Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Get Ready! She’s Warming Up To Sing.

imageShe’s tuning up right now. The distant sound hunters think they hear are those of a big woman vibrating her vocal cords in anticipation of this year’s final hoorah.

A week from next Tuesday will see the final stamp of approval or disapproval, depending on how each of us view the past deer season, be applied to the 2007 deer hunting season. The Fat Lady will start singing 30 minutes after sundown on Jan. 1, and another deer season will slowly creep over the threshold of one year and launch us into the next. And just think: there will only be nine months until the deer season opens again.

Meanwhile, the days of parties, getting drunk, having a mouth that tastes like a goat herd walked through it, are things of the past. We’re usually in bed long before midnight arrives.

Twenty-five years ago I decided to stop drinking and did. I dedicated my whole being to not drinking. I did the same thing several years ago about quitting cigarettes, and I have never smoked since.

As the year slowly draws to a close I prefer to remember people. Some like my 94-year-old father who died 14 months ago. I also remember brother George who passed away on Sept. 10, 2003, but there have been many other kind and caring people in my life who I miss dearly at this time of year.

Some key folks from my life have fished around their last bend, and some have hunted for their last time. For each, I cherish those memories we shared, especially those that are far more important than going to some silly party to get hammered and make a fool of myself.

The memories of those who have passed on are far more meaningful to me than getting sloshed. As an old drinking friend once wisely noted about New Years Eve: “Getting drunk on New Years Eve is for amateurs. The real drunks can and will get drunk anytime.

Wow! Now there’s a philosophy to live by.

There are so many old friends who have turned life’s corner, and are but faded photographs and fond memories. I miss the late Bernie McKenzie, who gave me a job in his sporting goods store in 1958 when jobs were tough to find, and I became the go-to guy for sighting-in deer rifles.

Then there were Bobbie and Max Donovan. Max was my mentor, and Bobbie was his younger brother. Those two, and G.V. Langley were always up to running fox with hounds. Both Bobbie and Max are long dead, and who knows about G.V. and Paul Duncan and Jerry Miller, three other dog jockies who often ran red foxes all winter.

There is Frank McKenzie, who has done a bit of outdoor writing, but he and his brother John are still good friends although I don’t see either one as often as I’d like. John worked for me as a steelhead guide many years ago, and he is still going strong.

Another who has moved on to where the steelhead always bite is George Yontz. He was another mentor my formative years of the 1950s on the Sturgeon River, and I miss him a great deal. His acts of kindness to me when I was a kid have not been forgotten.

Another who has passed, and I mourn his uniqueness, is Robert Traver. This legendary trout angler and Upper Peninsula author wrote under that pseudonym, but his real name was John Voelker. He set a writing example that others like me can only hope to emulate some day. He was the Bard of the Upper Peninsula, the Lord of Frenchman’s Pond, and he was full of fun, and a fan of the fly rod and tiny fly.

I miss the quiet strength and strong sense of purpose that was the late Russ Bengel. He was the last Michigan market hunter to pass on, and he hated shooting ducks and geese for the market at a time when making money was difficult. He regretted his market hunting days, and quietly donated millions of dollars to Ducks Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited of Canada. He donated money to make our wildlife habitat a better place for wildlife to live, and he was exceedingly kind to me.

Also gone but not forgotten are guys like Al Lesh who could always help me get a story on short notice. The legendary muskie guide Homer LeBlanc was another person who was a big help, and he had more stories than anyone I know and I honestly believe that all were true.

There’s my old friend, Herb Boldt of East Tawas, who is alive and kicking, and we fished and hunted together often over many years. We seldom have much chance to get together these days, and it is my loss. He helped hire me at The Detroit News years ago, and I’ve never forgiven him for it.

There are many younger friends, some I have fished or hunted with once and others that we haven’t seen each other for many years. Friends, after all, become the glue that holds many of us together.

There are people like Erwin Bauer, Gary Baynton, Lee Blahnik, Bob Brunner, Gordie Charles, Reece Clifford, Tom Coles, Boyd Crist, Emil and Steve Dean, R.J. Doyle, Ben East, Doug Esch, George Gardner, Jim Gauthier, Bruce Grant, Roger & Paul Kerby, Scott Kincaid, Bob Kook, Jerry Lee, Ron Levitan, Stan Lievense, Pat Marino, Arnie Minka, Art Neumann, Paul Nickola, Phil Petz, Claude and Matt Pollington, Bud Raskey, Jerry Regan, Rick Reed, Jim Riley, Mark Rinckey, Ken Roberts, Mark Romanack, Steve Southard, John Spencer, Al Stewart, Sam Surre, Walt Tilson, and John and Steve VanAssche. Any whose name I’ve missed, my sincere apologies for an unintentional error.

Some of these men are household names among sportsmen, and others are not, but I know that all have figured significantly in my life over a period of many years, and I cherish their friendship. And, I will be thinking of them, those alive and dead, when the large lady tips her head back to sing. it’s then I forget about deer hunting, and cherish long-standing friendships from the past and the present.

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/19 at 06:55 PM
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