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Don’t Let Worthless People Make You Feel Worthless

Friday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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.

https://www.fieldandstream.com/story/hunting/how-and-where-to-kill-a-deer-on-public-land/

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

Tuesday, 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

Monday, 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.

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 10th, 2020

The photo above says more than anyone can possibly imagine. Shortly after getting divorced, I had to move in with my parents to get back on my feet. My dog, Theo, had to come along with me. The year was 2007, and I felt as if the world was caving in around me. Actually, it was. I felt like a child, with no direction, again. I had to return to a place of familiarity for constant support. In my case, my mother has given support to me from the day I was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic in 1975 until today, as I sit at her kitchen table and try to look after her and my father. In some small way, I’m trying to give back in return for all of the things that have been done for me for the last 50 years.

Well, in that photo above, my mother was helping Theo. He was aging and his time was coming to an end. In 2007, after learning of my divorce, Mom was diagnosed with cancer. I had never endured any pain like the pain I was feeling at the time. Unfortunately, looking back on it, I couldn’t focus on anything other than myself. It was hard to get from one day to the next. I didn’t pass the test for giving when I had nothing inside to give. Instead, Mom made sure she bent her ear toward me and listened to my endless babble, all while battling cancer. She offered words of encouragement and held me when I could barely hold on to myself — just as she had done before I could walk. Theo was her rock, and I was her helpless child again. As she had always done, she put her child before herself.

As a child, I never realized how dependent I was on her for good health, both mentally and physically. She supplied me with the things I needed, and I always thought that was just what moms did. I didn’t realize the amount of care, support and unconditional love a great mother gives to her children. I’ve come to realize that the path of a child’s life can be greatly influenced by his mother between childbirth and his 10th birthday. The foundations are set and the small details are instilled. I’m often amazed when I see a successful adult who came out of an environment where there was no support or solid foundation. My life has been made much easier by having a mother who has always understood what being a mom is all about.

These times we are currently experiencing with the coronavirus crisis bring me back to my childhood. She taught me to always wash my hands. She taught me to cover my mouth when I sneezed or coughed. She taught me to be kind to other people. I learned to respect others, even if I don’t agree with their viewpoints. I learned to listen before speaking. I was taught about the value of money and how to manage money when I had it. I learned that working was essential to being able to pay bills and going on vacation. I was taught that I needed to work and not rely on her or my father to have them support me. I learned that I should never use my disease as an excuse to not do something. I learned that good behavior and strong work ethic should be rewarded. I was taught to stick up for myself and believe in my cause. I learned that I should not follow the masses if I feel pressure from others to do so. Instead, I should be a leader and stand up for myself and others when others try to bully people — whether it’s in the workplace or in a casual setting.

My mom taught me to read and use my creative imagination. She never tried to force me in any direction with my career or schoolwork. She sat with me and truly became my inside support system as I shared my highs and lows. Unlike my brother and sister, who call Mom a lot, I prefer to sit with her. I need the closeness that a phone call doesn’t supply. Since she retired, I visit her almost every day after work to sit down and talk. I enjoy the half hour or hour I get as often as I can get it. We might not even talk, but I value the time sitting in the same room with her. These times bring me back to all of the years she pushed me around in the shopping cart when I was young. It also brings me back to all of the times she was my nurse without a nursing degree. She gave me my daily injections and always made sure I followed the plan to stay healthy, things I’ll be forever grateful for.

When I was about 6 years old, she taught me that it was important to dress up for important events. She also showed me that it was ok to just be myself, choosing to bring me shopping with her and allowing me to wear my dirty play pants to the store. She would reward me with a dollar for doing a chore and told me not to waste it. I would save my money to get something that I worked toward. Every now and then, I would ride my bike to the country store a mile from the house and spend my dollar on a pack of baseball cards in hopes of getting one of my favorite Yankees in it. She encouraged me to reward myself for my work.



Over the years, my siblings and I have always joked about which one of us is Mom’s favorite child. Stepping away and looking at it seriously, we are all her favorite. She has watched all of us grow into the children we have become, and she has supported all of us in the way that we need the support.

