Macaluso: Grits Grisham a true Louisiana legend _lowres

Advocate file photo by JOE MACALUSO Hunting and fishing legend Grits Gresham retrieves a dove on opening day of dove season in 1998.

NATCHITOCHES Spending a few days away from Louisiana’s coast and all its problems is something all south Louisiana outdoorsmen need.

A few days with our north Louisiana brothers and sisters, especially in this oldest of all Louisiana settlements, is a chance to reflect on what Grits Gresham meant, and still does, to our state.

There’s not enough room here to list the accomplishments of what this man, who called Natchitoches home, did for outdoors communicators across the Deep South. Want to know more?

Google “Grits Gresham” and find out. Just know there’s a section in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the new and beautifully constructed building on Front Street, devoted to Gresham. It’s worth the trip if only to see the collection of freshwater lures his family donated to the HOF museum.

To know Gresham beat the drum for Toledo Bend, our state’s largest reservoir, and that he was one of the few men who understood what the Red River meant to fishermen in our state’s central northwestern parishes carries as much weight for the tens of thousands of freshwater anglers around here as does our concerns about coastal restoration and saltwater fish populations for south Louisiana fishermen.

He caught bass in the Cane River, the miles-long oxbow lake off the Red River that secured Natchitoches’ place in our state’s history. He hunted all manners of game in the cypress-studded swamps here — yes, there are swamps in north Louisiana. He also took ducks in these “brakes” that draw waterfowl into these numerous natural sumps — and was witness to the first deer transplanted from other states into what was then deer-poor Louisiana.

He was among the first writers to let the rest of the country know what Louisiana had here for sportsmen.

Even though he’s gone, he remains a giant figure in Louisiana’s outdoors heritage, and deserves the stature John Muir has when conservationists talk about places like Yosemite.

Why Natchitoches?

Saturday was a big day. Inclusion onto a list of the Hall of Fame Distinguished Service Award winners is an unparalleled honor for my family. It’s a privilege beyond compare to be included with nine other men who covered sports for what was Baton Rouge’s two daily newspapers.

A personal note to thank my wife and family for years of the strain that comes with being involved with a newspaperman, especially a sportswriter.

There are the professionals, men who trusted me to do this work. In order, thanks to Bud Johnson and Paul Manasseh, then bosses Bud Montet, Dan Hardesty, Sam King, Butch Muir and, now, Joe Schiefelbein.

Mike Cook, the man who filled these pages for years, ranks right up there with Grits Gresham as a giant in outdoors communications. He’s been gone for years and I miss him to this day.