Unexpected Blessings

March 14th, 2024
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A little more than a week ago, I was sitting in the same place I’m sitting as I’m constructing this blog entry this morning. My morning had started no differently than so many other mornings since COVID ran rampant across the world, causing many companies to shift gears and sway in a direction that required their employees to work from home. However, last week was a little different than this morning.

Around 9 a.m., a chat message popped up on my screen. It was a former boss, one I had not spoken to in any work related matter in about five years. The message itself didn’t catch me off guard, but the name of the person sending it did. Although it’s neither here nor there, as I sit here today, I still can’t find any reasonable explanation why a former boss from years ago would notify me with the HR manager in the meeting. I’d think it would make more sense to have the HR manager take care of that task.

After reading the message, I quickly navigated to my email and checked the invite that had been sent that morning. Since I only check my email a few times a day, I had missed it. There hadn’t been any meeting invitations sent earlier in the week to give me a heads-

Looking at the invite, I laughed to myself. There was no secret as to the meaning of the meeting. My former boss and the HR manager were the only ones on it. After the town hall meeting a few weeks back, I knew the days of corporate America in small-town America were quickly coming to an end. Some of us would go sooner than others, but we were all going to be sitting in the train station as the workloads hopped on the train and headed to different locations across the globe.

As they tried delaying the inevitable with a bunch of distracting conversation, the haymaker right hand was finally thrown and the TKO was in effect. My 33 years of service were done. I would finally be given an opportunity to find a more rewarding and satisfying path to follow, something I had halfheartedly searched for over the years. After all, flexibility is everything to me. Being wealthy never interested me, but living the richest life I could live always captivated my imagination and inner soul. I chased a good life; a life I could someday look back on and be thankful for. I accomplished that over the last 33 years, and I’ll be forever grateful for every bit of it. I learned a lot about myself, what I need to be happy, and most of all… what I want to avoid and where I want to go from here.

Although the process took no more than 5-10 minutes, it seemed like I was 5 years old again while my mother was driving around the parking lot looking for a closer spot to park before heading into Zayre’s department store to go shopping. I used to sit in the front seat seat (there were no car seats back then) and wonder why Mom was circling the parking lot instead of just pulling into the spot and getting on with things so we could go in and find a toy I could play with while she pushed me around the store. Heck, 33 years ago I was only 22 years old, but here I was in that childhood memory that always brings a big smile to my face. I loved going with Mom and her friend Barb Wood.

Hanging up the phone after being told I was done, effective immediately, the wheels rolled away from my desk as I pushed my feet forward on the plastic mat below it. I took a deep breath, smiled and welcomed the opportunity that had just been presented to me. While many people have no sense of job loyalty, I’ve lived a loyal career. I’ve never been one to surf across numerous platforms to find the next best thing. I chose that route to live a rich life, and I knew right then that I would start my search with those same wants and needs at the top of my list. People who have the most money are not usually the happiest people out there, but people who are able to live the life they choose are the ones who seem to attract envy from others.

So Here We Are

Now that a week has passed since my new life began, I feel good. I spent the week tidying up a lot of things that needed attention and reaching out to people in my network. Having a large number of people in my network from the numerous things I’ve been involved with over the years, networking is an essential part of staying on the path you have chosen for yourself. I guess I could say I feel like I’m 22 again. I’ve been blessed with a chance to start over and explore different things I never gave myself the opportunity to explore in the past. What would I like to do? Where would I like to end up? Do I stay local or do I travel? Do I get more involved in the business side of things that have brought the most enjoyment to my life? Do I try something new and totally different? Do I focus more on the writing projects that have always interested me? Do I finish the novel I started when my dad was sick? For the time being, I’m going to dabble in a bunch of things and figure out what will suit my lifestyle the best. In the end, I may not have a choice, but I’m going to give it everything I have to ensure I can build upon the richest — not wealthiest — life I ever could’ve imagined building for myself. Over the years, I’ve noticed that people who are totally immersed in things that bring them satisfaction are usually much more at ease and relaxed.

Although finding out that I would no longer be employed by the same company after 33 years of employment presents a great challenge, I feel well prepared for all challenges I encounter. I have my parents to thank for that. They taught me from a young age how to navigate life’s detours, and they gave me the necessary skills to stay grounded and remain determined, disciplined and focused. I welcome the challenges that lie in my path at the current time. When one door closes, another one opens. However, if you stare too long at the door that has been closed, you may be limiting yourself to new and exciting opportunities on the other side of the door that has been opened. It’s a cautionary tale I’ve always been warned about, and that’s why I sprinted through the newly opened door.

Amazing Friends

Your closest friends will always pick you up. They’ll have your back when they’re standing next to you when you’re at your worst, and they’ll stand tall to defend you when you aren’t there to defend yourself. They are the people with whom you should try to surround yourself, and I’ve been lucky to have people like this in my life. While there will always be surprises along the way, I’ve learned that if you treat people well and respect them, they will usually follow your lead. However, respect should always be earned, not given out freely. That’s why I treat the vast majority of people the same way.

In the last few days, I’ve had a few humbling things happen to me, and I really don’t have the right words to thank the people who have taken the time to reach out just to make sure I’m OK. Darren Collins, my pro-staff director for PSE, reached out to make sure I was standing on my feet and to tell me he had an ear tilted for anything that might interest me. Digger Cogar called me to ensure me that everything always works out for the best. I guess the biggest thing about these two people doing that is because they’re the only two people I told in the last week. When you have the respect of your peers at the highest level in any competitive arena, it ensures you that you are doing things correctly. I value the places of both of those guys in my life, and I’m thankful for meeting and getting to know both of them on my journey through competitive archery. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to call them good friends.

I went to see my archery coach, Mike Price, in Phelps, N.Y., earlier this week. We talked a lot about some issues that concerned me with shooting, and he offered is never-ending guidance. Without his guidance, I’m sure I never would’ve accomplished many things with a bow that I have been able to accomplish. Mike and I have always worked in silence and never seek attention. That’s probably why Mike’s resume is overlooked. However, if you take a step back and look at his own personal shooting resume, as well as the accomplishments of his students, there’s a reason I put all of my trust in him. When I told him about the predicament I’m in, he offered to talk to some of his friends and thought he might be able to land some work in ghostwriting from a few outdoor personalities and companies. The brief conversation gave me some more insight on other avenues to explore. I’d love to do any communications/marketing or writing for archery and outdoor companies, and my education and background fit perfectly into doing that type of work.

As many people know, I live at my local club in the winter. I’ve always found archery to keep me focused, disciplined and driven to succeed. The things archery has brought into my life have helped me with everything, including personal relationships and employment. When I shoot my bow, I focus on the process and let the rest fall into place. When I set the shot up correctly, the arrow is going in the X. Being able to ignore distractions, focus on the process and get the job done builds confidence, and confidence is necessary to succeed in anything in life.

There is a core group of people who are at the club every night, and I do everything I can to help them. While I’m not a certified coach, I have as much experience shooting in national events as I do from the job I no longer have. It allows me to teach people things to avoid to fall into a trap and lose confidence. If I can build their confidence and show them an easier way, I will do everything I can to help them as long as they’re willing to listen, learn and put the time in. People don’t see the work that goes in behind the scenes. They don’t see the sacrifices that have been made, and they don’t understand the commitment to discipline and determination that is required to get to the next level.

In the last year, I’ve spent an exorbitant amount of time shooting with people whose sole purpose in shooting is to get better. They’ve all made great strides, and this makes me happier than any of my personal accomplishments.

My core team is made up of kids, adults, families, perfectionists, beginners, and a few whose bodies don’t allow them to do the things that are natural for the rest of us. Every night I roll into the club and know I’ll see Shane, Chris, Lauren, Justin, Connor, Aiden, Melissa, and Ryan on the line.

Shane will be operating on something on his bow, always having his toolbox in hand. Chris will be against the wall working hard to perfect his shot in his pursuit of a spot on the U.S. Paralympic Archery Team. Aiden will be back and forth between the shooting line and the red recliner, shooting Xs every chance he gets. Connor, Aiden’s little brother, will be a little wild man some nights and a quiet little fella on other nights. Lauren will be sitting in the chair trying to keep track of her male clowns in her circus, or she will be standing next to her husband working on improving her archery skills. Justin will be shooting arrow after arrow and be in his own little world while not paying attention to anything around him. Melissa will be somewhere near the middle of the line trying her hardest to improve while blocking out all of the other distractions and focusing on her breathing to center her energy flow. Ryan will be at the bow press with someone’s bow torn apart as he tries his hardest to get the bow to shoot the best it can possibly shoot for that individual. If he’s not doing that, he’s in his own little bubble while torching X after X after X, making it look so incredibly easy that we all get jealous watching.

As I walk in and set my stuff on the floor, I realize these people are my people. They are the ones I see the most throughout the winter. We all experience the highs and lows together. We try to pick each other up when we are down and we try to keep each other grounded so we don’t have false beliefs as we march forward. We support each other. We have created our own AA… Archers’ Anonymous. Our stories help each other, and we find comfort amongst one another that cannot be found anywhere else. Whether we talk about the past, present or future, we find a way to relate to each other, as we all walk through life doing what we love. Life is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard either. I’ve tried to help all of these people live rich lives through archery, which will carry into all other parts of their lives. We only get one shot at this game called life, and nobody gets out of the game alive.

Well, my people presented me with an unbelievable gift this week. It brought tears to my eyes, and I could never truly thank them for their generosity. I have never done anything for any of these people other than offer my friendship and what little expertise I’ve gained in my archery travels. I’ve never been a coach, but I guess they refer to me as their coach. I’m not sure what to think about that. I’m no different than any of them, and archery brought all of us together.

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So what’s my purpose in writing this? I just wanted to give people an update because I know a lot of people have been asking, as many things are kept secret from the people who are still left employed at the same company. I also want to give people hope that even in our worst moments, things seem to work out for the best. I’ve never been a chronic worrier. I have a lot of confidence in my network, the connections I’ve made over the years, and the simple fact I’ve been successful in many things in my life through hard work and nothing more. I’ve always given 100% effort to anything I’ve attempted, and that won’t change until I breathe my last breath. I also want to thank all of the people I mentioned and the many I didn’t mention. You all play a huge part in my life. If anyone in my network has any ideas or suggestions, I’m all ears. I’m willing to tackle anything out there because I’m sure if I don’t know how to do something, I’ll figure it out. I’m too determined to conquer things to ever give up, so I always love a new challenge. Good luck to all of you who are fortunate enough to be blessed with a chance to start over. Not many people get that chance so shoot for the moon… even if you miss , you’ll land among the stars.

