The unspoken bond between father and son is one of life’s most inspiring sights.
Being blind has never stopped 56-year-old Mike Franco of Baton Rouge, Louisiana from doing anything. According to The Advocate, Mike hasn’t let his lack of sight get in the way of cooking for his family, working as the country’s only blind court reporter, enjoying wood working, or going on the occasional fishing trip. No, life was not a burden for Mike; he truly knew how to live it to its fullest.
Mike’s blindness was not expected. At the age of six, he started to lose his vision due to a rare disease known as retinitis pigmentosa. By the time he was 18, he was completely blind. The Foundation Fighting Blindness estimates that there are roughly 100,000 living in the U.S. with the inherited disease.
Despite his blindness, Mike pressed on in life by graduating high school and attending court reporting school at the University of New Orleans. Eventually he married, and along came the gift of children. Mike laments the difficulties his children faced growing up with a blind father:
“It was the kids who had to adapt. Their lives were different than their buddies’ lives, but they never complained. I felt stripped of my masculinity sometimes, but I never felt like I have a lot of regrets, but there are a couple.”
One of those regrets was the great outdoors.
“I love being outdoors, and when I’m not working, I’m outside, and missing out on the outdoors thing has been a killer to me,” Franco said. “I feel like I cheated my kids.”
Mike’s story took a turn when his 19-year-old son Nick met his girlfriend at college. Nick and his girlfriend have a lot in common; running track is one of those things, and a love for the outdoors is another. Nick’s girlfriend Rebecca grew up in an outdoors family, and hunting was something she enjoyed and had learned from her father. Eventually, Nick was initiated into Rebecca’s family hunting trips and the obsession with getting his own father outdoors was born. Rebecca’s father was also enamored with the idea.
“The idea of my dad hunting really started with my girlfriend’s father,” Nick said. “He’s an engineer, and it was his idea from the beginning to find a way for dad to hunt with us. So we brainstormed. He’s very creative, and we came up with a way.”
Slowly but surely the plan came together. Nick came up with how to install brackets onto the rifle as well as a dual-sighting system so that he could he his father’s eyes in the stand. They found pre-existing technology available in the Apple store that they could utilize and retrofit for their needs.
“Bryan Andries (Rebecca’s father) drew it up and drilled the holes for the mount and put screws in,” Nick Franco said. “Apple has a product called iScope, and it was a simpler form of what we had first figured out what we needed. Basically the iScope clamps on the back of the (rifle) scope. It isn’t for people who are blind. It’s to film hunts with an iPhone. We didn’t use it. It was more fun for Mr. Bryan and I to do it ourselves. We did for $100.
“That’s when Mr. Bryan told my dad that one day he was going to get him out there (on a hunt) and that he knew he could get him out there,” Nick said.
Image via: The Advocate
Finally, Nick was ready to put his idea to the test. He approached his dad and asked him to put his hands out. In his hands he placed a .270 rifle with the scope system and told his dad about his plan. Despite his father having never shot a gun, they began the process of learning how to hunt together. Via The Advocate:
Using the crosshairs on the iPhone mount, the father-son team had to come up with a system of nonverbal commands that would allow Nick to sight the rifle for Mike.
They practiced at home with Nick’s system. The son, sighting through the phone’s screen, placed his left index finger on the back of his dad’s neck and moved it right, left, up and down to bring the crosshairs to the target. When Mike Franco held the crosshairs on the target, Nick double-tapped his finger on his dad’s neck, and Mike squeezed the trigger.
Eventually they needed to try a live firing and visited a nearby range called Honey Island Swamp range. While they were firing one of the rangers walked over, curious as to what they were doing.
“Jim Bearden, the range officer there, came over one day and asked if we had practiced there recently,” Mike Franco recalled.
“He said he was off that day and he said one of the (park) rangers asked him what the range’s policy was on blind shooters. He told the ranger that there wasn’t a policy, and he said the ranger told him that we’ve got one (blind shooter) out here, and that the guy was hitting that pan at 100 yards. He asked if we minded if he shot video, not as a marketing video, but just a good story to show that Honey Island Swamp had shooters of all kinds.”
The culmination of all their hard work and training came soon after at the start of deer season. They set out to hunt near St. Francisville, but like most hunters, Mike and his son got a little frustrated on the first day out there saying, “lots of deer everywhere… I could hear them blowing, but none came out.”
Luck would not stay at bay long though, as on their next day out opportunity presented itself right at the beginning of the hunt.
“Within the first 45 minutes, a deer came out. I could feel his heart pumping through his finger,” Mike Franco said. “By that time we could read each other like a book. I guess I can attribute Nick’s ability to playing all those video games, but he had control over me and I felt I had full control over where I’m aiming.
Mike felt Nick double-tap on the back of his neck, and he took the shot. He missed, but just barely.
While most hunts never offer a second chance, this one did, and Nick quickly resighted with his father and then again, a double-tap. This time Mike got him, and the joy surged through the hunting party as Mike had just taken down his first deer. Nick said,
“He started crying, gave me a bear hug and said, ‘You did it,’ and I told him, ‘No, we did it.’ ”
Image via: The Advocate
After their initial success, wouldn’t you know it they kept going out for more and didn’t come back empty handed. The father-son duo had not only overcome life’s adversities once, but continued to do so throughout the season.
“I can’t express deeply enough the warm feeling I get from knowing Nick has devoted his efforts and thoughts toward my satisfaction. Enthusiasm, excitement and ultimate success coming from a 19-year-old boy loving his father,” Mike Franco said. “How can one man be blessed any more?”
What’s your best hunting or fishing memory with your father? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Original story via: The Advocate