Recognizing that each child requires different care is a special talent. There are no two people who are molded the same. She has always found what works for each one of us and used that to show her care and love. Nobody could have ever been more successful than her. That is how I know that all of us share a part of being her favorite child. She loves all of us the same and it’s obvious. Well, but then again, we have my cousin Carrie’s thoughts on it:

As I’ve marched through life and made all sorts of mistakes, I consider myself lucky to know that Mom has always supported my decisions. She has allowed me to figure things out in my own way, even when I was a child. She saw the importance of setting up a checking account for me when I was 16 years old and showing me how to balance my checkbook. It’s the little thing that get overlooked by far too many people. Have you every wondered how you learned the basic survival skills? I don’t have to wonder. Mom, I’m thankful for everything you have done for me. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think I’m the luckiest son in the world, and that is because of you. When I see some of my friends struggle, I often wish you could have been their mother. I know you would find a way to help them, and they wouldn’t realize they were struggling. It’s a gift that goes unseen. I hope you realize that today, on your day, my siblings and I are thankful for being raised by the most caring, loving and supportive mother in the world. We could never repay you for the gifts you have given us — the gift of living good lives. Even as a 50-year-old man, I still feel like you’re pushing me around in the shopping car as we go up and down the rows in Zayres and Joy’s department stores. I hope you feel the same.

What Have I Learned During the Last Month?

Saturday, April 11th, 2020

                            

Instead of rambling like I tend to do, I’m going to approach this differently. I’m going to bullet point the things I’ve learned over the last month, from the time I left for New Smyrna Beach, Fla., to care for my mom and dad to today as I sit in the parking lot of the renal center in Saratoga, N.Y., waiting for my father while he is having dialysis. Feel free to share your thoughts. I’m sure there aren’t many people who haven’t learned a few things about themselves since this virus has taken over the world.