Hunting Journal in New Location

October 16th, 2023

Due to unforeseen problems with the Hunting Journal tab, I can’t upload any information onto it. Therefore, this link should help you find it if you’re interested.


King for a Day

December 12th, 2022

 (Circa 2004) It was a bright, sunny fall day as we made our way down Rt. 7 along the Ohio River. Although it was 80 degrees, we were giddy with hopes and expectations of what might happen in the coming days. Being early November, we knew bucks would be on their feet in the daylight and looking for does, even if the heat hung around. 

  As the day ventured into midafternoon, everyone began getting hungry. Without many dining establishments to choose from, we decided to stop at a Burger King in one of the depressed coal towns along the river. The blackened houses, sidewalks and street signs cast long, dreary shadows, and there was an uneasiness that couldn’t be avoided as two young men, one wearing a white wife beater and the other in a torn red-and-black checkered flannel, sat at a picnic table outside the establishment and passed a cigarette back and forth.  

  We made quick work of our lunch and got back on the road. A few miles down the road, Doug broke out the Burger King crown that had come with his meal. He put it on his head, and we all shared deep belly laughs… Doug would be the new king. 

                                                                    The Hunt

    As the days wore on, we had some encounters and punched a few tags, but Doug was still in search of a good set of antlers. Looking in the back seat, he spotted the crown and threw it on his head. He exclaimed, “Today is my day. I’m going to be the king.”

   After a few minutes, he headed into the woods at the end of a dead-end road with a school bus turnaround at it. The locals had put posted signs along the parking area, but we knew the land was open to the public. 

  Doug threw his stand on his back and began making his way through a maze of rose briars along an old logging road. After breaking out of heavy brush and thick pines, he found himself on a hardwood ridge with oaks that were raining acorns. He quickly picked a tree and climbed it. He would be able to see a runway that ran along the side of the hill and another one that came down a finger and crossed the gut in front of him.     

   A few hours into his sit, he sent an arrow through a beautiful 8-pointer. The king had spoken. He was the ruler of the kingdom… and the tradition came to life: wear the crown and become the king for a day.

  Unable to fill my tag that week, I decided to return to Ohio for the first two days of gun season in early December. While rushing around in the motel room and packing the truck, I noticed the crown in the backseat. 

  I grabbed it and placed it on my head. I smiled at Dad and said, “Today is my day. I’m going to be the king.” 

  We laughed and Dad said, “C’mon, do you really think that thing has another day of magic in it?”

  “I most certainly do think that. Do you want to wear it? We can double up,” I snickered.

  A few hours later, gunfire starting echoing off the southern Ohio hills, and I was wishing I had brought an armored suit for protection. Then, a stick snapped and three does appeared on the hill in front of me and began trotting down the hill. Watching them, I heard a buck grunt. Within seconds, he was hot on their trail with two things on his mind: escaping hunters and finding a lady to breed.

  I shouldered the gun, found his front shoulder in the scope and fired. Stumbling, he continued following the does, and I quickly sent two more slugs in his direction. Seconds later, I was standing above the giant 10-pointer that many locals had named Bullwinkle… the crown had produced a new king, and I got my first taste of what it felt like to be the king for a day. 

                                                                    Twenty Years Later

 The tradition has become a staple of our hunting excursions since that day in the early 2000s, and occasionally, a new cat comes into the fold to try its luck at jumping from peasantry to royalty. Well, that happened this year. 

  Shortly after returning from the Midwest this year, I headed to camp. Sitting at the kitchen table, I glanced at the crown hanging above the sink. A few minutes later, I took it off the nail from which it was hanging and placed it gently on my head.

  I looked at Brian and Dad and said, “Today’s the day.”

  They both rolled their eyes and laughed… but I believed. I believed in the power of the crown, and I believed I was going to kill a buck later that day. 

  As I trudged through the darkness to get into an area where I thought deer would be moving at daylight, I thought of all the great times I’ve experienced after wearing the crown for a couple of minutes. I killed a high-tined 10-pointer one year after we almost killed ourselves on icy roads one morning. I killed a thick beamed 10 that had bladed tines another year. Then, another year, I put an arrow through a giant buck after passing him up for having a couple of broken tines before changing my mind and making good on the shot. The crown had brought me luck on more than one occasion. Would this morning me another one of those mornings? I made sure I didn’t wear it too long the night before. I just had it on long enough to let the aura of the crown soak into my body.

  When the woods began getting gray, I slowed down and poked my way through the thick beech-whips. I could smell a buck’s hocks, so I knew he was nearby – or had he already passed through and made his way to the next mountain or swamp?

  While tiptoeing through the thick cover, my gut told me to stay focused. Scanning to the left, then to the right, I tried making a deer appear. After a few minutes, the woods lightened up, and I became more relaxed and settled into my surroundings, blending in with the trees around me. Continuing my journey through the area, I took three steps and stopped, five steps and stopped. I knew I would walk up on something if I remained in the moment and paid attention. 

 Forty-five minutes later, I got a look at something moving. What first looked like a branch moving on one of the small beech trees suddenly became an antler on a big buck. With his head down and nose on the ground, the gladiator had no clue I was in his arena.

  Seconds later, the gunshot echoed off the surrounding mountains, and the buck fell in his tracks. He never knew what hit him. Although kings feel superior when they grasp victory, sadness quickly found its way into my core. 

  I reached down and ran my hand along his wet hide as the beautiful white snow quickly became stained in red. He had been the king of his kingdom a few minutes earlier, but I had quietly gotten past all his guards and crossed the moat. I killed him in his palace. Now, I could be the king again, if only for a day. 

                                                                         The New King

  Unlike many years, my kingship only lasted a few days, but I was a hero throughout the countryside. My fellow peasants shared meals and told stories. I thoroughly enjoyed the festivities. Then, Caleb Gates, the new prince of bucks, showed up at camp. He escaped his own kingdom, where he and his children had been battling sickness on and off for the last month. Finally, he felt well enough to try his hand in the big woods. Even if he didn’t get anything, he would be able to get some fresh air and escape into another kingdom that so few others ever get to experience. 

  The night before the hunt, my father took the crown down and put it on his head. He left it on while he cooked and ate dinner, finally taking it off before sitting in front of the wood stove. He was ready to become the king. 

  The next morning, everyone scurried around while getting ready. The joking revolved around the crown and people started making a mockery out of it, including my cousin Kyle. However, Caleb stayed in the back and didn’t say a word. 

  When he was ready to leave for the day, he turned around and said, “Let me put that thing on.”

The crown was on and off his head in less than a minute. Watching the events unfold, I knew the luck of the crown would be on his side. After all, he didn’t make a big deal of it, and he put it on and took it off to enter a buck’s kingdom… or invite one into his own. He knew the power of the crown and didn’t neglect what it had to offer.

  Shortly after daylight, a deer began sneaking down the hill behind Caleb. Handcuffed, Caleb couldn’t turn around to shoulder the gun and prepare himself for a shot. Straining his eyes to look behind the tree at the oncoming deer, he could see that it had a rack. Then, the deer stopped.

  As the wind hit him in the face, Caleb knew the buck was going to bolt, but he didn’t know things would develop so quickly. After the deer’s first few bounds, Caleb jumped up and spun around. In the chaos, the deer stopped in some thick cover. Wasting no time, Caleb centered his aim. A thunderous roar echoed through the forest, and the creatures inhabiting it knew a new king had been crowned. 

  Standing above the fallen deer, Caleb smiled. In the short time he had known about the crown, he never imagined he would become the king so quickly after wearing it for the first time. Unlike Wags, the pauper who disrespected the crown, Caleb relished in the opportunity to wear it. 

  The rest of the season passed quickly, and Caleb remained the ruler of the kingdom. His kingship will last at least until next hunting season. Long live the king and the power of the crown. 

Remembering Mrs. Ahrens

March 28th, 2022


   Thinking back to that hot spring day six or seven years earlier, I could remember Mrs. Ahrens’ concern for me as I laid in the dirt next to home plate after being beaned in the middle of the back by her son Michael’s fastball. I had turned my back because there was no escaping the ball’s path, and I took it in the center of my spine before crumpling to the ground. It stung like hell, but after getting my breath, I wiped my uniform clean and trotted down to first base while hearing my dad tell everyone I would be OK. Seemingly satisfied by my father’s remarks, Mrs. Ahrens sat back down and enjoyed the rest of the day, but I nursed the swollen welt that left the seam marks of the baseball imprinted on my skin. 

  As I turned off from the main corridor and headed down A-wing for my first day of my Public Speaking class, I felt a bit of nausea begin to slowly crawl out of my navel and make its way toward my mouth. My heart raced, my mouth became dry, and my palms began to sweat. In a few more steps, I would be making the turn into Mrs. Ahrens’ class. After experiencing many Little League games against her sons and playing with her youngest son, Roger, in high school, I knew she was a kind, gentle, caring woman, but I was still nervous. After all, is there any 10th grade student who looks forward to public speaking? I sure didn’t think so. 

  Turning the corner and walking through the door, I saw many familiar faces in the classroom. Looking around, I knew we would have a good class, as most people in the class were relatively close to each other. I took a seat halfway back in the room and on the far right. She welcomed me as I set my other books on the desk and took a deep breath. And there I was… once again ready to learn about something I would never need in the future. I wasn’t going to be a politician. I wasn’t going to be newscaster. I wasn’t going to be a lecturer. Heck, I didn’t know what the heck I was going to be, but I knew I would never be speaking in front of people.

  As the weeks wore on, we learned a lot about how different people approach public speaking. We studied the intricacies of keeping the audience’s attention, and we learned how to divert our nervousness if we felt it beginning to take over. She told us to watch great speakers and follow their lead. We learned to pick a spot or a face in the crowd and to stare at the place or person while speaking but to make sure whatever we picked to look at was in the middle of the room, which would allow us to move our head back and forth but always return to the center. She taught us to pretend we were speaking to one person in the crowd so it would make all the other nameless faces disappear. 

