You have just finished your first book, Ten Was the Deal. What inspired you to undertake this project?
In the opening pages of the book Ten Was The Deal I tried to record the events that lead me to ultimately take on this endeavor. As I mentioned, I have a very close friend, a pastor, who writes a story every Christmas and reads it on Christmas Sunday to his congregation. On many occasions my wife and I received a copy of these special stories as a present. I was so inspired, I wrote my grown children, Ashley and John, each an original story for their Christmas present in 2006.
I had a good time writing these two outdoor stories. The children were surprised and they seemed to sincerely like what I had written, so I was pleased.
I did not write another story until a year later for my dad’s ninety-first birthday. It took a lot of time, but it seemed to bring joy to my dad. I felt a very real sense of satisfaction. This was the first time the idea of actually writing enough stories to make a book entered my mind.
In May of 2011 my dad, then ninety-five, became critically ill following a stroke. The days before he died he was very weak. He could not open his eyes or speak.
At that time I wrote about the last hunting trip we had taken together. I picked a time when he was alone; no other family members, no nurses. I carried those tearstained pages to his bedside, and I managed with breaking voice and blurred eyes, to read the story to him. My dad never moved. I wasn’t even sure he had heard me. As I rose to go, I took his hand. His grip was surprisingly strong. Big tears ran down his cheeks. I was sure he had heard every word. We had said our final goodbye.
Dad died the next day.
It was then I knew I would write this book which contains so many of the memories of hunting and fishing trips we went on together.
The book is a collection of hunting and fishing short stories, some humorous and some heartfelt. Which one is your favorite and why?
There is no single story that is my favorite. I am anxious to see if people who read the book have a story they like best. The stories cover from when I was four years old and span sixty years. Each story is a tiny slice of my life told with hunting or fishing experiences as their framework. As you read these stories, you will know I have had a wonderful life filled with many outdoor adventures, so often made more enjoyable because they were spent with my dad. Many of these experiences are burned not only into my memory, but also into my heart.
How long have you been writing these short stories?
Three of the stories for this volume I wrote six years ago, however the majority of the book was written over the last eighteen months.
Are your stories factual or fictional?
More than one person that has read the manuscript has asked this question.
Things were so different fifty or sixty years ago for children in general and I think young boys in particular. We had more freedom it seems. The outdoors was wide open and there for everyone to explore. To me as I look back, that freedom just led to more adventurous times and adventures by their very nature make for a good story. But I would add, as Joseph Greenfield put it, “Everything I’ve described contains at least a grain of truth, though I confess that nothing has lost any fat in the telling.”
What are some of your favorite books?
As you might imagine, books about hunting and fishing are high on my list. Certainly among the best I’ve read are Russell Annabel’s adventure series. These include: Alaskan Adventure, Adventure is My Business, Adventure is in My Blood, The High Road to Adventures and The Way We Were.
In the front of Russell Annabel’s book cover jacket it is written that Ernest Hemingway said Rusty Annabel was, “The finest outdoor writer that he had ever read.” After reading and re-reading Annabel’s fine adventure series, I could not agree more. They are simply the best. If you like outdoor stories filled with adventure you will return to these books time and again.
Are there other writers that have influenced you?
Robert Ruark sticks out foremost in my mind. I did not learn of Robert Ruark’s books until 1972. On November 21 of that year I bought a copy of his 1953 classic, The Old Man and The Boy. In this remarkable book Ruark tells of, as a young boy, hunting and fishing in North Carolina with an amazing grandfather.
I fell in love with this book and then later stories in The Old Man’s Boy Grows Older. I believe I liked Ruark’s stories so much because by the time I discovered them I had experienced so many of the same type adventures in the woods and fields of my own beloved Carolinas.