  • Life can change rapidly. You are not immune
  • Life has no favorites
  • Good health is not guaranteed from one day to the next. Do what you want to do instead of putting things off and waiting til next year — there may not be a tomorrow
  • I wish I had children of my own. Some people might ask why I never had any children. The only response I can give is that the timing was never right, but is the timing ever right for anyone? I’ve always thought, this is my life, and I’m going to spend it doing things I want to do. I never knew if I could give all of my life to a child as my parents have done for me.
  • Finally, all these years later, this last month gave me the ability to answer the question above. I dropped everything in my life in a matter of minutes to get to Florida to be with my mother and father as Dad fought for his life for a week or two. Now, I have a new life, a life in which everything else comes before my own interests. Caring for someone you love and giving everything of yourself is incredibly easy in the sense of giving and taking. I’d much rather give than take, and I never truly knew if that would be the case. Now, I can see why my parents have done everything they’ve done for me over the years. I understand how people give up their own lives for others. Although there are no answers for the reasons why this happened to my father, I’ve found that it has taught me to accept responsibility for loved ones and to give them everything I can possibly give them. I’ll be forever thankful for the opportunity, even though I wish it hadn’t happened. I wish upon every star in the sky that this does not become the new normal over time. We have far too many adventures to finish. If things don’t change, we will find a slightly different approach to accomplish the things we want to do. Archery may take a backseat, and fishing might return. I might go back to my childhood and the many hours casting lines into streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. We will do what we have to do to make the most out of what we have.
  • Nothing is impossible unless you simply don’t try.
  • I don’t miss archery when I don’t participate in it. But if I see a bow and am able to shoot it, I can’t keep my hands off it.
  • A good diet is crucial to keeping your body healthy, but a good diet will not give you a free pass to death’s unpredictability in choosing its victims.
  • The healthcare system is a mess. Don’t take this the wrong way. I am not against insurance companies waiving fees for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, but when I glance at the $3,400 bill I just racked up for Medtronic insulin pump supplies for a 3-month order, I find it appalling. I was born with the disease and diagnosed at 5 years old.  The supplies are my life-support. Without them, I will die. Who can realistically afford that?
  • I work to buy my medical supplies
  • Journalism is atrocious these days. I went to school for Journalism/Communications, and I learned to report without showing any bias toward one side. While looking after my parents, I have watched every news channel out there, including CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, among a host of others. EVERY one of these providers has a vested interest in how the news shows up in the final report. I can’t tell you how let down I am with the current state of journalism. I watched press conferences from all sorts of people, including the governors of Florida, New York, and Louisiana, the president, the vice-president, and the Speaker of the House. It’s amazing how a two-minute clip is mixed into a 20-second clip just to make the incident being reported on sound totally different than anything that actually took place. They all do it, people. I don’t care what side of the aisle you’re standing on. Give an honest take – not your take.
  • There should be term limits
  • Politicians do not work for the people; they work for themselves. If companies back them, they make big money. Your concerns are the least of their interests. They fight for their own interests — not yours. Wake up and pull the wool out of your eyes — These are the people on both sides.
  • When you’re serving the people, you should work for the people and let your own interests fall to the wayside…..just like caring for loved ones.
  • Elected officials should have the lowest tier of health insurance, so they actually know what the majority of the working class faces.
  • Many people do what they want to do and go about their business with the “that shit won’t happen to me” attitude, then it punches them in the face.
  • The media can control the vast majority of the population
  • Many changes will come in the future in workplaces now that they’ve realized that their employees can work from home and the business doesn’t miss a beat
  • Many middle management jobs will be cut due to companies realizing a lot of those jobs don’t serve a true purpose
  • I’m more productive at home than in the office — fewer disturbances
  • There’s no reason for me to work in an office for the current job I do. I approach it the same way every day, emailing, calling or messaging anyone whom I need to get answers from about different things.
  • Many companies have probably saved a lot of money on their electric bills.
  • Don’t expect anything different from employees while working from home: the slackers will probably slack even more, and the good workers will probably be more productive due to fewer interruptions.
  • If someone is working in their pajamas, you can expect pajama-quality work……………need I say more?
  • Many businesses have suddenly found out that their employees are just like the fast-food employees whom so many people criticize. These businesses could run on their own…….the employees all know how to cook burgers and fries and pour drinks. Once people are taught how to do any job, most businesses can run on their own with minimal leadership. 
  • Fast-food employees and grocery store clerks are heroes right now. Do you still believe they don’t deserve $15 an hour? Would you do what they are doing right now —- for $15 an hour? Well, they’re probably doing it for $10 or less……..think about that next time you roll through the drive-thru at Dunkin Donuts to get your iced coffee and bagel.
  • Nurses don’t get noticed enough and their services are taken for granted. They grind every day to help people survive. It’s too bad they aren’t recognized ALL the time instead of just now. THANK YOU to every nurse who has ever helped me or just looked after me. Well, except for Paula Needham, who woke me up in the middle of the night to stab me in the ass with a huge needle.  I’ll thank her, too, but she did stab me when I was a younger lad. Fortunately, she was an expert and I never felt a pinch of pain. That’s a great nurse. I appreciate all nurses and doctors every day, not just now.
  • I’m lucky that I don’t suffer from any type of anxiety. This is a horrible time for anxiety-ridden people. Unless you suffer from it, you don’t have a clue what these people go through. Be kind to everyone. You might just save a life by being kind.
  • I’ve never been luckier to have been brought up in the outdoors, where being alone is essential to my well-being.
  • I’m lucky that I truly enjoy my own company. This time period hasn’t been much different than normal for me.
  • When it’s your time, it’s your time, but don’t lend a hand to the reaper.
  • I’ve been all over the country, but I love where I live.
  • Driving is much nicer without a lot of traffic on the roads.
  • Being stuck in a house with people can make relationships stronger — or break them
  • Everyone has a special talent or gift inside. Some people discover it early on, and others never discover it at all. Search and discover your hidden talent.
  • When you have an office at home, it’s easier to work from home.
  • Working from home has cut back on my time in my office to work on other projects. After spending 8 to 9 hours there, it holds me back from returning every night to work on personal things and goals I have set.
  • Working while sitting on the couch or in a recliner will probably lead to poor quality work or make you fall asleep
  • Children and pets don’t understand what “adulting” means.
  • Pets give unconditional love to their people. People should do the same for the ones they love. Don’t hold grudges. People make mistakes and can be forgiven.
  • It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep on uncomfortable couches and beds
  • People are greedy
  • People with nothing usually give more of themselves than people with everything
  • Money doesn’t measure the wealth of a man or a woman.
  • If you were a leader and you made $72,000 a day and you had some employees who made half of that in an entire year, would you be willing to give up a few thousand dollars a day so one or two of your employees could avoid being laid off during this crisis? If you answered yes, you are probably in the minority of actual people who find themselves in this reality………..Let that sink in. 
  • People from the higher social ranks cannot say they can relate to what others from the lower or middle ranks are going through. They don’t have a clue.
  • This is a good time to set goals. Unfortunately, many people just set goals to set goals and have no intention of working toward accomplishing them. If you’re going to talk the talk make sure you walk the walk. Set goals and achieve them.
  • It was time to finally start my novel. The goal I set is to finish the novel I recently started………in case anyone is interested, it’s a murder mystery and is set in the Adirondacks around North Creek.
  • I have an incredible family full of wonderful relatives
  • I wish I could be a kid again
  • If I could, I would go back to 35-40 years old and park myself at that age forever
  • If I could go back in time and start over, I would work in a union or search for a state job.
  • Unions have their place in our country. I understand the reasons why they formed and why many have disappeared. Unions would be beneficial to the American workers in corporate America who are taken advantage of due to severely greedy people. 
  • Our lives are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Make your presence significant in other people’s lives. That will never be forgotten.
  • Leaders should promote the most qualified people. It will only make them look better. It’s too bad so many leaders in corporate America are so insecure.
  • Working from home lets me avoid the stress of going to the bathroom at work to witness things that just make me step back and wonder if I really just saw what I think I did.
  • I fear death because I enjoy life so much.
  • And finally……….the world will be a different place as we pull away from this and put it in the rearview mirror. 