  Then, the big assignment finally made its way into our laps. We had to pick something of our own choice to speak about and give a presentation on that topic to help people learn more about it. Panic-stricken, I didn’t know what to do. I left class and begged for something to pop into my mind to talk about. How would I ever find something that would allow me to hold the interest of all my classmates and entertain them for the better part of 30 minutes?

  Finally, I gave in and sheepishly wandered back to A-wing at the end of the next school day. I told her I didn’t have any idea how to approach the assignment. Her genuine smile and cheerful voice instantly hit home with me as I listened to her words.

  After building my confidence for a solid five minutes, she hit me with the news that she couldn’t help me pick a topic, but she did tell me that I needed to pick something that I knew a lot about. She explained to me that speaking about things that interest us usually makes it easier to give a presentation that will interest others. She left me with one bit of final advice after I slung my bag of books over my shoulder.

  She said, “Whatever you’re going to do, just make sure you are more prepared than anyone else and be passionate about the subject when you speak.” 

  When I made the left turn out of the classroom and headed down the hall, I could see my bus pulling up. I jumped on, looked out the window, and decided I was going to give my speech about archery. I knew that not many of my fellow classmates knew much, if anything, about archery, so I would give it my best shot at filling their heads full of unfamiliar information. However, I was unsure how I would set the tone and snag their interest, so the next day, I asked her if I could bring my bow to class for my presentation. She told me it wouldn’t be a problem, so my preparations began. 

  While listening to my classmates go before me, I enjoyed many of their speeches. I learned things that I had never known, and a few speeches perked my interest about topics I had never considered. Then, it was my turn. I would be speaking the next day. 

  Before leaving school, I popped my head into Mrs. Ahrens’ classroom and reminded her that I was bringing my bow and arrows to class the next day. She smiled that big smile of hers and replied, “Are you prepared?” 

  I nodded with approval and said, “Absolutely. I think I’m all set.”

  She giggled and chirped, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

  There were two speeches given each day, and my speech would be the second one, which would give my anxiety time to do jumping jacks in my belly and trampoline off from the roof of my mouth. I never heard the first person speak. My mind was focused on all the particulars I would have to cover, and I could hear Mrs. Ahrens, voice saying that the best speakers are always prepared, no matter the subject.

  My classmates became quiet when I laid my bow and arrows on the desk in front of me. Standing at the podium, I decided I didn’t want to stand to give my speech, so I sat down. Mrs. Ahrens looked at me awkwardly and asked what I was doing. I explained to her that it would be more convenient for me to take a seat for my speech so I could more easily handle the equipment and allow me to make my audience feel like they were also archers. 

  She interrupted me at that point and told the class that it was important to take chances and be different. She told them that my approach, although different, would work well in that situation. 

  The minutes passed quickly, and I almost forgot I was babbling about archery because I got lost in what I was talking about. Within seconds, I felt like I was sitting in the archery club talking to other archers. I answered the questions and opened people’s eyes to a sport that many had never known about. 

  Mrs. Ahrens passed away last week, but the lessons she taught me that year have remained. I’ve been lucky enough to speak at many public functions over the years. I’ve spoken at church functions, in schools, at sportsman shows, and in fish and game clubs among other places. The lesson I learned about preparation has stuck with me in everything I’ve done. I will not do anything unless I’m prepared. It simply makes it better for me and for anyone involved. 

  Although we have many teachers throughout our school years, there are a few that stand out. These teachers aren’t the same for everyone. However, every student has a teacher or two who understand them and how to help them grow. Mrs. Ahrens was one of those teachers to me. She is one of the ones I’m thankful for. The lessons she taught to me were full of knowledge I would need for her Public Speaking class, but more than that, they were full of life lessons. We never know what the impact of a person will be when we meet him or her, but when we glance back in time, we can see people who made significant contributions to our lives. 

  The years have passed quickly… and I have aged… and so have my teachers – my heroes. I took the lessons given to me from many of them and tried constructing the best life possible out of those lessons. In doing so, I was fortunate enough to be inducted into the Hudson Falls High School Wall of Distinction, at which time I chose to invite the teachers who I felt made the greatest contributions to my success and allowed me to do things that led to my nomination. 

  I invited a handful of teachers to attend the ceremony and hoped that some would be able to make it, as most of them were getting up there in age. Right before the ceremony started, my uncle came down to me in the front row and said that there was someone who wanted to see me at the back of the auditorium. Walking up the aisle, I saw Mrs. Ahrens waiting for me… she had made the trip to the induction, and I was thankful. We exchanged pleasantries, and she told me she would have to leave before the social hour afterward. I was highly disappointed I wouldn’t be able to talk with her again, but I was delighted that she found the time in her busy schedule to make it there that day. As I enjoyed going to her class almost 40 years ago, I can only hope she enjoyed hearing about how my life has played out so far.

  During my speech, I told people how she had helped me to prepare for the moment I was sharing with them. As I was speaking about her, I hoped in some small way that she was proud of me. I knew my parents and family were proud of me, but I hoped that the teachers who helped me along the way felt the same. That’s why I made sure to give them the credit they deserved, for without them, many things in my life never would have happened. 

  When I looked toward the back of the auditorium near the end of the ceremony, I saw an empty place where she had been sitting when I was speaking. She was gone, but I had let her know in my speech that a part of her will always be alive within me. Thank you, Mrs. Ahrens, for being a teacher who taught me what I was meant to learn.

Looking Back: 20 Years Ago This Week

September 13th, 2021

KODAK Digital Still Camera

  My lungs burned as I headed out of the dark canyon I had ventured into earlier that day. One foot clipped the top of a log as the other one landed squarely in the middle of the hard-packed horse trail on the other side of it. 

  Looking at my watch, I knew the darkness would engulf the light within the next half hour. Could I make it to the top of the hill without having to break out my headlamp? I wasn’t sure, but I continued up the trail while feeling the burn in my calves and quads. Gritting my teeth and looking at a few trees about 50 yards ahead, I made small goals to help me keep moving. It had been a long day without any encounters, well unless you count the cow elk and her two calves that I spotted on the edge of the quakies at first light.

  Finally, I crested the hill and saw a forest road on the other side of the meadow. The light had been overtaken by a starlit sky. Looking up, my mind wandered to the first time my father had brought me to the woods and let me hunt by myself. 

  He dropped me off at my stand and returned in the darkness to pick me up. We walked quietly to the truck that night. I could hear the geese in the sky above me. Without breaking stride, Dad told me winter would be here before we knew it, and we should make a point of enjoying every day that we could take a trip to the forest. At the time, I had no idea how true those words would ring as I aged. 

  When a coyote shrieked on the ridge paralleling the road, the noise brought me back to the present. Looking up, the stars sparkled in every direction, but an eerie, quiet sky accompanied the tiny glistening objects. There were no blinking lights from planes crossing through the airway that linked the East Coast to the West Coast. Almost every night, more than 50 planes could be seen, and I always wondered if pilots noticed areas in flight as we notice turns in roads that we regularly travel.  However, the sky was void of red, green and white lights… nothing to be seen. 

  Although, I noticed the emptiness above me, I didn’t give it much thought. When I got back to the tent, my father had dinner ready to serve. I gobbled down my pieces of chicken after dipping them in my instant stuffing and called it a night.  My mind and body were exhausted. 

  As I drifted into sleep, the mountains along the Continental Divide welcomed my soul and allowed me to quickly fade into a land of unicorns dashing between bugling bulls. I saw them charging in after hearing my calls. Snot flew across the air in the high-country meadow, and two bulls screamed back and forth, but neither of them were willing to commit to the battle. Then, the lights went out, and I was gone. 

  Upon waking two hours before sunrise, the sky was still quiet. There were no blinking lights… still no planes. Although I had noticed it the night before, it was becoming more apparent. Dad commented about it being concerning that no planes were in the air. However, being 15 miles from the nearest marked road, we didn’t have a care in the world. 

  After gathering our gear and heading out for the morning hunt, we approached it with cautious optimism. The worst hunts can become the best ones in a matter of seconds. As one hour led into the next, we found ourselves getting warmer and warmer as the sun climbed to its peak for the day. Realizing the animals were inactive, we headed back to camp, where my buddies Gene and Mike decided to go into town to call Mike’s parents and get some supplies. Dad and I decided to stay at camp with Brian, a guy whom we picked up in Ohio to join us on the hunt. He had relatives in the area, and he had some familiarity with the surrounding mountains. 

  As the afternoon wore on, Dad and I decided to head out behind camp to hunt for a few hours. While still-hunting through meadows along the edge of an aspen grove, we spotted a bull on the shelf below us. I quickly got in position for a shot and drew my bow. When the string snapped forward, the arrow was on its way. Watching it sail through the air, I knew it had a chance. Suddenly it lost its energy and arc and whistled under the elk’s belly behind its front shoulders. I had missed. 

  We went down the hill, gathered my arrow and headed back to camp. As we walked down the forest road, we saw Mike and Gene pulling into camp. They quickly jumped out of Dad’s truck and told us that two big buildings in New York City had been hit by planes.  Although it was hard to make sense of what they were saying, Mike was able to relay to us that the officials believed a man named Osama bin Laden was responsible for the planes. They went on to tell us the buildings had collapsed and many people were dead. 

  Being from upstate New York and having been to the city a number of times, it was hard to fathom what he was saying. How in the world could those two buildings have collapsed? I began thinking he may have misinterpreted the news reports. 

  After getting the news out, they also told us that someone kept calling Dad’s cell phone, so they picked it up, and it was my mother. She was confused when neither Dad nor I answered the phone and she was told that neither one of us were available to talk because we were still in the mountains at camp. Mom became concerned because she had never met Gene or Mike, and she couldn’t gather why we weren’t in Dad’s truck. 

  After sorting all of that out, we made dinner and quickly drifted off to sleep. It’s impossible to understand the weight of something if you don’t see it firsthand, so we went about our business as usual. 

  The next morning, Dad and Mike headed onto Haystack Mountain in search of elk, while Gene, Brian and I all went to different areas. Once again, it didn’t take long for the temperature to climb into the upper 70s. I’m still not sure why or how it happened, but we all ended up back at camp around noon. 

  After a brief discussion, Dad and I decided we needed to head home. Although we still hadn’t seen a lick of coverage on the events of Sept. 11, we knew it couldn’t be good if the Twin Towers were no longer standing. Living north of New York City, we knew we had to get home to be with our family members, so we packed up and headed east. It would take us a few days to get home, but it was where we needed to be. 

