My friend John Dick died today. I wish you’d have had a chance to meet him. If not him, I at least hope you meet somebody like him someday. You won’t forget them.
He wasn’t the very best goose hunter or the best deer hunter, but everything he did outdoors, he did danged well.
When he blew a duck call it sounded like there was a hen mallard beside you. If he said a distant flock had five pintails and three wigeon, it did.
If he handed you his knife it would be clean and scalpel-sharp.
But John was an even better hunting buddy than a hunter. When he asked how you were doing he really wanted to know, and he’d asked about your kids and wife by names, and wanted full details on how your dog was hunting.
He never hogged a conversation, but what he said was worth hearing…and often funny.
If you shot at the same bird and it fell, he’d be quick to congratulate you, swear you hit it when chances were he downed the bird.
When he bought and furnished a small house near our duck spots it was instantly open to all of his friends, and he expected you to hit the ‘fridge and bring your dog inside “John’s Quack Shack.”
We were at his Quack Shack a few winters ago and whipping up a monster bunch of gumbo for the crew. John was petting his beloved Lab, Molly, while talking about family and friends. I noticed he repeated himself and couldn’t remember things he had known well.
John knew something was wrong, probably seriously wrong. A brain tumor was diagnosed within a few days.
Rather than self-pity, John wasted no time getting his affairs in order and spending quality time with his family. He called me out of the blue, just to say how much he appreciated our friendship. It was a classy thing to do.
Brain surgery is never easy, and sometimes the surgery ends up being threatening, too. So it was for John, unfortunately.
As time went on, John became more and more the illness and less and less of the true John. I’m sure it was hell on his family, though they stuck by him admirably, and it was certainly hell on John, too.
But this afternoon he again became the old John, which is how he’ll be remembered.
He’s in a place where the mornings are cold but not brutal, the wind’s steady at about 15 mph out of the north and every day is opening day. If he gets his just rewards every passing flock will turn to his calls and his beloved pintails will be as thick as bees around a shaken hive.
I’m not sure who he’ll be hunting with in Heaven, but they’ve just gained a heck of a hunting buddy.
I hope I live a good enough life to hunt with John Dick again, someday.