I normally like my heroes to be a little older, but after some time with Gus Hess last week I'm making an exception.
Gus is eight years old, the son of Matt and Liza Hess who live off of Sprinkle Branch in the Walnut Creek community. On New Years Day the family hosted their annual clay bird shoot and a number men and their families showed up. It was Gus’s first time shooting skeet and to make it a bit harder he was using a small, single-shot .410 shotgun that throws off a very tight pattern of shot. It has a small margin of error. To make a long story short, Gus missed his first five shots, and looked discouraged. But after receiving pats and high-fives from the older men, and some specific suggestions from his Dad that Guss chose to listen to, he came back to hit four out his next ten. Everyone was glowing with him, as he justifiably beamed. But, that’s not why he’s my hero.
What I most loved was the relationship between Gus and the other adults, most especially his parents. The mutual respect, from boy to adult, and from adult to boy, was obvious. How refreshing to see a young person who not only listens, but also absorbs what he hears - life’s lessons, learning how to be a young man. He had clearly learned lessons about safety with guns. He was patient waiting his turn on the range. Inquiring, exuberant, careful. Fun to be around.
I’ve believed for a long time there is no better place to raise a family than Madison County. It’s a unique spot that teaches independence, responsibility, and respect for others. Families are embraced here. And young people have the chance to interact with adults with mutual fondness and regard. The community is readily open to new people who want to invest their lives in this place. And the land itself, in its bigness and diversity, gives children and adults alike an opportunity for humility, and the lesson we are all part of something much larger than our individual selves.