  The ride home still stands with me as one of the greatest things I’ve ever witnessed in my travels, and I have traveled to many places. The tires hummed over the pavement, and flags greeted us everywhere we went. People stood on bridges and waved flags. Small towns had flags from one street end to the next. Big cities had flags on billboards, and flags draped off road signs. Men had flags painted on their bare chests, and a few women donned American flag bikinis. Trucks had flags sticking out of both ends of their beds. People were united. Everybody joined one team, and Americans stood tall. 

  We dropped Brian off in Ohio around 5:00 p.m. and continued toward home. We would drive all night to be home the next morning. After we rolled into the driveway, Mom welcomed us with a hot breakfast. As we began eating, she filled us in on the events that had transpired and told us that my nephew, Anthony, was worried that the bad guys were going to come up I-87 out of the city to get him. Listening to the background noise on the TV, I knew that life as we knew it would never be the same.  The devastation was beyond my wildest imagination, and I had been at 11,000 feet a few days earlier without a care in the world. 

  Now, 20 years have passed and the world is a different place. I have lost a few friends, but I have gained a few others. Brian would go on to join the military a few years later and lose his life in Afghanistan, and Mike’s parents would pass away.

However, my desire to live a good life still remains.  I’ve seen a lot of changes in 20 years and watching coverage of the events last weekend reminded me that life does not slow down for anyone. Life also has no favorites. You may know people who have gotten to places without deserving it, and you may know others who have struggled through life and deserve more, but you also must realize that all of that is really insignificant. That is why I’ve tried to live a good life and do as many things as possible. I’ve made it a habit to dive into the things that bring me happiness, and I pursue them with unbridled passion. I live to enjoy life… and the world that is in front of me, for life can change in a matter of seconds.

Don’t Let Worthless People Make You Feel Worthless

January 29th, 2021

  I once walked into a hiring manager’s office after two interviews and readied myself for the news I knew was coming. After all, I had heard the whispers from many of the grapes that were hanging from the vine. One of the tiniest and most immature grapes of the season had opened its mouth, spewing juice down the fencepost as he told the others on the vine that he had been promised the job, so nobody else had a chance.

   As I closed the door behind me, the manager began to shed tears. They slowly ran down her face as she told me there was nothing she could do because she had been forced by one of her leaders to select another person for the job. Smiling, I told her I didn’t expect anything more than that, especially from the captain running the ship. Although my skills and experience were far superior to any other candidate, I was passed over yet again. I just didn’t fit into the clique. Nothing was based on actual skills or experience, and I had grown accustomed to lame, unthoughtful reasons for rejection. Some of them made me laugh. I heard them all, including my favorite: “I’m sorry. We chose a person who is more qualified for the job.” Although I had every qualification on the job posting, the person who was hired didn’t have any of them. As the rejections increased in number, I became numb to the process. It became fun to watch the reactions of the deliverers of the news. Everyone had a different style.

  Eventually, I learned to go along with it and laugh things off. I can’t say it didn’t get under my skin, especially when I watched people gain titles that would be beneficial for their future job searches. The only thing I knew I had on my side was that I was watching the Peter Principle take effect on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. I was a witness to a slew of people being promoted to their level of incompetence, and I could do nothing but watch it. 

  That’s when I decided to do something about it and help myself grow in areas where I could gain more experience in the communications/journalism field and use it for my own personal endeavors. Since my skills would never be recognized and my value would never be utilized in corporate America, I made a choice to pursue success on other avenues that would take me to the arenas where the gladiators who shared my passions resided. In quick fashion, I found my way onto a bestsellers list and won a few awards along the way. Gaining traction with that, my presence was requested in schools to speak to children about a variety of things, including their career choices. Heck, I even had the opportunity to speak to younger children, and I listened to their dreams as they expressed their curiosity about Todd Mead and what it meant to be an author, lecturer and world champion. From there, the journey brought me into lecture halls at outdoorsman shows and into churches to speak to fellow outdoorsmen. The journey has been incredibly rewarding, yet I still sit behind a computer within corporate America, where I am “unqualified” to do any “meaningful” job. Many people ask why, and I even ask myself that question from time to time because I’ve never really been able to figure it out. I’ve applied a number of places and have only been called for one interview. I still go through the daily grind, but I find incredible peace and fulfillment from my hobbies. I’ve often considered doing something different and turning the hobbies into a job, but I’ve always wondered if the love of the game would disappear at that point. 

So why do I share all of this with you? Recently, I’ve witnessed an incredibly sad chain of events, and as I sit back and observe, I know there’s not much I can do other than offer advice. Sometimes I feel the advice is hollow due to what I’ve experienced throughout my working life. Ive seen how the job search goes. However, I try to give hope to people and help them remain optimistic.

                                                  January 2019

    A few winters ago, I was feeling the effects of an injury to my surgically repaired shoulder. In the late summer, I had reinjured it while playing softball. I had gone to an orthopedic surgeon for an initial consultation but was waiting to get a second opinion from a doctor in Albany, N.Y. Meanwhile, I couldn’t shoot my bow. The pain was excruciating.

  Loving archery as much as I do, I’m a certified range rat. I will hang out at the range and talk if I can’t shoot my bow. I love archery, and I love being around archers, especially when they are friends. During my first couple of visits to the range in early January, a few of the regulars told me that a young guy in a wheelchair had joined the league, and they were trying to help him. After hearing the news, I made it a point to meet this young lad, who I would later learn was a 6 ‘8’ giant of a man.

  As I tried to catch up to him, I had a hard time doing so. Eventually, I learned that he had signed up for the leagues, so I made it a point to show up on league night and observe him. It didn’t take long to see him when I walked in. His wheelchair was backed up against the wall on lane 14, and his mom sat behind him in a chair, although I didn’t know it was his mom at the time.

  Watching from a distance, I saw a handful of experts telling him how he should be shooting. I could see some frustration building inside the melon on top of his shoulders. He was slamming the trigger like a jackhammer pounding the concrete off a sidewalk that was going to be rebuilt. I knew we would have to put his jackhammer aside so he could learn more about archery, patience, and discipline. I quietly walked out the door and let my observations lap around the inside of my head for countless hours the next few days….. Why was he in a wheelchair? It looked like he could use his legs, so did he really need that chair or was he recovering from an injury? How old was he? Did he go to the range with his mother – or was that his girlfriend? Would he be insulted if I offered to help him?

  The following week, I went to watch him again. Getting closer this time, I watched closely. A slew of clowns began jumping out of the clown car to offer him help, but I stayed in the background and listened. Finally, I walked over and asked if he would like some instruction to make a good shot, hopefully to increase his enjoyment of archery. He quickly said he would like some help, and I told him that he was not to listen to anyone else for the time being because we had to straighten out a few things that had gone awry. He graciously made it clear that he could do that.

                                                   The Discovery

  In a matter of days, I learned that the lad’s name was Chris Hall. He had been able to walk until he reached the middle of his teen years, at which time a wheelchair became his best option. He and his family had traveled to many hospitals across the country to get help, but nobody could provide any answers. Eventually, Chris lost the ability to walk. Although he can feel his legs and move them around, his legs don’t work like mine. It’s almost as if the nerves don’t fire to get his legs moving in the right direction as the right time. While learning these things, I also found out he had dexterity issues in his hands and fingers. This would play a part when I decided to teach him how to shoot a caliper release the correct way. I didn’t feel confident that he could succeed with a hinge at that point in time. 

  We began working tirelessly at the range to get him headed in the right direction. It didn’t take long to see that Chris was a quick learner. Within no time, he had the general concept down. I felt confident knowing I got him to a place where he could shoot accurately. He also hadn’t had time to pick up any of the bad habits that the clowns jumping out of the clown car were trying to sell to him.

 In late March, we “rolled” into Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y., for the Beast of the East Vegas Tournament. Chris was nervous but confident. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. After the round was over and he had finished his first tournament, we found out he had shot his highest score of the year. His work had paid off. 

                                                   Flash Forward

  When COVID-19 put a crimp on everyone’s lifestyle last year, Chris’ life changed too. Since his immune system is already compromised, or we are led to believe it is, he decided to stay on unemployment to avoid any potential risks associated with going back to work. He worked at the service counter for a local Harley Davidson dealer and loved his job. He was good at it and enjoyed trying his hardest to keep the customers informed, satisfied and happy. He knew the ins and outs of service and made it a point to exhaust all efforts to extend great customer service to anyone who walked in the door. 

  He has made every effort to enjoy the things he loves, which allowed him to go to Colorado to pursue antelope in mid-August. After seeing a different world and experiencing a successful hunt, his eyes were opened to many possibilities that might not have otherwise existed. 

  Upon his return, he made a concentrated effort to better his life and took courses for web development and began pursuing employment in the field. With the unemployment number creeping higher and higher, this task became far more difficult than expected. Instead of giving in, he decided to apply for any of the jobs he found that he could do without having the use of his legs. That’s when the phone began ringing and interviews were scheduled.

  After going to a handful of interviews and experiencing things that no normal human being should ever hear or see, he began becoming depressed. He was asked how he could be a service manager if he couldn’t drive any of the cars on the lot. Well, how about that … Chris can drive a car and does it well. I’ve ridden with him many times and feel as safe as if anyone else is driving, although I got him in trouble with his mom when I told her I was behind him when he was going 75 mph on a country road one night. Maybe the guy should have been more welcoming. Maybe he should have tried learning about how Chris’ previous jobs could have helped this company. Maybe if he hadn’t looked at Chris sitting in a  wheelchair and instantly formed an opinion of the so-called “handicapped” man, he would have learned that Chris’ customer service skills far outweigh most people’s.  Maybe he would have learned that Chris just wants a fair opportunity, in which his worth isn’t based on his disability. Maybe Chris wants to be treated like every other person who applied for the job. Let the “handicapped” man work for a week without pay to show his worth. Maybe that would have been a better idea than shooting him a look and making a sarcastic comment. 

  Why do these things happen every time Chris applies for a job? Why do people stare when they see something that doesn’t live up to their expectations of how or what things should be? I guess I’m lucky in that aspect. When I met Chris, I saw a guy in a wheelchair. When I offered to teach him how to shoot a bow, I looked at him as Chris the archer. Instantly, he was one of the guys. 

