Although I never visited a Virginia State Park with my father, Ido have him to thank for much of my love of the outdoors. He used to like to say he was “cursed” with three daughters but we knew he was just joking even though he probably would have enjoyed a son.
As a little girl, my father took me to a friend’s farm where I learned how to ride a horse. Ieven had my own horse for several years. His name was King (from a movie or book I can no longer recall). In truth he was a tad swayback and old. But that horse could really move. You see he was afraid of tractors. One day I was riding King and someone turned on a tractor. King went flying and eventually I ended up on the ground with a nice scar from the barbed wire I landed near. My mother was probably a nervous wreck every time I went off with my father. I was five when that happened.
He taught my sister Peggy and I how to make our own fishing poles and to fish in lakes and streams. We went camping a few times. He took Peggy hunting. He took us swimming at the Fort Eustis Officer’s Club. For many years that was a man made lake fed from an Artesian well then later it was moved to a concrete swimming pool.
He also loved boating and had fishing boats on and off through the years. Sadly, I inherited my inner ear and motion sickness issues from my mother so I did not always enjoy the fishing trips. My favorite boating memory was when the Coast Guard had to rescue my father and his dog Bo Bo from his boat off Kiptopeke State Park (the bilge pumps stopped working).When they arrived both he and the dog were wearing their life vests.
The last year of his life, at 79 years young, my father was a Lead Supervisor for our Youth Conservation Corps – two sessions. At New River Trail they lived in tents for three weeks (that was the last year we tried the program with tents). At Westmoreland State Park they stayed in camping cabins. He drove a trailer full of groceries from Sam’s Club to save money on food and even made a deal at some local restaurants for discounts. He told me how much the program meant to me. He died that October.
Gaston Rouse chose to name one of the Youth Corps awards, the one that goes to the most outstanding youth in the Program, the Emmitt award after my father, Emmitt Short. This year on Father’s Day, I will think of my daddy while I greet parents that entrust us with their daughters for the Youth Conservation Corps at First Landing State Park.