs. my brother? Yep. My brother likes to fall asleep in the quiet of the woods, under a hemlock tree. Me? Just before I shot my first deer my dad had yelled at me, in that talking through his teeth, little ball of spit in the corner of his mouth, whisper yell, to stop purposefully stepping on sticks because I liked how it sounded in the silence. (He didn’t realize I was also breaking sticks and throwing them into the hood of his coat as he walked ahead of me.) Yes, I also threw rocks into lakes and rivers and ponds when it took longer than a minute and a half to catch a fish. Now I can spend all day casting into a river without a single bite.

The message is everywhere that the Earth needs our help. All we need to do is open the door, send our daughters outside, teach them to be present and nature will be nurtured.”

My dad almost always can be seen in the photos, helping a sibling with their casting, or it is his hand in the shot helping us steady our first big catch and it is him at our side in the grip-and-grin. My girls will ask, “Really… Grandma fishes too?” and once I became a mom, I realized the legend of the outdoors mom is one of oral history not of hard evidence. This mom, and the lineage of moms before me, grabs the camera to take the photos when she sees the moment. Mom is the storyteller, Mom is already thinking to the next step, Mom tends to see that the 6-year-old is fixing to cast herself off the dock. Mom needs to slow down and reinsert herself to the narrative. As a mom I see the whole picture, but rarely do I insert myself in the moment, I observe and keep the story so they don’t forget the moment and what these places meant. My husband has learned from my hindsight frustration that he needs to take a moment and say give me the camera. So, husbands, brothers, fathers grab the camera, so it doesn’t look like a daughter’s adventures end when they moved away from their own mother.

As a woman who was raised by a father who appreciated his wife’s knowledge and skill, I am thankful he was never disappointed that it was his daughters next to him and not more sons. I wish I lived closer to them, wish I had more time on the riverbanks, heck I might even say I’d ice fish for a few more minutes of being outdoors with them, but I know they grin ear to ear when they get photos of their granddaughters learning the same things they taught me. They laugh when the girls do the exact same things I used to do.

Also important is that they showed my brother that he can learn anything from anyone who has the knowledge to teach him. He didn’t complain that it was my mom baiting our hooks because my dad was at work. He didn’t complain that she was the one quietly whispering to him in the still of the woods about what he should do when a deer walks through. He knew my Grandpa Lou’s daughter had all the knowledge he needed. And now to watch him mentor and guide the two little girls in his life with the carbon copy smile I remember from my dad’s face; he wouldn’t dream of leaving the girls at home and fish alone until his newborn son comes of age to stand on the riverbank with him. Will it be different with his son? Yes? Will it be better? Only because there will be more kids to teach and to tell “your Grandma Sue used to take us fishing while grandpa was at work…”

The author's daughter, Daphne, waits for a fish.

Having daughters and working for TU means I get to go to school on career day and explain that my job is basically their homework and there are looks of confusion as to why I find that fun or rewarding. Read, write, edit, illustrate your work, they have heard it a million times. But then I see the smile and pride on my daughters’ faces as they hand out copies of the magazine to their classmates and we explain that yeah it is kind of like their schoolwork, but this is what we are protecting, this is the why. We need to ensure you can travel, fish and take just as beautiful pictures in 20 years. Then a couple days later the girls come home and say their friends NEED “fresh copies” because they love the magazine. And then Penelope says, “Mom, I want to be a writer too.”

Here at TU daughters abound. Daughters write our articles, daughters edit our pages, daughters volunteer in the muck of a stream clean up, daughters make decisions and carry our organization goals from concept to fruition in partnership with the sons of TU. 

So here we are the daughters of daughters, daughters of fathers, daughters with sons, daughters with daughters, fathers with daughters, and sons of daughters of TU…

This series of stories about daughters originally appeared in TROUT Magazine.