  As Chris began going to a few tournaments, everyone on the shooting line treated him no differently than anyone else. In all reality, he is no different than me. He loves archery, and he loves the outdoors. We both find our peace while doing the things we enjoy. It’s definitely easier on me, but the man doesn’t let anything hold him back. If he must crawl 400 yards across a field to hunt, he never says a word … he just does it. I never tell him there’s anything he can’t do, because I have witnessed firsthand that any man can do anything he wants if he puts his mind to it. Although we make our own luck, sometimes we can’t avoid the shitty hand of cards that the dealer lays down in front of us. That’s when we must find a way to survive, for we can only bluff for so long. 

                                                     Final Thoughts

  I’m not sure what made me write this, but I believe it’s because I’ve been spending a lot of time at the range with Chris and I can see the frustrations he has encountered over the last few months. Nobody is willing to give him a chance to prove himself, simply because he is in a wheelchair. When corporate America stomped on my dreams in the early days, I felt the same way: I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do. The people staring back at me didn’t care and didn’t want to put me in a place to succeed. It felt better to look at an ice sculpture on a warm winter’s day and watch the fingertips drip off from it and fall to the ground, eventually leaving nothing more than a puddle of dirty ice and snow that people walked over and commented on without knowing the story that was waiting to be told. Instead, they were all about themselves and the people within their tiny circle. It’s unfortunate that people can’t be fair to everyone. Instead, they take sides and become overly biased, showing favoritism at every turn.

  I’ve learned that the world is an incredibly big, small place. I’ve learned that people will crush your heart, shoot down your desires, and try to destroy your confidence. I’ve seen people who can’t look into your eyes after they’ve screwed you over, or if they do look, they smile because they know they’ve purposely handed you a voided check to prevent you from cashing in. Many people hire others who are inferior because they’re afraid of your experience and intelligent. They never want to be challenged, so it goes back to the Peter Principle and they hire people to the level of their incompetence. If you stand tall and walk the line, you can find a calmness beneath all the pettiness that surrounds you. When you are turned down, you can thank the person because you don’t have to become a part of his thought process. He has allowed you to do your own thing and chase your own dreams. If you must work to get a paycheck, that’s OK too. You can still give everything you have to your employer and leave the job at the office when you walk out the door every day. There’s nothing wrong with that approach. The greatest gift these people have given to you is the ability to do what you want to do on your own time. You will have more free time by not being involved in all of the petty tasks that supposedly make people more important, even though we all know most jobs – no matter the title – are the same. There aren’t many jobs in corporate America that any individual can’t learn to do with a little training, but so many people are supposedly unqualified to do them.

  Chris has taught me to accept things as they are at that moment in time. He was able to walk, run, skate, and jump when he was growing up. He did everything other kids did. Then, as time moved along he had to adapt to the changes he encountered. These didn’t make him any less of a man. He’s still smart, caring, outgoing, and funny. He can still do things that others wish they could do. Every person has skills that others do not have. Finding your skill and recognizing and rewarding the skills of others is a trait that very few people share. Instead, it has become a society full of “All About Me” people. They don’t fight for others, and they don’t have anyone’s back when it’s necessary to stand up and be heard.   Instead, we have piles of “Yes Ma’am” and “Yes Sir” people as leaders. If I could give any advice to anyone, it would be to stand up for the people who work for you. You can never achieve respect without earning it, although it comes freely from many in this participation-award society that we have become. I want to be respected by respected people. Any other respect is truly hollow.

  If you ever find yourself interviewing a guy in a wheelchair, think about the questions you should ask him. Getting to know him might allow you to hire the best employee the company has ever had. If you find yourself looking below his chest, reevaluate what you are doing. It’s time to listen to what he can do for your business. If you’re in corporate America, have the courage to do the right thing instead of doing what you’re told. Stand up for yourself and the people you believe in. Don’t hide behind the masquerade that encompasses you.

  When I met Chris, I knew I wanted to help him become the best archer he could be. Within a few weeks, I forgot about the wheelchair. I don’t treat him any differently than anyone else. I tell him to go get my stuff when I don’t feel like retrieving my arrows from the target. I tell him to carry my bow from the truck to the range, and he does it. It doesn’t take long to realize that we are two people playing the same game: life. 

Random Thoughts from 2020

December 30th, 2020

  Instead of rambling in an essay, I decided to bullet point some things that I experienced in 2020. I also included many random thoughts about things that crossed my mind throughout the year. I hope you enjoy and can relate in some way. 

  • My third book, “Pursuing Public Land Bucks,” hit the market early in the year
  • Expecting another relaxing winter in the sunshine, my parents left for Florida on Jan. 1 and never imagined what would transpire
  • I traveled to Massachusetts to shoot at Jason Vanhillo’s annual New Year’s Day tournament with Chris Hall and Jeff Wagoner, and I introduced Chris to a great bunch of guys
  • Got lucky enough to win the NFAA NY State Indoor Championship and the NFAA Mid-Atlantic Indoor Sectional
  • Same weekend I won the sectional, Dad called me on his way home from the ASA Pro-Am in Alabama to tell me he had finished in fourth place but didn’t feel well. 
  • A few days later, I found myself on a plane to Florida to watch Dad fight for his life
  • Took a chance on getting Mom and Dad home from Florida in April, so Dad could get better care and be treated by his own doctors
  • Finally started writing a novel
  • Moved in with Mom and Dad to care for them
  • Although my heart wasn’t in it, I went to the First Leg of the IBO National Triple Crown and finished in seventh place without attending one 3D shoot before going.
  • Attended the Second Leg of the IBO National Triple Crown and finished in fifth place
  • IBO World got canceled, so I finished in fourth place overall and never attended one 3D shoot for the year, besides the two legs, that had Rinehart targets.
  • Went to Colorado elk hunting without my father for the first time since 1991
  • Brought two newbies, Josh and Jacob, to Colorado
  • Went to Illinois to hunt with my Dad, Josh, Brian and Jeff
  • Spent many days at camp in the Adirondacks with my Dad
  • Began working from home full time

                       My Random Thoughts from the Year

  • Many people have no patience
  • When a government official shuts down a state and you have to cancel your VRBO reservation, it says a lot when the owner of the unit holds a job in senior management in Merrill/Lynch and also won a Person of the Year award, and she refuses to refund any of your money
  • People can portray themselves as caring and nice
  • True character can never be hidden
  • Don’t confuse people who are extremely kind and caring for people who are giving good health care
  • Health care is not good in Florida
  • Listen to others when they have done the proper research and given solid advice
  • There are always two sides to every story. It’s wise to stay neutral and listen to both sides
  • The truth most likely lies in the middle 
  • A person’s character doesn’t change overnight
  • It takes years to build a good reputation, but it can be destroyed by one bad decision
  • Reputations can also be destroyed or strengthened if people don’t know your true character
  • If you dislike someone, dislike that person alone. Don’t recruit others to join your cause……..it clearly displays your true character
  • Not everyone can do good work while working from home
  • Some people need constant supervision — others need none
  • If people didn’t work much in the office, expect these people to work even less from home
  • Be accountable for your actions
  • Don’t pass the blame
  • As a leader, know how to readjust on the fly and rectify major issues when your poorly executed plans affect every link in the chain
  • Don’t sail your ship into an iceberg when your crew is telling you that your original route needs to be modified
  • Unsinkable ships sink
  • Chains are only as strong as their weakest link
  • Change is not always good and being able to recognize that is essential
  • I’ve finally come to realize why greed is one of the deadly sins
  • The United States is on its way to becoming a third-world country 
  • Corporate America was not set up to be run in small-town America
  • Caring for loved ones is easy when you realize they must come first at times
  • You can never repay people for their care and love so give them the same in return
  • If you don’t like things, find constructive ways to change them
  • Giving constructive criticism is not being negative but not hearing the criticism and labeling the source as being negative displays your arrogance and ignorance
  • Find a way to agree to disagree without getting combative
  • Don’t stomp your feet, kick, throw your arms in the air and yell when you don’t get your own way
  • The people you support, no matter what side, are the ones who are going to cause a revolution
  • Having no term limits will lead to the fall of the country
  • Whether you want to believe it or not, all leaders have a dog in the fight, even if you can’t see the dog lying in the shadows under the bushes
  • Social media has created more experts than I care to listen to
  • Advice for kids: learn a trade or go to college. You’re not all going to make a living making videos for YouTube and TikTok.
  • Alcoholism is a disease
  • Watching an alcoholic is mind-boggling and sad
  • Life is the highest of all highs – if you allow it to be
  • Archery and hunting are my drugs, and I’m addicted to both
  • Being friends with recovered alcoholics and drug addicts is refreshing and eye-opening. They help me understand other people
  • Listen to people who have been there and done that 
  • Parents need to parent their children and raise them to live independent lives
  • You will most likely have a few jobs you don’t like, but it’s not an excuse to not go to work
  • You will encounter bosses you don’t like. Learn to deal with it. It makes you stronger
  • Surround yourself with motivated people
  • Set goals, no matter how big or small, and work to achieve them
  • Make lists – it’s always rewarding to check things off a list
  • Look at the people you spend time with and get a good look — You are an average of the five people you spend the most time with
  • Teamwork is impossible if a teammate has his own agenda
  • Panic/anxiety is a real problem — be understanding and supportive
  • Mental institutions could easily become commonplace again
  • Retirement will soon be a thing of the past
  • As more and more people must rely on 401Ks to survive, the workforce will suffer and there will be hundreds of thousands of elderly people who will be broke and need care
  • Being in the outdoors brings me an inner peace that most people will never experience
  • The flight of an arrow is and always will be mystical to me
  • I love archery
  • How others define you doesn’t matter. Define your own life and legacy
  • I’m thankful every day for incredible parents
  • Medtronic has the worst customer service of any company I’ve ever dealt with in my life, and it seems to get worse every time I deal with the company
  • Diabetic supplies that are required to sustain life are far too expensive
  • Almost all photos are taken during good times
  • Photos will make you smile — look at them and go back in time
  • Life is fleeting
  • I’ve lived one of the richest lives in the world, but I have never been wealthy
  • I treat all people the same – until they give me a reason not to
  • I learned to live a disciplined life as a child, otherwise I’d be dead
  • I’m thankful for everyone who has ever been a part of my life. You helped mold me into the person I’ve become – so Thank You
  • My parents are my heroes

Humbling Happenings

December 16th, 2020

I can still remember racing to the library during my study halls after I had finished my homework in middle school and high school. I always went through the door and directly to the magazine rack. I would pick up Outdoor Life or Field and Stream and flip through the pages to look at the awe-inspiring pictures. Then, I would filter through them to read about the adventures of people whose lives I dreamed about living.