I wanted to use this format for this because all of these things have crossed my mind over the last month. As you can see, it’s confusing to follow at times, but I ‘m guessing many of you have had some of the same thoughts. I’m also certain that many of you will read this and laugh because you know exactly what I’m talking about and it might apply to you. We all know Cheryl Romano will probably avoid wearing her pajamas while working from home from now on. I hope some of you enjoyed this and have a better idea of where someone else’s mind is right now. Life is fleeting……….take full advantage of every second in your life.

The Path

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

  I was less than 5 when my father loaded me into the white car with black trim and drove me to a piece of land on the next road over from where we lived. Although he had never shown much emotion, I sensed the excitement coursing through his veins that day. He pointed at the field that had a few small pine trees in it and said, “We’re going to build a house here.”

  Since 5-year-olds don’t usually comprehend the enormity of life-changing things like that, I smiled and asked if I could play in the field on the hill. He granted me my wish, and I sprinted over rocks and slithered through the tall grass, not knowing that I would learn many facts about life on that same piece of land — a piece that I still return to almost daily.

  A few years after exploring that piece of land, I found myself lying my head on my pillow every night just a short distance down the hill from where Dad had made a path. Although I didn’t walk on it often, I watched from the backyard and wondered what drew him to it every day. Instead of exploring the reasons, I continued throwing rocks into the air and hitting them with sticks that I fetched from the side yard.

  Standing in the driveway, I went through the lineups every night. The visiting Red Sox would begin the game with Jerry Remy leading off, hopefully setting the table for the likes of Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Butch Hobson, Rick Burleson, Carlton Fisk and Yaz.  If the rock didn’t clear the road in front of the house, it was an out. If it towered over the trees and power lines, it was a home run. Of course, the line shots were singles or doubles and anything else was an out.

  After the Red Sox batted, the Yankees would come to bat. Mickey Rivers would usually lead off with a double down the line. Willie Randolph would follow him and move him over to third on a sac fly or a bunt. Then, the heart of the order would come up, with Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson, Craig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Roy White, Bobby Murcer and Oscar Gamble, depending on who was in the starting lineup that day.

