There are just some days when you wish you had a crystal ball.
Today is one, if only to give the most loyal readers in the land a chance to see the future of Advocate Outdoors, pages in our newspapers for at least 70 years.
It’s been a very special privilege to be able to do what I’ve been afforded the opportunity to do for the past 24 years, and to write a weekly fishing report since March, 1976 first in the old State-Times then carried over to The Advocate in 1991. And to know we’ve missed only one of the twice-weekly pages since 1992 — the Thursday following Hurricane Gustav.
It’s been thrilling to cover amateur, high school, college and pro sports for our readers, to have seen and chronicled the successes of local teams, to witness the maturation of young men and women into community leaders, and to now be able to call coaches and players my friends.
Yes, there’s a certain pride in accomplishment, but we must understand and embrace the work ahead, and how much more work needs to be done.
What’s been amazing through these years is how many people living in our country want to deny us chances to fish and hunt, and will use whatever means in the dark recesses of their hearts to make that happen. Even more amazing is how our governments, at times, have been willing partners in that crusade.
Please carry this forward: We live in a country where citizens can own land, but not the fish that swim in the waters nor the wild animals that fly over or live on those lands. This is the North American Plan, a tenet earned by something our country’s founding fathers, in 1776, began “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary... ” While it’s not among the main reasons for our Revolution, it’s a by-product that certainly has set us apart from most other countries.
It’s a tenet we’ve seemed to have lost in a bureaucracy hell bent on taking ownership of our public lands and the animals inhabiting them. Somewhere along the way we’ve allowed them to become more than managers, more than people whom we pay to manage our lands and waters — not become the overlords they have named themselves to be. That’s very dangerous, and we need to elect men and women who will return the rights to the people to use, wisely, that which has been so generously given to our country.
Moreover, to one degree or another that tenet has made us what we are today, especially in our Sportsman’s Paradise. It’s one of the reasons, maybe the biggest reason, why Louisiana is what it is today. Access to the bounty is why we have attracted so many divergent cultures, and have been able to mold it into the unique, hospitable, sharing and caring place we call home.
We detest our state sometimes, but love it more, and that’s why it’s been an honor.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
More than lucky
It’s been a rare experience to work with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the men and women who are this state agency. Days spent in the Atchafalaya Spillway, at the Toledo Bend and Booker Fowler fish hatcheries, in boats with LDWF rescuers after hurricanes, time spent afield studying deer, ducks, quail, doves and nutria, and fighting mosquitoes and other biting insects banding wood ducks and mottled ducks, and on the water trying to figure out what goes on with speckled trout and a dozen other species left the impression that these folks are models of dedication and perseverance that could benefits many other state and federal agencies.
No, they aren’t always right. None of us are, but 99 percent of the time, these folks are taking action for the right reasons. We’re fortunate to have them working for us.
And the people
You can’t work like we work without strong family support. To my wife Cheryl, sons Joey and Chris, their wives Robin and Katie, thank you for allowing me to do what I love to do. And I can’t wait to spend more time with Joseph, Hank, Peter and Maggie.
I miss my Dad, the Colonel and my Mom, the Army nurse. They were heroes long before I came along and remain my heroes today. My grandfather, an immigrant who embraced all our country had to offer, and loving grandmothers, too, left enduring traits of religion and family I hope I’ve passed along to our children. Thanks to Carolyn Talbot, a mother-in-law who helped us so often when a job took me away.
Then there are the men and women who believed in me and brought me along in this profession. In order, at LSU Bud Johnson and Paul Manasseh, then sports editors Bud Montet, Dan Hardesty, Sam King, Butch Muir and Joe Schiefelbein, and Jack Lord and Linda Lightfoot, too. And thanks to the many photographers, composing room men and women, librarians and others on The Advocate staff.
And there’s one more: Mike Cook left an outdoors writing legacy in our community. Mike is missed. I know his family misses him. It’s been very difficult to fill his shoes, and I hope, during the past 24 years, I have.
I truly will miss you. I hope you don’t miss me.