The people in some of these stories were larger than life. They were the gods of the outdoor world. They knew everything about deer hunting, bird hunting, trout fishing and elk hunting, among many other outdoor activities. The writers had a way of weaving facts and fiction into many of their feature articles but never blurring the line between the two.

After finishing, I would walk back to the study hall and smile along the way. I never dreamed of being one of the people being featured in an article in a magazine of that caliber. Instead, I enjoyed reading about adventures that seemed all but impossible to me.

My father had brought me to the Wally Taber Show a few times at the high school, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him talk about his experiences in Africa, the North Pole and everywhere else around the world. When the lights went out and the film began to play, it became a movie to me. I watched a main character and a cast of others go from one adventure to the next. It was all fiction to me. I couldn’t comprehend any person actually doing those things. The adventures were, of course, unattainable in my eyes. Heck, that’s why my father brought me to see the show. It was enjoyable and a break from reality for him — and me.

Time Passes and I Become an Adult

After going to college, I basically forgot about those Wally Taber shows for a while. I was only a kid when Dad brought me to them, and I had let my ability to imagine great adventures dissipate while entering into adulthood.

Then, Dad looked at me one day and said, “What do you think about going to Colorado to hunt elk?”

Wide-eyed and holding back my excitement, I shyly replied, “I think I’d like that.”

Without missing a beat, Dad told me we were going to Colorado. Well, that was 30 years ago this year, and I have lived an incredibly adventurous life in the woods across the United States since Dad decided to take a chance for me — and himself.

Although we hunt primarily at home inside the blue line of the Adirondack Park that Teddy Roosevelt declared Forever Wild, we have been fortunate enough to experience many hunts in the states across the Midwest that I saw on TV when I dreamed of being like the people I read about in the magazines.

Over time, I learned a lot of things about whitetail deer, and I became a better hunter. I studied every action and reaction of the cautious four-legged critters, and I made conclusions after watching their interactions with people, predators and other animals in the forest.

Eventually, I gained enough knowledge to feel comfortable writing a book about the things I had learned. I hoped the book would help others save time learning things on their own. We all know how valuable time is, especially as we get older. Sometimes a page or two in a book can save a few moths of research on a computer. I wanted to give back to others, just as so many people had freely given to me along the way, including my parents.

After publishing a few books, a little notoriety found its way into my personal world. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of being in the spotlight, and I try to shy away from it as much as possible. Although I like to talk to people about my passion, I definitely would never consider myself any better than anyone else. Instead, I know there are many people far and wide who can teach me so much more about the things I enjoy, and I’m always willing to listen to a good mentor.

Finding My Way Into the Magazines

Somewhere along the line, Dan Ladd introduced me to Randy Flannery, and Randy introduced me to Scott Bestul. Scott interviewed me last year for an article he was doing for Field and Stream’s rut issue. I was honored but felt a little out of place with the legendary people who were also included in the article. After all, I’m just the little boy who used to go to the library to read stories about Myles Keller or Jim Zumbo. It was a humbling experience to see my name in print next to Mark Drury’s name, where both of us were being referred to as “experts.” I’d never call myself an expert, unless an expert is someone who has spent countless hours making mistakes to get a better understanding for the 20 seconds of success he gets to experience a few times each fall.

After my long-winded conversation with Scott last year, he shared my name with Brian Lovett, a writer from Field and Stream who contacted me last summer about an article he was doing about hunting on public land. I graciously accepted his invitation to talk with him, and we (or should I say I) rambled on and on about deer hunting. Although I’m notoriously quiet, when I start talking about deer hunting I can become excited and talk for hours on end. Well, that’s what happened. Brian was probably ready to hang up on me, but he seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. When I read the article he wrote for Field and Stream, I quickly realized one thing: I need to think more when I speak. I sound like a redneck when I’m quoted, and my speech skills do not reflect very good grammar. I’m kind of embarrassed at some of my quotes, but I guess most hunters won’t know the difference.

I think I sometimes take a lot of things for granted that Dad has taught me over the years. I have to remember that I have years of experience doing what I love to do: deer hunting. I’ve realized that no question is a dumb question. I used to be that starry-eyed kid in the library who had a gazillion dumb questions. Dad answered most of them with a sheepish smile, but I still needed to go to others for further advice. I still ask dumb questions, but the questions, no matter how big or small, help me educate myself and others. They make me mentally prepared for almost anything that can happen in the woods.

I’ve probably rambled long enough tonight, but I’m sitting here a week before Christmas and hunting season has closed where I hunt. As I look at the top of my desk and see a variety of books and magazines, I can’t help but stare at the Outdoor Life and Field and Stream magazines in which I’ve been mentioned. Then, looking at my computer and reading Brian’s on-line article in Field and Stream, I feel warm inside. I feel like Santa just sat down and ate his cookies with me. We talked a little about deer hunting, and he left as quickly as he had arrived, my eyes widening as he made his way up the chimney to the waiting reindeer.

Sometimes the gifts in life are small and people we don’t even know give them to us. While I know Dan and Randy, I can’t say that I personally know Scott and Brian, but I feel they both gave me a gift that I dreamed about as a child and teen. Dreams are not unreachable if you follow your passion. One day, you might open your eyes and realize you have followed a path that others can only imagine. You might just be Wally Taber to a child out there somewhere, or your mom or dad might bring you to a show in hopes of getting away from reality to entertain you, not knowing that the two of you may embark on your own adventures that could rival anything you ever saw at the show.

With everything going on in the world around us this year, I cherish the gifts I’ve been given throughout my life. I cherish the little things, including the gifts the givers never knew they gave. Many writers give hope and understanding to their readers, while other writers share their passion. I feel fortunate to have been able to help two writers share their passion with readers of all ages, races and walks of life. I’m just hoping there was one kid somewhere who went to the library and grabbed the magazine or read the on-line piece that I was featured in. That, my friends, would be a dream come true. I hope all of you have a happy holiday season. Here’s the article that Brian wrote this year for Field and Stream.


The First Ride …. and the Last Ride: 29 Years and a Month Apart

July 28th, 2020

I rolled out of bed at 6:00 a.m. in the middle of June in 1991 and wondered where my day would take me. I had only been out of college for a little more than a month and had landed a job with Tribune Media Services. I was also working full time as a swing manager at the Aviation Mall McDonalds, where I had worked throughout high school and college. I gained more knowledge about leadership in those eight years than most people learn in a lifetime. I took the responsibilities of the job without hesitation and quickly learned how to get the most out of all employees, whether they were hard workers or slackers. I learned how to manage individual people and find what motivated each and every one of them, as all people require unique tactics to inspire them to give you their everything. I learned how to balance money, make deposits, order supplies and food, schedule employees, limit waste, and keep labor costs down. I learned how to be reactive and proactive, and I approached things with an open mind, allowing people to give me constructive criticism so I could gain their respect and get them to work harder because they knew I listened to them; a quality that very few people have when they take charge of groups of people. I worked in the trenches with them and had their backs when they came to me with legitimate concerns.

I cruised down the road from my parents’ house and pulled into the parking lot. I walked into the building through the back door and made my way to the front desk after Jim Patnode, who would become the first baseman on our company co-ed softball team, pointed to Eleanor Roberts’ desk. Everyone loved Eleanor, and she is one of the most genuine and caring people I’ve ever worked with. She always reminded me of my Grandma Dot, my mother’s mother who was riddled with cancer and taken to heaven before she got to experience her golden years.

Making my way to the desk, I could feel people looking at me. Heck, there were only about 30 people in the building. I met my boss, Vicki Reynolds, and got some basic instruction on what I would be doing for the first few weeks to see if I liked it enough to stay. She told me I was overqualified for the job, and she didn’t understand why I wanted to work there. That simple statement still rings through my ears, as I experienced rejection after rejection because I supposedly wasn’t “qualified” for different jobs. As I write this right now, I’m sitting here smiling about it because it kind of warms me to the soul in some strange way, probably because I have lived such an incredibly rich life without wealth.

I received a quick tour of the building, meeting Tony Gentille, George Ferone, John Kelleher, who would one day ask me to write his resignation letter for his membership at Highland Golf Club before he left for a better job opportunity in Chicago, Bob Choniere, who would be a heavy-hitting teammate on that co-ed team a few years later, Bob Barker, and Chris Condon. As we made our way downstairs and wandered through the maze of desks, I walked into an office and met Karen Northrup, who used her knowledge to make many people better writers, and Debbie Corie, who appeared to be the same age as me. In the next office I met Ruth Winchell, Jim Gaffney and Matt Meachem, who all seemed very knowledgable about sports. Finally, I was introduced to Nancy Wilder, and Gary Labrum, who I would work with as a French editor until Tribune merged with TV Data. I would have to sit with him for a few weeks and proof people’s work to see how the work flowed and learn about the point of origin, the point of creation, and the production process.

After sitting at a long table between Gary and Nancy for the better part of the morning, I was brought upstairs to meet the log editors, the people whose work I was proofing. Amazingly, most of them were my age.

On that walk, I met Steve Layden, Kristin Harvey, Wendy Duval, Tricia Fitzgerald, who would become Tricia Wadsworth, Bobbi Nelson, who would become my wife nine years later, Lisa Bordeau, and Karen Hewitt, who would become my partner after I got divorced.

That first day of work was business as usual. I was used to leading people so being a follower wasn’t so bad. I put my head down and did the work that was assigned to me. The days soon turned into weeks, and I found myself sitting under the stairs next to Tricia. I was assigned Total TV and Cablevision, and boy oh boy could Camille light into you if you didn’t get things right. Those two clients were heavy hitters, and I had the responsibility of making sure we didn’t make any errors. There was hell to pay if they called about something that had been screwed up.

As the days turned into weeks, Tricia and I sat under the stairs until well after midnight. Many nights, her eventual husband, Matt, would be late getting her, and I always worried about people having to stay in that tiny building in the middle of the country that late at night.

Where Did Time Go?

