Some folks say they have no regrets in life; for me, I have more than I care to admit. Of course, there are small insignificant regrets such as having a cheeseburger for lunch instead of a salad, but then there are massive ones that incapacitate us with remorse. These are the kind that stay with us and seem to relentlessly cripple the person who struggles beneath it.
By Keri Butt
I heard about this amazing young man Drake Taylor, who many called “Little D,” while hanging out in the Illinois Outdoor News’ booth at the Illinois Deer and Turkey Classic during February. I felt compelled to meet this young man from Dunlap, Ill., who along with his mother Beverly, designed, made and sold wildlife and hunting inspired jewelry.
When I got to their booth, I didn’t find a young man who dwelled on the cards of life he’d been dealt. Instead, he was spirited, energetic and even a bit feisty, a young man whose disposition permeated through the hearts of anyone around him, including me. Drake was one of those rare and special people who don’t have “acquaintances,” only friends. It was also amazing the way his parents were open and honest with intimate details of their sons’ life journey; one could easily tell they were very proud of him.
Drake was born with a rare form of dwarfism called, Osteodysplastic Primordial Dwarfism (MOPDII). Individuals with MOPDII grow at an exceptionally slow rate, but what makes MOPDII different is that all internal organs are much smaller than what would be considered normal in dwarfism. Those with MOPDII have a likely chance of acquiring some type of blood vessel abnormality such as a bulge in a blood vessel in the center of the brain known as an intracranial aneurysm. Like many who are affected from MOPDII, “Little D” was also diagnosed with MoyaMoya disease; a disorder that causes the arteries at the base of the brain to become narrowed, restricting blood flow.
Unlike most of us who would automatically consider these problems to be a reason to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, Drake did not. He never possessed the “poor me” attitude. Instead, he and his family focused on how far his journey had taken him, the places he still wanted to go, and the friends he met along the way.
Country Charm “Little D” Style
“Little D” was certainly a charmer and didn’t hesitate to throw his arm around me for a photo. If you weren’t careful, he’d charm the socks right off you! He laughed and joked, and much to my amusement may have even had the tiniest bit of that male sarcasm going on with some of the guys from neighboring booths he’d obviously become friends with. As I talked with Drake’s parents, I learned more about what made this intelligent and lively teen tick, which of course led to his love and passion for hunting and the outdoors.
“Little D Designs”
In 2007, with the help of his mother, Drake began designing and handcrafting his own line of wildlife and hunting jewelry, which led to the establishment of “Little D Designs.” Drake didn’t just make the jewelry; he also was involved in selecting the materials for his creations. Hunting was his inspiration for each unique piece.
Through jewelry making, Drake extended his talent and creativity to the hunting community by giving more options in creating a hunting lifestyle statements for those who, like Drake, enjoy most hunting. “Little D’s” jewelry business also allowed him to use his social skills and affection for others to form hundreds of friendships.
“Little D’s” Ten Point Crossbow
I doubt Drake had a collection of worldly possessions he treasured, but he did proudly show me a special piece of equipment that had been created with his personal specifications. The team at Ten Point Crossbows specially designed and constructed a crossbow that fit “Little D” to a T, literally. His Ten Point Crossbow made it a lot easier for Drake to hunt, and it was apparent he truly cherished it. Thanks to his exclusive crossbow, he’d been able to harvest a turkey, a wild hog, a Texas Dahl ram, and three whitetail deer.
Would have, could have, SHOULD have
I spoke with Drake’s mother before leaving their booth about sharing her sons’ story in one of my Antler Addict columns in the Illinois Outdoor News. They were more than happy to answer any questions, so I promised to be in touch. I emailed a couple times discussing a time for a phone interview. But, as it always has a tendency, time slipped away and the phone interview never took place.
Just last week I had found “Little D’s” info and wrote myself a reminder to make that phone call. I set it on the very top of my things to do pile. Less than a week later, I received an email saying Drake had passed away. It’s brutal to admit that somewhere along the line I had forgotten or simply didn’t make time to do the interview … a regret I’ll always carry.
Honoring “Little D”
Many times our heroes and mentors are older and wiser, but although “Little D” may have been much younger then me, his wisdom exceeded far beyond my years.
He knew the value of laughter, friendship, and embracing life while also appreciating every door that opens, as well as each that has to close. Some would argue that “Little D” just got a raw deal in life but he didn’t see it that way. Drake felt blessed for the time he was given and the journey through the hunting community he was destined to take. He chose to bless others with his smile, laughter and intensity that he poured into everything he did. Somehow, despite his extraordinary circumstances, he learned how to be strong and courageous. In his short lifetime, Drake “Little D” Taylor did what most adults strive at 60-plus years to do; leave behind an unforgettable legacy.
The deer woods won’t be the same without him.
To read more about Drake Taylor’s accomplishments visit www.littleddesigns.com