In the shadows of the historic building on Park Avenue in the middle of Manhattan, I stood on the street side curb watching the yellow taxis whiz by. I was in the middle of 8 million people, a jungle of concrete and glass with my mind was racing about an article due. New York City is not the best place to be for inspiration for hunting and fishing stories even if you are about to step into the office of the publisher for Field & Stream and Outdoor Life magazines
I heard a ding from my pocket so I lifted out my phone and read the words in a text message, “Fishing at the falls is hot. Hybrid bass, smallies, channel cats — get here now.”
“Out of town,” I replied.
I pondered on whether I should tell him where I was or not. I knew the ribbing would soon follow if I did.
“Where you at now,” he questioned in his text message.
I thought about how to best explain to him that I was about to walk into the inner workings of a large publishing house who had been publishing outdoor articles for well over 100 years from writers I grew up reading and admiring like Jack O’Connor, Jim Zumbo, Dave Petzal, Jim Carmichael, John Merwin and so many more. How could I explain the connection I had growing up in West Virginia to their words of wild places and wild things and how they influenced my career and lifestyle so much? How could I best explain that as a child, I couldn’t wait to read about the new rifles and bullets and how I imagined by simply reading their words what the coastal air of Alaska must have smelled like and how wide the sky must have looked in Montana. Not to mention the critters from far, far away. Mule deer, elk, cape buffalo and fish too. Salmon running upstream with brown bears lining the creek bank. Cutthroat trout rising to a caddis fly hatch. Tarpon leaping out of the mangroves with my fly in his mouth – I could see it plain as day in their words.
“NYC,” I typed.
“NEW YORK CITY???” he responded.
I waited a second to respond. My friend is witty and sharp and I knew he had to be thinking of something funny to bust me on. Then it came.
“I had a good friend in New York City, never called me by my name just hillbilly,” he wrote quoting a famous line from a Hank Williams Jr. song. He followed that message up, like all good taunting friends should, with picture after picture of the fish he was catching.
As I walked into the offices of the publishing house, I was greeted by a longtime colleague who shook my hand and asked, “How’s the fishing back home?” I started laughing and with yet another ding from my phone indicating my friend had caught yet another fish, I said, “Apparently very good today.”