So a new year begins. My new year’s resolution is the same this year as it has been each and every year since I can remember… “I resolve to live and enjoy every day of this year one day at a time, and try to think of others more than myself. And I will thank God for each day even if I ain’t kilt or caught nothin.”
If you adopt that same resolution and try to live by it, I will bet you’ll have a good year. Lot’s of simple country folks have had similar resolutions for a long time, but as the years go by there are far fewer simple common-sense country folks. Since we are just about out of those people, I don’t think our country will ever be as strong and as good as it was, ever again.
One big reason for that is how little money there was then, compared to how much there is today. For every $10 in circulation in the 1930’s, there are probably a million now. It is so simple for people today to have so much of all that money can buy.
My grandparents and the country people around them couldn’t have much of what money could buy, they had to live for what money could NOT buy. And that made them happy. I doubt if that will ever happen in our country again, but I swear, my greatest happiness over the years has been just that… the blessings that money cannot buy.
I find most of those blessings when I am off somewhere alone, enjoying the wildest of places, and the presence of someone far greater than my mind can comprehend. What you can find there is freedom, freedom peace and beauty. I don’t see any of that where there are concentrations of people… there’s not much freedom in a crowd.
This year will likely be the last year I pursue what I have done since I was 18 years old… 51 years of writing about the outdoors as a living. Because I cannot stop writing I will try to publish more books, and a magazine article when I feel like it, or a newspaper column done without any deadlines. But I have a revolutionary idea. When that time comes, I will stop charging a fee for my writing and give what I do to all those newspapers that want it free of charge. They’ll like that.
A reader opened my eyes not long ago by sending me this letter… “Larry, old friend…you have outgrown your purpose in life because today’s people just live their lives facing in a different direction than you always have. Clean rivers, beautiful wild places, wild creatures and tall trees are not of much importance to them. Conservation is a forgotten concept because it cannot possibly work any more. By definition, it is anti-progress. Progress will be defined by ever-increasing accumulations of money and a technology we cannot even comprehend. Generations to come will have to destroy the earth to survive. And they will, but you and I won’t see it, we will be long dead.”
“Do you think you speak for God? Do you really think God wants what you believe in? He has allowed huge, burgeoning populations to make a world that is foreign to you, rushing along a path where they can never return to ‘the old days’. Who knows what is at the end of that easy path. God does not interfere with that.”
“You were one of the lucky ones who got to see the last of the best of it. You were blessed. You got to spend all those wonderful days outdoors. Just think how awful it would have been if all those city-bred masses you describe it to had loved it as you did. They’d all be out there with you. You would never find a place to be alone, enjoying such peace.”
“Remember when you floated Ozark rivers in the spring all by yourself? Take a look at them now. Do you think the people out there in those strings of banging canoes care if there are smallmouth beneath them, or if the banks are eroding or that the rivers are filling with gravel and algae? No, they do not.”
“Give up your crusade and enjoy what little time you have left. You are getting old and no one wants to hear what you preach. The state conservation people will become even more corrupt, because great sums of money does that. Who cares, but you? Just tell us how to kill something or catch something, where and how to do it the quickest and easiest. That’s what outdoor writing is about today and tomorrow. You are yesterday’s outdoor writer.”
That writer died recently and was a far smarter man than I. It is about time to recognize that almost no one lives in the world he and I lived in. And today, who wants to? I just never was able to accept that when I was younger.
At some point, a person who cannot believe where the years went, has to realize that it is about time to quit, and just enjoy what is left in life. Believe me there is a lot of the good life left if you can escape the rat race and be free. I want to turn much of my attention now to that outdoor education center and a retreat for underprivileged kids. You cannot imagine how much I am enjoying that, and how thankful I am that God has put it in my lap.
I still keep thinking I am 30 years old, and in the outdoors, I feel that way. But I can’t hunt ducks from dawn to dusk two or three days in a row. In between I need a day to rest up. That really annoys me. I can still climb a mountain, but not half as fast as I did 20 years back. I can paddle my boat down miles of river all day long and I am thankful for that, but darn if I don’t have to take aspirin at night because one shoulder hurts from doing it.
I write more and more about memories, people and experiences from years ago, what I saw and did then, and less about what I have experienced outdoors recently. I don’t really know if today’s newspaper readers like that.
I let deer pass by that I would have shot years ago, and sometimes take pictures of ducks rather than shooting them. I never keep a bass, and I didn’t set one trotline in 2016. What has happened to me?
It isn’t so hard to find a quitting place when you know you have done your best to use whatever little talent God gave you, and you couldn’t have tried any harder. So as far as doing things as I have done them all my life, this will likely be the last year of that.
Right now I am working on the spring issue of the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Magazine and if there are some outdoorsmen out there who would like to send us some good outdoor stories, we need to get them before Feb. 1. We pay now for good stories and photos. Some of the best outdoor stories we have ever received were written by just ordinary folks who had never written anything at all, but had one great story to tell. This new issue will be all color for the first time, and much larger. It is our 55th magazine
More about this later, but our Grizzled Old Outdoorsman’s free swap meet will be held again at the Brighton Assembly of God Church Gymnasium the last Saturday of March, which is the 25th. We will offer about 50 tables to vendors who want to sell outdoor oriented items and hunting and fishing gear. Tables are free and entrance to the event is free.
Anyone who needs information about acquiring the spring magazine, or the swap meet or whatever, can call me at 417 777 5227 unless I am gone, in which case you may have a confusing conversation with my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins. Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.