  I would stand on the hill and hit one rock after another for hours on end. I never got sick of it and would do it until my hands bled. A state trooper even stopped one day to tell me I had to clean the rocks out of the road. When Mom called me to come in at night, I would glance up the hill and see Dad walking back and forth on his well-used path — the path that led to nowhere. As much as I loved hitting the rocks and participating in Yankees/Sox classics in my driveway, the path beckoned me to explore it, ever so slowly reaching out to me and motioning with an invisible index finger as if to say, “Come this way.”

                                           The Decision to Follow

  As the days passed, I trudged up the hill while Dad walked back and forth on the path. When he would return to the end where I was waiting, I would stand behind him and get lost in the mystique of everything going on around me. The silence was deafening and brought a tremendous sense of peace with it. Lost in time, my mind became quiet. It was completely aware of everything around it, but it was focused — and at peace. 

  Walking down the hill to the house that night, something inside me told me to take the chance. It whispered into my ear, “It’s okay to follow. Stroll down the path and see what’s there.”

  I listened and took a chance. Before I knew it, I was enjoying myself in the backyard. The path wasn’t very long, but my attention span was so short I couldn’t remain focused long enough to walk on it like Dad. I enjoyed feeling the soles of my boots against the barren ground, but it didn’t captivate me enough to make me want to return very often.

                       Returning After Being Away for a Few Years

  As my teen years led me toward the entrance into the adult world, I found myself on that path regularly. I went there to search for answers — answers that I could not find in normal places. The path quickly gave me confidence and inner-strength. My visions about life become much clearer.

  Then, one day, everything came crashing down around me. I brought something up the hill with me without having permission to do so. It was one of my father’s cherished items. While walking back and forth on his path — which had become our path – I broke the item.

  Heartbroken and in tears, I sat in the grass and sobbed. I knew how much this thing meant to my father, and I knew that I had let him down. I had not been responsible, and my parents had always taught me to be responsible for my actions.

  After telling Mom what had happened, I chewed my fingernails off while waiting for Dad to get home. She told me I would have to explain to him what had happened. As soon as I saw him walk through the door, I started crying as I blurted out the story. 

  He never raised his voice or broke his expression. When I finished, he took my head into his chest and told me that everything was going to be okay. He explained that sometimes mistakes happen and we need to make sure we do everything we can to keep from making easily avoidable mistakes. In the background, Mom’s lips creased together as a smile formed on her lips.

                                            Enjoying the Journey

  Many years have passed since those early days on that path. Although I still walk along it now and then, I have made a few of my own. But that original path I walked so many miles on has brought me across the country and allowed me to achieve the highest of highs and experience the lowest of lows.

 Now, like when I was younger, I walk the path to achieve internal peace. My mind remains calm when I’m at the beginning of it and remains there until I decide to step aside and focus on other things. I’ve walked on it to combat anger. I’ve gone there to find understanding and reason. I’ve shuffled back and forth in hopes of achieving goals. It has brought many new things and people into my life. Some of these people have become lifelong friends, and others I only knew for a short time. I carved out the path to become my own. We all have a place in this world if we can find our way to it. Start walking now and enjoy the journey on your own path — your feet will bring you to where you belong.



My Induction into the Wall of Distinction

Friday, December 13th, 2019



  I walked into the Hudson Falls High School auditorium on a Sunday afternoon a little over a month ago and didn’t know what to expect. Although I was being inducted into the Wall of Distinction, I certainly didn’t feel deserving of the honor, especially when I thought about the thousands of people who have attended the school and gone on to achieve high levels of success across the globe. After all, I’m not a doctor, lawyer, engineer or CEO, I’m just someone who has found a way to follow his passions to many places of notoriety in some of the largest outdoor media outlets in the country.

  I mingled amongst people in the audience before taking my seat in the front row. As I waited for the ceremony to begin, my uncle tapped me on the shoulder and told that a woman in the back of the room was asking if someone could let me know she was looking for me. 

