My lifelong best friend and hunting partner recently died. This is a vent for me and a suggestion for those of you that have good friends. I’ll probably ramble a little but will try to eventually get the point made.
Gene and I first met in High School and he was one year ahead of me. After graduation he moved out of town for a couple of years and then, when he moved back to town, we both bought new houses in the same new sub-division without realizing it. That first year in high school was in 1959 and he died recently in 2011. The friendship lasted for 52 years.
Our kids grew up together. Our families camped together, rode three and four wheelers together, and just enjoyed spending time doing stuff outdoors. We cut firewood and fished in the summer and we hunted in the fall and winter. If one of us went shooting, we both went. If one of us went hunting, we both went. We started our kids growing up together and he was there when my son got his first deer and I was there when his grandson got his first deer. Gene had two daughters but they never did take up hunting.
We hunted in state and out of state. We hunted deer, elk, bear and cougar plus all of the birds and varmints and just about everything that we legally could and sometimes we maybe even stretched that a bit. We hunted when it was so hot that we thought we’d have a heat stroke and when it was so cold that we thought we’d freeze to death. We packed elk out of the canyons and deer out of the sagebrush. We spent thousands of hours together and if either wife couldn’t find her husband she knew where to check for him. We hunted with bows, pistols, rifles and shotguns and would head for the hills at the first chance we got.
For all of those years and all of those hunts and all of those countless hours together both at home and in the field I can honestly say that there was never one time when we argued. There was never one misunderstanding or a single harsh word. He was a friend that I could say goodbye to after a day in the field and maybe not see him for a couple of weeks but as soon as we got back together we just seemed to automatically pick up right where we left off last time. We hunted together so long that we knew each others habits and usually never even had to discuss the hunt much because we thought so much alike. If we split up in a canyon or on a ridge I knew exactly where he’d go and how he’d hunt and he knew the same about me.
In 2006 his health started to noticeably decline and on the last trip to Idaho I had some serious doubts about his health and whether I should bring him out of the hills or not. He did perk up and finished the Idaho trip but each year he could walk less and felt worse. Throughout this time he had a heart attack and a couple of bypasses as well as being the recipient of a pace maker but he still did as much as he could to spend as much time in the field as his health would allow. Each year since 2006 we adjusted out hunting to accommodate his declining health and each year I was glad when we made it through the hunting seasons. In 2010 the writing was on the wall and I somehow knew it would be his last year.
Recently, during a visit to his doctor he was told that he had cancer and had only 3 months at the most to live. He never even made it half that time. I was there with him when Hospice called and made an appointment to see him the next day to set up home care. He didn’t even make it a week after that and he was gone.
In those last days we had a lot of long talks about old times, raising our kids and about some of the memorable hunts we had and some of the great times we spent together and as was always the case, we drank coffee like we had for 50 years. He’d usually fall asleep while we were talking but it was still nice to spend some final hours with a great friend.
After all of this rambling what I’d like to get across is that if you have a special friend or hunting partner please let them know what it means to have such a friend. Let them know what a real friend means and remember that some day it might be you sitting there when your friend slowly passes or it might be your friend sitting with you. A special friend is something we tend to take for granted so take the time to thank that friend, son, daughter or wife for being there for you and spending time with you in the field and doing the things you both love to do.
I don’t know what this leaves in my plans for future hunting as old age has sneaked up on me and the typical physical ailments are taking their toll. Right now I don’t know if I’ll hunt again after this season. I’ll wait until this winter and next spring and see but I doubt it. If I didn’t hunt again I’d miss nothing as I have a lifetime of memories to keep me company as I drink the proverbial coffee and sit by the fire. However, I do know that this hunting season I will spend each day hunting in a different spot where we hunted before. There won’t be enough days in this year’s seasons but there won’t be a minute this fall that I won’t think about him as I glass the hillsides for deer and elk.
RIP Buddy and good hunting!