By TOMIE PARKS
Contributing Writer to the July 2010 issue of Texas Wildlife
To Alvin Dusek, the thrill of the hunt is second only to the thrill of being Grandpa.
“And when you put them together, you’ve got one heck of a day,” he said.
The 76-year-old TWA member lives in Temple, but he spends most “good weather days” at the 16-acre spread of land he owns in Belton. He calls it The Ponderosa. “It’s a nice place for dove hunting in the fall, and down the road in Holland is a good spot for fishing,” he said.
But he’s rarely got the place to himself. With seven grandchildren, he’s got plenty of overnight guests. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Dusek said.
They sleep in bunk beds at the Ponderosa’s trailer-house. “It’s got everything in there,” said granddaughter Sadie Dusek, 9, of Austin. “You should see the snacks.”
The children come to visit Grandpa at least once a month.
“More when we can,” said Shawn Kyle of Austin, Dusek’s son-in-law. “Sometimes baseball games get in the way, but pretty much when school’s out, we’re here.”
Fun on the Ponderosa can come in any form from hopscotch to jet skiing, but there’s always one thing in common: Grandpa.
“He’s always out there, playing and teaching,” said Dusek’s daughter Kathryn Kyle of Austin. “It keeps Dad young, and it’s a kind of learning the kids could never get somewhere else. Where else are they going to learn about corn farming, animal dressing or tools? It’s not everyday life anymore, but it was and still is for Dad.”
Caleb Kyle, 15, and his younger brother Nathan, 13, said Grandpa taught them how to shoot rifles, BBs and bows. “He bought all of us a lifetime hunting license last year,” Nathan said. “And that really means a lot. It means we can keep hunting for the rest our life.”
Caleb nodded. “It makes us want to keep the land in the family,” Caleb said, pointing at his cousins. “Grandpa’s dad bought this land in 1904, and if this keeps on it’s be here for my grandkids and when that happens, I want to be the same kind of grandpa mine is.”
His mom, Kathryn, said the lad is well on his way to turning into a mentor.
“I see Caleb and Nathan stepping up, helping the younger ones with their guns or whatever it is they’re doing,” Kathryn said.
On May 2, the order of the day was to build some dove’s nests for the Ponderosa’s trees.
“Doves are poor nest builders,” Grandpa said as he hauled his tools and gear to the worktable under the shade. “We have to help them a little bit, so that when the doves lay their eggs, they won’t fall out.”
All quick to give their attention to Grandpa, the little ones set aside their toys and the older ones stopped their target practice. They formed a cluster around their grandfather whose hands were already busy at work.
Dusek had a marker, some wire mesh and pair of scissors. He was drawing a triangle on the mesh.
“First you watch,” Dusek said, describing his teaching method for my benefit. “Then you do, and then you teach.”
All the kids knew the routine and were eager for their turn at the helm.
Recalling the project from last summer, Nathan already had his own marker and mesh. He made his own nest as his grandfather spoke.
“Once you have the triangle cut out, you fold it to where the edges touch and you have a cone,” Dusek said. “Then fold the edges together so they won’t come apart. Now I need some dry grass.”
Three children scattered to the ground, looking for grass Grandpa would like.
“No, Andrew, that’s too wet,” Dusek said. “It needs to be drier. There you go, Carlie, good. The grass gets packed inside.”
Then Grandpa motioned for Caleb to get the ladder, so he could hang the nest in the tree.
“You’ve got to put the next on the flimsy part of the tree,” Dusek said. “If it’s by the trunk, critters clan climb up and get at the nest. But if it’s out toward the edge, it’s safe.” Having the nest on the outer edge of the tree also gives doves an easy exit.
“And that’s important, so they won’t be scared,” Dusek said.
“The kids range in age from 3 to 15, so the jet skiing, the hunting, this place, these are things the things that bring them together,” David Dusek said. “Outside of all this, their interests and hobbies are different.”
“It makes me feel good to know that they’ll never go hungry because everyone of them knows how to hunt, fish and cook,” Dusek said. “I’m also being a little selfish on my end, because since I got them the lifetime licenses, they’ll never have an excuse not to come take me hunting.”
The old hunter was laughing and promised he was kidding.
“Well, mostly I’m kidding,” Dusek said. “It’s just that when I had kids, I thought that was the best it got with how precious they were. But these grandkids, they take the cake and I’m loving every minute of them.”