  As I made my way up the aisle, I saw that it was Mrs. Ahrens, my 10th-grade Public Speaking teacher. Her smile washed over me and warmed me from head to toe. She expressed her happiness for me and told me how excited she was that I was being inducted. I was overwhelmed when I saw her. I hadn’t seen her since I had graduated from high school, and I could tell that I had made her day, just as she had made my day.

  After following the National Honor Society students as they led us to our seats on the stage, I hemmed and hawed about winging my speech or reading the one I had written. Not knowing when I was going to be called to the podium, I decided to let it play out in its own time.

  Luckily, I was able to listen to three inductees before being called to the podium. Walking to the microphone, I felt good about everything. Although the recognition was somewhat overwhelming, I felt confident about the speech I was ready to give.

  While speaking, I felt calm and in control telling my story about different teachers and how they made long-lasting impressions on me that have helped me throughout my life. I spoke a little bit about former classmates, my brother, sister, mother and father. The audience was engaged in the speech and gave positive feedback throughout. When I was winding toward the end, I realized that maybe my picture and biography inside the trophy cabinet outside the lunchroom will inspire a student – or two or three – to chase dreams that don’t revolve around their careers or employment.

  My route to the wall has been somewhat different than most of the others, as I have worked a job that has allowed me to pursue a rich life, not one filled with wealth. I changed career paths early and realized that my hobbies were unique and would require a job in which flexibility could help with the traveling and vacation time needed during certain times of the year. Somewhere along the line, I got sucked into corporate America and all of the petty bullshit that goes along with it, including watching people in cliques take care of each other, unqualified people advance through the ranks, people waste time all day in meetings, and the list goes on and on. In the old days, it used to get under my skin. I applied for 20 consecutive jobs and didn’t get one of them, even though I had legitimate experience as long as a football field compared to most of the applicants. The same excuse was always given to me. I became numb to the words, but they still ring through my head: “Well, we have decided to go in another direction,” or “We selected someone who is more qualified.”

  I listened to it time and time again. Finally, it got to the point where I really just had to laugh and realize the ineptitude of the people I was dealing with. They weren’t the Jack Welch’s of business. Instead, they were just riding on the corporate America train that was sitting at the train station in small-town America. You see, small-town America can be great in many ways, but it can eat people alive in others.

  When the curtain was drawn back, and I saw my biography under my picture, I smirked and laughed. Most people would probably be proud of an accomplishment like this one, but I glanced at my parents and felt proud of them. This was for them, not for me. They didn’t give me free handouts along the way, which definitely helped when I experienced the long line of rejections. I was taught from a young age that I needed to work and do the best possible job I could, even if I didn’t respect or like my superiors. My parents reinforced the fact that I should never let any one person affect the quality of my work or my work ethic. I learned the lesson well.

  I have always done my best to produce quality work, no matter what I’m doing. I could be writing poetry, outlining a book, competing in an archery tournament, speaking to students in high schools, giving seminars at outdoor shows or in church functions, or just going to my Monday-Friday job. My work ethic has carried me to the top of the ladder in everything I’ve chosen to pursue…….except in corporate America. That is a head-scratcher to many people I’ve worked with in different organizations. They can’t fathom it, but I tell them that I really don’t mind because life is about making the most out of it and inspiring others to be the best people they can be. 

  Standing back and looking at the new inductees, I realized that I had accomplished another goal: I have made a difference in people’s lives. I could never ask for more than that. I’m glad I attended the Hudson Falls Schools in my younger years. The experiences I gained readied me for the real world, just as I spoke about in my induction speech when I talked about Mr. Foro never having favorites and putting people in positions to succeed if they outworked others. So many teachers prepared me for life, even though I never knew what they were doing at the time. Yes, I did gain more knowledge in math, science, business, history and English, but the real lessons didn’t involve schoolwork. 

  I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who has been a part of my journey. It might have been a few short words in the cafeteria, or maybe a five-minute conversation at the 20-year reunion, or even a laugh or two during story time in elementary school that settled in my soul and directed me to the places where I’ve found an incredible amount of happiness. 