Before I knew it, 10 years had passed, and my initial plan of getting a few years of experience before moving on were in the rearview mirror. I had become comfortable, bought a house and got married. I was content. The job had flexible hours, and I didn’t mind doing what I was doing. Although there were a few personal conflicts along the way, I always did my best to get things off my chest and move on. I’ve always been one to speak my mind, and I think it’s essential to people’s well-being. Unfortunately, many people take things personally and can’t seem to move beyond incidents that are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. They take constructive criticism as insults rather than looking at the criticism with an open mind and trying to understand the purpose behind the concerns.

I learned the hard way that sometimes it’s better to not voice an opinion or give constructive criticism. I’ve never been a follower. It’s just not my style. I will follow if the traffic is going to the same place for the right reason. I will not follow the traffic because everyone wants to gawk at an accident. I will never be a rubbernecker or a yes sir, yes ma’am person unless it’s the right thing to do. I learned in McDonald’s that you hire the best person for the job, even if you hate that person with a passion. If you hire the best person, the person will make you look even better as a leader. There are many people who are more intelligent than me, and I can learn from anyone, even if I don’t like the person. My job is my job; it’s not my life. I don’t have to live with the person; I just have to work with him or her toward the same goal.

As another 10 years passed, I found myself in a mess. My world had caved in around me. Essentially, I was a lost soul, searching for myself in a world filled with fears, tears and jeers. Fortunately, I knew who I was as a person and the relationship I had with myself kept me going down the road less traveled.

Tribune Media had merged with TV Data, and many people had been let go on both sides. Two companies came together, with people from both companies thinking their way was the better way. Alliances were made among people, and it was as if we were following along the lines of the “Survivor” series that had premiered in May of 2000. It was everyone for himself, but everyone needed allies… keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

The division seemed to cause issues at times, but I chose to ignore it. After all, I was reunited with my longtime friend Dan Ladd. Although we had been friends, the merger allowed us to become close. The merger did many things for many people, and it cemented my friendship with Dan. Dan would encourage me to chase dreams, try new things, speak at outdoorsman shows, bible conferences and in schools. Dan encouraged me to write my first book and helped me get it published. He didn’t stop there, though. Instead, he kept pushing me to continue in the direction I was heading. He helped me through two more books after encouraging me to become a member of the New York Outdoor Writers Association.

A few months before my “last ride,” Dan landed a job as the editor of New York Outdoor News. This was a dream job for him, and I couldn’t be happier for any individual with whom I’ve ever worked. Dan applied for a few jobs along the way when he was in corporate America and got told he wasn’t qualified. I’m thankful that he was more than qualified to land one of the most prestigious jobs a person could land in the outdoors communication field.

The last nine years have been a blur. I’ve been trying to restructure my life and work toward many different goals that I have set for myself. Although some of the things have happened quickly, others have been painstakingly slow. I still push forward in hopes of never being satisfied with my work and my personal growth.

I finally got out of the French department in which I had worked for 18 years. When I became the copy editor for Gracenote, a Nielsen company, I was happy to try my hand at something new.

When I saddled up to do the job, I remembered seeing Karen Northrup in her office when I had the tour my first day on the job. I never imagined I would take over for someone whom I respected as much as I respected her. It was only fitting that I would be doing her job. I always enjoyed Karen’s company, and I enjoyed the talks we had along the way. I was disappointed to see her failing health get the best of her shortly after she retired. She deserved to live a longer life, especially after giving everything she had to her job and helping so many people understand the English language. All of the old-timers can surely relate to what I’m talking about. The pink hi-liters and red ink on the proofing reports were bothersome, but they made us do things the correct way.

As I began doing the job, I quickly realized why Karen got so angry with certain individuals on a regular basis. She would get in some people’s faces and snap at others. If I didn’t have unlimited patience, I’d probably do the same thing. The same people tend to make the same mistakes every day, no matter how many times you tell them to stop doing it incorrectly. It can wear on a person’s nerves, especially when some of the people making the mistakes are simply lazy and don’t have a care in the world about the quality of their work.

The Last Ride

Well, on Monday, July 20, 2020, I walked out of my parents’ house, started my truck, and headed down County Line Road. The sun was shining brightly and the blistering heat made the inside of the truck suffocating for the first few minutes of the ride.

As I could begin to feel the cool air against my legs about three minutes into my journey, I glanced to the right as I drove by that little building on County Line Road. This day was eerily similar to the day I drove to that building 29 years and a month ago to start my first job out of college.

The parking lot was empty. The grass was overgrown, and I could see weeds coming out of the pavement in different parts of the driveway. The building was discolored, and there was junk scattered across the lawn and in the back parking lot. The pond out front was all but dried up, and the willows that surrounded it were weeping an uneasiness that made its way into the car with me.

I gave the building a hard look as I pressed the break pedal and came to a stop at the four-way intersection about 100 yards past it. The nervousness in my throat drifted into my belly and quickly exited my body as I continued my journey down Queensbury Avenue toward Hudson Falls — or east Queensbury as Rich Cavak calls it.

Before long, I was on Dix Avenue and headed west toward Glens Falls. Rolling past Garvey Volkswagen and the Glens Falls DPW, the uneasy feeling once again found a way into my upper chest and settled into the area below my throat. I took the right onto Apollo Drive and did a loop around our old stomping grounds, the building we moved into after we abandoned the small building on County Line for bigger and better things. The small family unit had turned into a small stadium of family members nobody knew. Soon after, our crew of about 70 people turned into 370 people, and nothing would ever be the same. Our small softball team full of men and women having a good time became a thing of the past. Gary Evans and Gary Carter would disappear from the scene, while Jim Patnode and Bob Choniere would get called to the promised land long before they were ready to make the trip. Gary Evans would join them eventually, and Linda Adkins’ gravely, smoke-ridden voice saying, “Man alive, if that Tommy Tyminski was a little younger, I would give him a ride he would never forget. I’d teach him things that only old ladies know,” still rings through my memory, as she was one of the first of us to leave this incredible Earth. I was always surrounded by good people who were willing to listen while others talked and share some of their life stories, too.

After leaving the parking lot, I headed toward Sherman Avenue, passing the CNA building on my journey. I looked at the parking spots on the street in front of the building and remembered the morning Dan Ladd called me to tell me that a 4-pointer had just run down the middle of the road and slammed into his truck before taking a turn at the light on Bay and heading toward Cumberland Farms…. only in Glens Falls. I was wondering if Dan had a late night out and was seeing things, but I knew he was telling me the truth.

When I finally drove past the fire station on Veteran’s road and looked at the monstrosity across the street that is a union building, I recalled the days of the many softball games we played when the field was nothing more than a shitty, rock-filled field with a gravel-filled diamond on it that had a bike trail running through the middle of the outfield. If you hit the ball far enough, it might make it into the tall grass or the woods where the city of Glens Falls dumped all of the excess snow in the winter. If you slid into a base, you could rip your knees open from the shards of glass found all over the field. The ratty-looking 5-foot backstop kind of added to the nostalgia of the field. We definitely felt like the Bad News Bears, but we were like a family.

Jim Patnode and Gary Carter would share time at first base. Being 21 years old, I could really chuck a ball, too. Gary and Jim loved it because it was pinpoint accurate, but it was like a rocket, which they didn’t like so much. Jim and Gary would show me their red hands after catching the ball. Just like everything I do in my life, I have always been super competitive. I just can’t turn that switch off, whether it’s work, play or anything in between. I always want to to the job to the best of my ability. I pride myself for that and was taught to do it at a young age or be left in the dust. Ruth usually laced up at second base and Wendy would play as the rover. Ben would pitch some awesome games for us and Bob would be next to me at third base. He always flexed his arms and showed me the power of his biceps and the tattoo that he made him proud. I always told him it had nothing to do with strength, just hit the ball on the barrel of the bat. If your hand speed is fast enough, the ball will rocket off the bat. He always shook his head at me. He could never understand where my power came from. Matt and Jim would always be in center and right, and we had a variety of people in left, but Paul usually found himself in the position. Renee would catch for us, and we would have an incredible time once a week throughout the summer — the dog days of summer. Ruth’s daughter would throw dirt in Jim’s son’s eyes, and Matt’s children would sit with their mother by the car next to the road. Only a few of us had reached our mid-30s at that point.

I learned more about teamwork on that team than any team I’ve ever been on. We all worked together, and we did it well. Nobody was above the team. I do recall a time when I was getting over-aggressive due to my competitive nature and realized I had to slow down a little bit and let others do their part. Instead of going full bore and trying to catch any grounder or fly ball hit anywhere near me, I realized I needed to count on Bob, Ben, Paul, Ruth and Wendy to do their jobs, and they did them well. We won a lot of games together, too. Although it was something so simple, I’ll remember those days as long as I live. At the time, those teammates were my co-workers, but they were also my friends. I would go on to play golf with Jim and Matt a few times over the years, and I would share many stories with Wendy and Ruth when I needed to vent.

So when I recalled my days on that shitty hell hole of a field, I smiled. The anxiety increased in my chest again when I moved the lever to activate my blinker before turning onto Media Drive.

Rolling into the vacant parking lot on the north side of the building, I slowly crept past the front door and found myself pulling up to the loading dock to get my stuff. Jeff had told me that I could get it, so I was there to do the job.

Was it ironic that Rob Wescott pulled in behind me? I had been his boss at McDonald’s over 30 years ago, and he watched me leave that job for bigger and better things at Tribune Media Services. Years later, he would join me and has been there ever since.

Although I will not be returning to the office to work, I have done much of my best personal work at home over the years. I’ve had an office and have been able to go there to meet deadlines, produce outlines, draft letters, study maps, statistics, behaviors, and business models. I have continued educating myself in that room for anything I might encounter along this walk we call life. I’ve always wanted to be prepared for anything I might face. I’ve made a life worth living, and I made it while working from home on my own projects, projects that have given me a gateway to my soul and have allowed others to see my worth. That decision to work from home so many years ago is the best personal decision I have made in my life.

