The Daily, The Field, The Water, The Woods, Thoughts

I Give Thanks …

Thanksgiving Day is the one day each year set aside for giving thanks. It may be to our Lord and Savior for all the good things in our lives, and it may be given to our family and friends. It is a special day for me, and later today I’ll spend time with family and friends, and on this special day, I’d like to thank all of these fine folks.

On this day, I wish to thank:

*My wife Kay (left) for putting up with me and my sometime quirky behavior. She is my lover and my best friend, and she has been there  for me for more than 32 years. She has picked me up when I have fallen, nursed me when I was ill, traveled with me in the early days when neither of us knew where our next magazine check would come from, and together we’ve weathered many storms. She’s my best hunting buddy, and she loves to hunt. She also loves me with all her heart, and I love her with a fervent passion. Who could ask for anything more from their mate?

*My twin brother George (right), who passed away more than six years ago. He and I gave of each other to help the other person. He died of cancer, and a part of my life disappeared that evening in September when he drew his last breath and moved on to a better place. We shared 64 years of memories that began in the womb, and during that time, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for me and nothing I wouldn’t do for him. We were soulmates for many years, and shared countless fishing trips and deer hunts. I miss him, and there has been a terrible sense of loss as I think of him daily.

*I’d be remiss on this day if I didn’t remember the armed forces of the United States of America. These men and women, at home and abroad, stand ready at all times to guard this great nation from those evil forces who would take away our Constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Countless men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our proud nation free. To one and all, past and present, I salute you and offer my heartfelt “Thank You” for the many sacrifices you’ve made on my behalf and that of other citizens. I’m eternally proud of each and every one of you, and may many others in this wonderful country of ours pay their respects today as well.

Write and get paid for it is a great gig.

*I’ve been a lucky man. In 1967, I chose my path and way of life when I began writing outdoor copy for a living. The first few years didn’t provide much of a living, but I was happy and proud to say that for most of my adult life I’ve made my living doing a job I thought needed to be done. I wrote countless magazine articles, newspaper columns and features, books, and for the past six year, a daily blog. I’ve dealt with some editors for all these years that were memorable people. There was Stan Meseroll of Sports Afield, who bought my first magazine article in 1967, and several others. He was a man who believed in me and my dream of making a living as an outdoor writer. There were others, like the late Ben East of Outdoor Life, who really taught me how to self-edit my material and how to make each piece the best it could be.

Other editors such as Lamar Underwood of Outdoor Life and Sports Afield; Jay Cassell of all three of the Big 3 outdoor magazines (Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Sports Afield); the late Gordie Charles of Traverse City, Michigan, who invited me to go to New Zealand 30 years ago on a fishing trip I’ll never forget; the late Mort Neff, who was the eternal gentleman, and a pioneer in outdoor television; and other writers like the late Jack O’Connor who gave of his time to help lead the way by example during the early 1970s; the late Ted Trueblood, who knew who I was and was willing to spend time talking with me while he slowly and painfully died of cancer at his home in Idaho; the late writer John Madson, who had a magic pen that could make an ordinary story into something that may have been the best written story in the world.

Writers who had a great impact on me.

*I’d also like to give thanks to two men I never knew except through their writings. The late Gordon MacQuarrie of Wisconsin was a newspaperman who also wrote magazine articles and books. His book “Stories Of The Old Duck Hunters & Other Drivel” was a magical one. I’ve read it many times, and he died much too early but he had a dramatic affect on me and my writing. Another man — the late and inimitable Robert Ruark — may have been the finest outdoor writer that I’ve ever read. His two books — The Old Man & The Boy and The Old Man’s Boy Grows Old — should be required reading for anyone who wishes to play in the outdoor writing sandbox. Ruark had a major drinking problem, and like Ernest Hemingway before him and Peter Hathaway Capstick after, the booze led to an early death long before they should have died. All were at the top of their game when they passed on, and I honor their memory and give thanks for the great work they did.

*I’d be remiss in this list of people to whom i owe a large measure of respect would be my old mentor, Max Donovan of Clio, Michigan (lower left). He was a hemophiliac, who took me under his wing as a teenager, and did his best to teach me right from wrong. He could nick himself during a morning shave, and be laid up in bed bleeding for two weeks. But, when he was at the top of his game, he taught me most everything he knew about trout fishing, catching spring bluegills, how to hunt red foxes on winter snow or haughty black ducks on a late-fall nor’easter when gust of wind blew the cattails flat and brought the big red-leggers down from Canada and to our decoys in a marsh opening. Max coached me along for about 25 years, teaching me what he know, and guessing accurately about things he didn’t know, and we were a pair. I miss his mentality and his wit, and fortunately I was able to tell him how I felt about him when he was still alive. Now I’m giving thanks for the privilege of having known and fished and hunted with him. It was an education I truly treasure.

*The late George Yontz of Wolverine was another person deserving of my thanks. Serious asthma and hay fever problems brought George and I together in 1952 along the banks of the Sturgeon River in Cheboygan County. He was a short-legged, long-waisted Dutchman who was a plumber by trade but who owned a small tackle shop along old M-27 and rented cabins. Me and a school friend used to spend all summer along the Sturgeon River fishing because we had problems breathing the pollen-filled air of southern Michigan. Yontz spent hours teaching me how to fish for steelhead, big brown trout and walleyes. I acted as his “man” when some big stout young feller would drop in to challenge Yontz to an arm wrestling contest. I never knew him to be beat at arm wresting, fishing or for being a storehouse of solid no-nonsense fishing information. He, like Donovan, coached me from an early teenager into adulthood, and I owe him much more than a debt of thanks. Men like Roger Kerby on Honor has provided me with many wonderful deer hunts over the years, and I give thanks to him as well.

Everyone deserves my thanks, except one.

*The list of people I worked with on stories, not only recently but also during my early writing years, could fill a book. If it hadn’t been for some of my guides, there would have been stories and I wouldn’t be deliberating over who to name. Most of my guides were very good, a few merely adequate, and memory only reveals one truly bad guide who cost me a massive 7 X 7 bull elk in Idaho. He deliberately tried to steer me away from the blood trail of that huge bull. He left me up in the mountains without my horse when I questioned his judgment, and it took all day and half of the night to make my way down out of the mountains. He doesn’t even deserve this little bit of space because he wound up with my big elk.

Other guides who stand head and shoulder above many others include Mark Rinckey (lower right and I) of Honor, Michigan, who began guiding after I quit my 10-year guiding career in 1976. Mark is one of the finest fishing guides for salmon and steelhead fishing in the rivers that I know. Emil Dean, who spent years guiding steelhead anglers on the Big Manistee, is another man to whom I owe a large measure of thanks. Jack Duff of Leland and I shared 10-15 years of the best big brown trout fishing action this state has ever seen, and the capstone of his guiding career was the 31 1/2-pound brown trout that held the Michigan state record for years. Forty years of fishing with Duffy has made me a better angler. There are other guides like the late Al Lesh of Warren, Steve Van Assche of Harrison Township, Michigan, is perhaps one of the finest muskie fishing guides on Lake St. Clair. Jerry Regan and Sam Surre are two of the finest fly-fishing guides on the AuSable and Manistee rivers.

To one and all, living or dead, on this day of Thanksgiving, I offer my thanks to you. For those not named, but who helped me along the way, you know who you are and deserve a warm “Thanks” for all you’ve done. Have a good day and don’t forget to give thanks in your own way.