  I’ve been saying this since I was 30 years old, and I continue to say it today: “If I die tomorrow, you don’t have to worry about a thing because I have lived a complete life. I have done all of the things I’ve wanted to do, and I have allowed myself to become so deeply immersed in the things I’m passionate about. I would never want it any other way. I enjoy life more than anyone I’ve ever met, and it’s not because I make millions of dollars, travel around the world, or hang out with famous people. Instead, I enjoy life because I was fortunate enough to find myself at a young age, recognize who I was and what I needed, and I learned to feed my soul with passions that drove me to succeed. I have chased dreams of following my passions and living a fulfilling life, and those dreams have become reality.” 

  When I tell people that, they look at me like I have two heads and can’t fathom what I’m saying. The conversations I’ve had after sharing my thoughts on the subject make me realize how incredibly lucky I am. I definitely chased the right dreams, not the pipe dreams that bring nothing but money and material belongings. After all, what do those things do for your inner peace and happiness?

  Tonight, just like every night, I feel like the luckiest person on Earth. It’s an unbelievably exhilarating feeling. Immerse yourself in your passions and let everything else become secondary. Your life will become richer than the life of the wealthiest man alive. While that man is ordering off the high-dollar menu after parking his Ferrari in the parking garage, I am trudging through the snow in the darkness. My boots are wet, my socks are crinkled near the toes, and I can feel the sweat trickling down my neck and into the crease of my back. Looking at my watch, I know I still have another mile to get back to my truck. The rain has turned to frozen pellets mixed with snow, but I’ve had the best day I ever could have asked for in the woods. I spent the day with the man who first brought me there when I was 6 years old. Now, he’s 72, and I am 50, and I am still walking on the path less traveled, the path I chose when I decided what I wanted from life.

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The Journey to Finding Myself in the Big Two

Monday, October 7th, 2019

It was a raw, rainy day in November of 1983 when I made my way to the junior high library. I had finished my homework for the day and decided to go to the library during study hall to read outdoor magazines.

When I entered the quiet room, I headed to the magazine rack with nothing on my mind except grabbing the current issues of Outdoor Life and Field & Stream magazines. I knew the November issue would focus on deer hunting, and I wanted to learn as much as possible so I would be able to show my dad I was ready to go with him on his adventures and prove to him that I had a small bit of my own useful knowledge that I had gained from sources other than him.

As I flipped the pages of Outdoor Life, I saw a hanging pole in front of a tent. The bucks on the pole were beauties, and the guys in the picture looked like rugged woodsmen, men that could survive in the wilderness for days on end.

Reading the article, I quickly learned that the men were from my hometown, and the picture had been taken at their camp in the Adirondack Mountains. Instantly, I longed to one day find myself in one of these mega-giant magazines. Outdoor Life and Field & Stream magazines were (and still are) the two magazines that every outdoorsman wanted to read throughout the year, but especially during November. If I could ever make my way into them, I would know I had accomplished something. It would be similar to a middle-school basketball player dreaming of being featured in Sports Illustrated, then seeing himself in it when he gets to college or the pros.

I read the magazine for many years after seeing that article, and that article stuck with me since that day. It was a defining moment in my life, something I will never forget. As many people in my era have never forgotten where they were and what they were doing when Mike Tyson got knocked out by Buster Douglas, I have never forgotten the day I read that article.

Amazingly, a few years ago, I was featured in an article about the rut in Outdoor Life, and my dream had come full circle. I still smile when I think about my journey through the years to complete that circle.

Well, a few months ago, Scott Bestul from Field & Stream contacted me, after being referred by Randy Flannery, and asked if he could talk with me about some of my tactics that have led to my success. Instead of feeling like an interview, Scott and I just talked a lot about deer hunting. In all reality, I guess I talked a lot about deer hunting. I’m sure I probably drove Scott crazy by the time we were done, but it felt good to correspond with someone who gets it; someone who could relate to the things I was saying and understood where I was coming from with everything discussed. When we finally finished chatting, I felt like I had a new friend even though I wasn’t sure Scott would be able to use any of the information I gave him. After all, I just talked willy nilly about all sorts of things, with no real rhyme or reason behind any of it. I guess that’s what deer hunting does to me. It puts me in another world and makes adrenaline surge into my bloodstream. After the conversation, I felt like I would be welcome in Scott’s living room, and I can assure you that he is now welcome in mine. My friendship with Randy started in similar fashion, and I’m glad he has thought of me in a number of different situations.