So when I pulled out of the parking lot with all of my personal belongings, I felt a sense of sadness at days gone by, but I was consumed with a sense of freedom. I will miss Rich Cavak’s humor, Cheryl and Deb’s morning jaunt to the coffee pot, Wendy’s jabs about my favorite hockey team and all of her stories about her husband, Mike, that make me laugh. I think he’s my all-time idol for husbands. I’ll miss Rick Davis’ rants about this and that, and his passion for Yankee baseball. Sam’s trips to the lunch table when he had time will be missed, and Sean Bacon’s lead-by-example attitude will be missed. Stephanie’s kindness for all people in the workplace and her ability to offer assistance to anyone and everyone to make the workplace a better place will never be forgotten. Kristin Harvey’s ability to overcome against all odds will always inspire me. Heck, I still remember changing her flat tire on County Line Road when nobody else would give her a had. Then, she and Deb had the same Ford Escorts and Diana Gillis had the little blue car to ride back and forth to Hampton every day before finding Paul (Big Guy) and carving out an incredible life for herself with someone who is deserving of everything she had to give. These people were all my work acquaintances, but they were family at the same time. I would see them more than I saw my own family members. It’s somewhat saddening that I can remember almost every car everyone drove back then, but I have no idea what anyone drives now. Karen drove the red Honda Accord. Rich drove the red Subaru, which eventually had the memorable black hood, and I drove the silver Izuzu Pup.

Tammy and Cheryl would take turns getting me the coldest Diet Coke on the food truck, until one day, they finally dragged me outside to meet Bruce, the food truck guy. He wanted to see the guy whom all of the ladies dug through the ice to find the coldest Diet Coke to bring back to him. I still remember meeting him that morning, but I also remember all of us helping each other, laughing, and having a good time. I will miss those days, even though they really haven’t existed in some time. As Tammy was losing her mother, I was young but I had also experienced a fair amount of death in my earlier years. Although I had no idea what she was going through, I tried my best to help her. I always tried to do the right thing, and I’m sure I failed many times. I was brought up to lend a hand when possible, and I’ve always tried doing that with no expectations of anything in return.

Now, as I start my new work-from-home life, I will have no problems doing my job and doing it well. I have been more productive since it started and expect to progress in the same direction. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much motivation to go back to my old work-from-home policies to work on my own things. I need to find my way back to that place as time moves forward.

Before signing off for the night, I just want to thank all of the people I’ve worked with in the office over the years. I’ve learned a lot about the way people act and the way people treat others. I’ve learned who can lead and who chose to follow — even if the leader tag was attached to them. I wish all of you well on this new journey. Remember to find the time for yourselves. When I turn my work computer off, I’m done for the day. I leave it inside the device. If you allow yourself to look at it solely as work, you will be better off. You have to remove yourself from knowing you are inside your home. Good luck on the new adventure.

A Different Type of Father’s Day

June 22nd, 2020

How lucky have I been over the years? There isn’t enough paper in the world to list all of the ways I have been blessed with so much good will. However, I can thank both of my parents for every bit of my happiness and the good fortune I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Sometimes I laugh on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day when people express their gratitude for their parents. I often wonder if they do the same thing every day of their lives. I would guess that far too many people take their parents’ influence for granted. Although some children don’t follow in their parents’ footsteps, many apples fall directly under the tree — even if they roll a few feet from the base of it. I could never live up to the example my parents set for me, and it would be foolish to pretend their care for me didn’t mold me into who I am today.

I think I saw something on social media today from one of my former classmates, and it said it was the 33rd anniversary of our graduation from high school. Many of you can stop doing the math right now. I’m a month shy of my 51st birthday. Anyhow, before I graduated I chose a quote to put next to my senior picture in the yearbook. It read: College; To some day be as good of a father as my father has been to me.

Well, I accomplished the first goal and finished my undergraduate degree on time. Although I might have gained knowledge in my college career, I don’t feel any smarter for the time I spent in school after my high school days came to an end. When people ask me what I gained from college, I tell them that I learned how to grow up and live on my own. I learned the importance of paying bills, managing my time, balancing daily duties, and finding the time to decompress. Looking back on it, I’m not sure I would have done the same thing if I had to go back in time. I probably would’ve taken up a trade and began my journey into adulthood four years earlier than I did.

Unforgettable Moments in College

While I have an arm’s-length of incredible memories from my time in college, there are a few that stand out above all others. On a Saturday in mid-March one year, I was playing basketball in the bubble at Oneonta State when I saw my mother walk through the door. She was with one of her friends and told me she was just coming to check on me. She had found one of my roommates, and he told her where she could find me. A simple hug and the ability to see my mother’s concern overwhelmed me. It’s something I haven’t forgot since that day, and I will never forget it as long as my mind stays with me.

I hear a lot of people from my parents’ generation talking about what they were doing when John F. Kennedy got assassinated. While the relevance isn’t quite the same, I know many people in my generation who follow sports know where they were when Mike Tyson got knocked out by Buster Douglas. I do, too.

My mom had gone away for the weekend to Vermont with her friends to go cross-country skiing with her friends, so my dad decided to come visit me and my friends in Oneonta. He offered to take us to Binghamton to watch the Adirondack Red Wings take on the Binghamton Whalers in an AHL hockey game.

On our way back to Oneonta, the radio was filled with static, but we thought we heard that Mike Tyson had been knocked out. There were five of us in the car, and nobody believed it. We figured it was a “Saturday Night Live” joke or something of that sort. When we neared the campus, we heard it again. With the ferociousness of Tyson in all of his previous fights, it was unfathomable that a no-name had knocked him out. Tyson’s life would never be the same … and a few minutes later, neither would mine.

Dad rolled up to the front door of my Hays Hall dormitory, and my friends unloaded from the car. I sat for a few minutes to talk Dad. I offered him a place to stay in my room, so he could go home the next day. He declined and told me he would be okay to drive home that night. As I grabbed the door handle and started to get out, he cleared is throat and said, “I love you, bud.”

I could see a tear rolling down his face, and it made me react the same way. I told him I loved him and got out of the car. I wished him a safe trip home and stood in the silence of the night in front of the dorm. Tears streamed from my face, and I knew I would have to compose myself before going inside and gathering with my friends. My father never showed much emotion and has always had a hard time with it. I believe that’s all part of growing up during tough times on a farm, where your family depends on you, even when you are a child. It was the first time I ever remember Dad telling me he loved me, and I still think about it daily. I never see a video clip of Mike Tyson without thinking about it. Amazingly, I’m sure he probably doesn’t recall it at all. Sometimes, something incredibly small can stay with a person for an entire lifetime. The small moments should be cherished on your journey through life. Every Father’s Day, I am thankful for that trip to Binghamton on the night Mike Tyson was knocked out for his first professional loss.

Back to the Farm

Dad grew up on a farm. Before he hit double digits, he had more responsibilities than many adults. He wasn’t asked to work on the farm. He was expected to work on the farm. There weren’t any days off, and there weren’t any excuses that were acceptable to keep him from heading to the barn every day before school and then again when he returned from school. Although he was smart, his priority was the farm and his family. He couldn’t put all of his efforts into school. It just wasn’t possible for the time period and the life his family lived.

He always remembered those days and made sure I didn’t have to experience anything like that. He always wanted to play sports and never had the ability to do so because of farm chores. That’s why he made sure I played any sport I wanted to play. He encouraged my growth in anything that interested me. He also wanted me to be educated, but he didn’t force me to go to college. Actually, he never said much about anything I wanted to do. He just wanted me to be happy and have an easier life than he had. He wanted me to carve my own path and follow it to wherever it would take me.

I’ve watched many people travel along the roads of life, and the road my father traveled is always impressive when I dissect it. Although he was president of the Future Farmers of America organization in high school and got accepted at Cobleskill College for agriculture, he chose to go in another direction. Starting a family at 18 and having me, the third child, at 22, he knew he had to find financial stability. He had to leave the farm, and he chose to work at one of the local factories. He worked his way through the ranks and made an incredibly good life for himself. His work ethic that came from all of the hard farm work over the years transferred into his new occupation. There was never a time to slack off, and he always gave 100% in everything he did. I feel fortunate to have inherited some of his work ethic and other qualities. It’s not anything he taught me with words. I watched him from afar and learned that excuses are not valid. If someone asks you to do something, you just do it. If you’re supposed to be at work at 7:00 a.m., there’s no reason to be late. Thanks, Dad, for setting the example you set as I was growing up.

From Dad to Friend

There’s a fine line between being a parent and being a friend. Parents need to establish the rules, and the children needs to follow the rules and learn about boundaries. However, as children become adults, the relationship can change. My relationship definitely changed.

My father’s passions became mine, and my passions became his passions. We have traveled all over the country doing the things that bring us the most happiness. We’ve spent crisp mornings on creek banks in October hauling in salmon. We’ve spent time in raging rainstorms trying to catch up to big bucks. We’ve trekked on snowshoes through blizzards to hunt deer. We’ve driven to Florida and back in a weekend to shoot in an archery tournament. We’ve stood on the top step of the podium to receive world championship awards in different organizations, and we’ve done the same thing in the same organization to receive our national championship awards. We’ve sat in silence and watched sporting events on the TV in the living room. We’ve also sat in the house that Ruth built to watch legendary baseball players start and end their careers. We’ve done all of these things as father and son — and best friends.

I remember the camping trips throughout the summers when I was growing up. I remember the motorcycle rides to go trout fishing in the Adirondacks. I remember paddling canoes across lakes. I remember fishing in bays and outlets for bass. I remember sitting under the bridge in the middle of the night to catch bullhead. I remember that Dad was at every single high school baseball game I ever played in whether it was home or away.

When I think about fatherhood and what it means, I’m not sure I can base it on what my father did for me. I believe he went far beyond what most normal dads do for their sons. He didn’t set a good example for other fathers because not many others could ever do so much for their children and expect absolutely nothing in return. His selflessness has allowed me to climb rugged mountains. I’ve hit the bottom of valleys more than a time or two, and he has always thrown me into his backpack and carried me back to the summit to get a different view. He has helped me refresh my mind and he has given me the tools to build a good life. He has welcomed all of my friends and acquaintances into our family like they are is own children. He has show others how to live a good life and chase their dreams. He has had a significant influence on almost all of my friends. Could anyone ask for more than that out of a dad?

I could go on for days on end about all of my experiences, and it still wouldn’t do them justice. I won the father lottery — and lifetime lottery –and I would rather win that lottery than any mega-millions cash prize that would set me up for life.

Thanks for everything you’ve given so freely over the years, Dad. In some small way, I hope I’ve carried on our family name by learning and listening along the way. Get better soon and keep fighting the fight. We need to fling some more arrows, make fun of Brian for coming back to the tent after emptying his quiver again, and chase whitetails across the Midwest and in the Adirondacks. Let’s get to it.