Insert recycled Independence Day fireworks photo here. Gladly.

Despite my fancy new camera and the desire to wield it, I made a pledge as Independence Day weekend approached: I’d leave it at home. This was no small matter, since I’m accustomed to taking a camera with me nearly everywhere I go. The photo above is from 2009, when it won a spot in the Governor’s Photo Contest and appeared in the 2010 North Dakota Travel Guide. It was photo number 43,000 through my Canon 20D, which is now around 57,000 exposures old.

Actually, the conditions on that evening in 2009 have never been matched: the sky was a beautiful blue, not totally dark, yet the fireworks blazed on. Photographically speaking it was perfect light, something that comes along very infrequently. Still, I’d love the opportunity to shoot this gig with my new camera. There are, however, more important things at hand.

I take the job of being Daddy very seriously. My boys are now both old enough to enjoy the fireworks display, although they still hold their ears. No diaper bags, long stroller rides, or other “baby stuff” – I have two little men in my house. Those men rely on Daddy to show ’em the ropes, and I’m up to the task.

My dad’s idea of fulfilling his responsibility as a father involved working himself harder than his body could bear in order to provide for his family. He succeeded in both. As a boy I remember noticing that Dad worked. A LOT. I’m sure it was what he thought was best for us, to work hard and provide. There were times where I had some special one-on-one memories with my dad, but one still stands out most prominently in my memory: the day he took me to a railyard and got me a ride on a real train. That’s not my dad in the photo above…that’s the engineer that drove us around the yard.

I found these photos by accident yesterday, but they were a perfectly timed reminder of how special such a time like this can be. I knock myself out trying to find fun and unusual places to take my boys, even at their young ages, to give them memories such as the one I had. I’ve vowed not to be too busy with work or selfish things because I know how much having even one such memory with my Daddy meant to me. I hadn’t even realized that he took a camera with and took photos, something I never recalled him doing. What a discovery!

These precious little men aren’t just looking for Daddy to teach them about stuff like trucks, trains, or cameras… they’re counting on me to teach them about life. Rule Number One about being Daddy is making sure that family comes first. It’s a tough one, since I was single until my mid-thirties, but I work hard at it. If a guy’s got any character at all, how can he not strive to put Mommy and the kiddos before himself? Besides, I’d trade a hundred prize-winning photos for ones like the shot above. They’re watching me through their little viewfinders every single day, and as I learn what’s really important in life I intend to show them, and to lead by example.

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