Every trip outside is an adventure. I was firmly reminded of the truth of that statement on New Year's Eve. My 5-year-old grandson, Ronnie, and I spent several hours together running a few errands and tossing a little adventure of our own into the mix.
Getting haircuts and grocery shopping together proved a little taxing for a 5-year-old. To balance the grid a bit, we ventured to the Meramec River to skip a few rocks. We gasped in unison as a bald eagle lifted from the far shore with heavy wingbeats just as we stepped out onto the gravel bar.
“Look, pawpaw, an eagle." Ronnie said, with obvious wonder in his voice. Our adventure had begun perfectly.
Ronnie had hoped that there would be ice on the edge of the river. Breaking ice with rocks would have been a first for him. However, temperatures held a little above freezing and we had to settle for skipping rocks the usual, but still fun way.
The arrival of New Year's causes most of us to stop and reflect on the past and, more important, on the future. Ronnie’s spark for adventure had spurred me to do just that. I reminisced about the past year’s outdoor adventures I experienced and imagined what might transpire in the new year, 2017.
Recording my adventures in both print and video consumes much of my time and has for decades. It is hard to believe that the time has passed so quickly, but is is true that time flies when you are having fun. I’ve been able to pursue my passion my entire life.
Spurred by the adventures of writers of old such as Teddy Roosevelt, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway and Jack O’Connor, my interest in writing flamed early in my life. I read relentlessly and picked up on the passion of these great men, which inspired me more than the adventures about which they wrote.
Fortunately, I grew up in a rural environment and could walk out the back door of the farm house to fish the bayou, which ran out of the Mississippi River, and hunt rabbits, squirrels and raccoons.
I loved every adventure, but steadily wondered what it would be like to be a soldier of fortune like Hemingway, or to hunt Bighorn sheep in the Sonora of Mexico like O’Connor, or to chase mountain lions out west as Roosevelt did.
I began writing short stories for myself, never showing them to anyone. I read them over and over and secretly dreamed of seeing my words in print in Outdoor Life Magazine some day.
As my limited career as an outdoor writer developed over the decades, I enjoyed opportunities to write for numerous magazines and websites including Cabela’s Outfitter Journal, www.basspro1source.com, www.southerntrout.com,  the Missouri Conservationist, Turkey Call, Turkey and Turkey Hunting, Game and Fish and others.
My dream of writing for Outdoor Life never materialized. I held the magazine in such regard, that I feared to make an attempt. I have endured many rejection letters over the years, but did not want to experience the same from my beloved Outdoor Life. Although I wrote query letters numerous times to the magazine’s editors, like my original stories, which I wrote for myself, no one ever saw them.
Out of the blue, in mid-December of 2016, my phone pinged. I had a message from Gerry Bethge, the executive editor of Outdoor Life Magazine. I reluctantly opened the message. “There has to be a mistake,” I thought.
The message was for real. In a few words, Bethge asked me about doing a fishing article for the April, 2017 issue of Outdoor Life. I nervously answered, accepting the new challenge. The grandest adventure of my life had begun.
In the course of our conversations over the next day or so, I pitched another idea to Bethge. He bit and I had my second assignment. I turned the first assignment around in 48 hours.
The next day Bethge texted again stating that he loved my work and asked me about taking on a much lengthier assignment. I agreed, all the while, not believing that I was actually getting to work for Outdoor Life Magazine, as I had dreamed about all of my life.
I couldn’t help but wonder how Bethge came across my path. Had he heard of my dreams? He shared a similar beginning with Outdoor Life. I was paying for my own subscription by the time I was 8-years-old. Bethge actually got into a bloody fight with a buddy, at 10 years of age, over which was the best outdoor magazine. I don’t know if he won the fight, but Bethge did wind up working for Outdoor Life and has done so for almost three decades.
I had my war like Hemingway, but never penned the romantic stories he did. I failed to see the romance. Too, the military held me to 35 years of silence, so I couldn’t have written about my experiences anyway.
I eventually hunted elk in Colorado, mountain lions in Mexico and bears in Canada. I caught tarpon on a flyrod in Hemingway's Yucatan of Mexico and visited his home in the Florida Keys. I’ve seen remnants of the buffalo herds Roosevelt described and felt the magic of the mountains which O’Connor talked about. Too, I’ve fired hundreds of rounds though the .270 that he immortalized in the hearts of American hunters though descriptions of his adventures.
Decades have past since I began my journey as an outdoor writer.    The people, the places, the hardships and the raw adventures are engrained in my soul. Those things are the essence of my experiences. The few awards, recognition by the Missouri Legislature for 45 years of service to the outdoor industry, nomination to the North American Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as a writer, pale in light of my lifelong dream coming true, enjoying the thrill of writing articles for Outdoor Life Magazine.