Recently, I saw that the October/November issue of Field & Stream magazine had hit the magazine racks, so I picked one up at the local grocery store and began flipping through it. When I came upon Scott’s article, I smiled to myself when I saw that I was referred to as an expert. In many ways, I wish I was an expert. Deer hunting, especially when you’re after mature deer, seems like it’s the ultimate mental and physical challenge.

As many of you know, I hunt all over the country. I can easily say that I’ve never had what I would define as an easy hunt. Although the article says my home state is Maine, it’s not. I call the Adirondack Mountains in New York my home, and that is where I cut my teeth on deer hunting. I return there every year to try my hand, always hoping to pluck a few good cards out of the deck… but it’s never easy. I love the challenge it brings. It tests my inner fortitude every season. It pushes my mental state to the limit, whether I tag out on the first day of the season or the last. It does the same when I’m in the Midwest on heavily hunted public land. I wish I could consider myself an expert, but it all comes down to the fact that I can usually outwork and outthink others. Hunting is a hobby for me, but I love the work I can put into the hobby.

As I read through the article, I saw that I was included with many great hunters in the industry. When I saw my name next to Mark Drury’s, I felt a sense of pride. He’s one of the most widely recognized TV personalities in the industry and has been in that position for many years. He’s the mad scientist of deer hunting…. yet in my mind, I’m still the seventh grader who is headed to the library to read the deer hunting articles in Field & Stream and Outdoor Life.

Although there are only a few tidbits from me in this article, to be in included with the other guys is humbling. I still see myself as the boy behind his dad while trying to learn as much as possible to be successful on his own in the deer woods.

Looking back at the days I trudged behind my dad, I’m now beginning to realize that all of those lessons, even the silent ones, taught me everything I know about deer hunting — and life.

On Saturday, I sat in my stand and listened to flocks of geese making their way south. Flashing back in time, I could remember a cool, crisp night when I heard one flock after another on that annual migration that still exists today. I could hear deer walking on the ridge above me but never saw them. When Dad came back to pick me up at dark on the way back to the truck, he told me I might want to think about moving onto the flat above my stand. It was a simple lesson, but one in which I learned a great deal. I learned quickly that I always have to adapt to the things going on around me. I can never be satisfied with being stagnant and hoping the deer find their way to me. Instead, I need to react and put myself in the right place at the right time.

I guess I just wanted to express how lucky I feel to have been able to live the life I’ve always dreamed of living. I don’t have much as far as material things go, but I do have an incredibly quiet mind and an unbelievably rich life. I’m also proud to know that I actually passed all of the tests that my dad put in front of me. I’ll never consider myself an expert, because if I did that, then hunting would be just as easy as grocery shopping. If deer had weapons, there wouldn’t be any hunters who would last very long in the woods. We would all be dead. Therefore, there are no experts in the field.

I’m thankful to have been recognized by some of the titans in the outdoor media world. It allows me to realize how lucky I have been on my journey. There are a gazillion guys out there who could easily outdo me in the woods. Somehow, members of the outdoor media found me; I didn’t go looking for them. I’m thankful for the friendships that have been created through these outlets. I will never forget the raw, rainy day I strolled down to the library and imagined being featured in either one of the outdoor magazines. Now, that I’ve seen myself in both of them, it still seems somewhat unbelievable, and it probably always will. I’m just an Adirondacker who has been able to travel across the country hunting with my dad and a few incredibly selfless friends, friends that have made it much easier to succeed. Those guys don’t get nearly enough credit, whether it’s Doug Vaughn, Brian Pino, Josh Morse or a handful of others. They deserve more credit than I do. They are the guys who push me to be better, and they teach me things that help me while I’m in the woods trying to figure the game out every year, for the game never stays the same from day to day, week to week, month to month or year to year. The game is always changing, which is why so few people find regular success. Being able to quickly adapt is what matters most.