Gone Hunting: Life’s been good, but this is not goodbye
February 9, 2017
In 1969, Frank Sinatra commissioned an entire album of poems and songs by Rod McKuen.
It was released under the title "A Man Alone: The Words and Music of Rod McKuen." The album featured the song "Love's Been Good to Me", which became one of McKuen's best-known songs.
"Love's Been Good to Me" was released by Sinatra just about the time I began my teaching/coaching career in 1971 in Hillsboro, Kan.
The song would be a wonderful epitaph with a few minor changes:
"I have been a rover
I've never walked alone
Recommended Stories For You
Hiked a hundred highways
Never felt alone!
Still in all I'm happy
The reason is you see
Once in a while along the way
Life's been good to me!
Virginia and I are leaving Greeley. We sold our home and are moving to south central Kansas to be nearer to our children and grandchild. Life's been good to us.
Greeley's been good to us. Greeley will always hold a special place in our hearts because of all the really wonderful people we have known while living here for the past 34 years.
Life's been good to us.
The reaction by folks I have run into at church or the supermarket about a most recent column has continued to motivate me to write "Gone Hunting".The question that I have been asked most often during the past few weeks is, "Will I continue to write 'Gone Hunting?' "
My editor, Dan England, and I have talked and the answer is every once in a while. The distance of 580 miles is not insurmountable. The magic of interstate highways transcends such a minor obstacle. Social media and the internet also have a way of shrinking distances.
My Colorado elk tag, however, went from about $50 for my resident's license to more than $600 for a non-resident's license. Even so, I will continue to hunt elk in Colorado as long as my lungs and legs can take the punishment. Close friends from the Briggsdale area have already assured me that I will always be welcomed in their elk camp.
The past hunting season was one of my most memorable. I chased birds from the Canadian border and south to near the Oklahoma state line.
Our trip to hunt in North Dakota next season will take an extra day of driving. That is a small price to pay for excellent bird hunting, but when you throw in the opportunity to make pierogis with our friends near Dickinson, it really does not matter. Pierogi, also known as varenyky, are filled dumplings of Eastern European origin.
October bird hunting was surreal. It is not that I had really exceptional hunting opportunities, but I had to work a hunting day around last season's baseball playoffs.
It did not matter where I was hunting, whether it was Williston, Dickinson or Bellfield, the folks at the sports bars in those towns had placed "reserved" signs on tables in front of their largest televisions just so that Virginia and I could watch the Chicago Cubs win the World Series.
Mix in a day of "triple crown" bird hunting (pheasants, grouse and partridge) while taking several pictures of playful moose in the area, and how can you help but think that life's been good to us.
There was a day in January that was a bit perplexing. The wind did not want to cooperate while I was hunting in southwest Kansas.
"Keep the wind at your chin" is what I was taught by old timers a long, long time ago. Now I am the old timer, and the wind was swirling.
The problem with a swirling wind is the dog does not smell the birds until it is too late. As I neared the end of the field, about 100 to 150 pheasants took to the air and flew across the road into a field of milo that I did not have permission to hunt.
When I see beautiful sights like that, I quite often think to myself about how lucky I am to be experiencing it. Life's been good to me.
That day was even more exceptional because we got to play "Mexican Train Dominoes" with our land-owner friends. We played dominoes nearly 'till midnight while sipping some of his best spirits.
It is not uncommon for Virginia and me to be invited to stay for supper at the farm after a day of hunting. We have often reflected on how blessed we are to know so many wonderful people. My most special memory from the past season was being able to hunt with Colonel Stan Cass.
Stan is a Vietnam war veteran and runs Colorado's "Honor Flight" program. Ranking right there with that memory is my pheasant hunt with Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas. That was two days of red carpet treatment.
My passion or obsession, if you must, will not change just because we are in a new location. Some hunts will take less driving time and some will take more.
I am not saying goodbye to Greeley and the folks here who have made life so much fun for so long. I am not saying goodbye to our church or the golf courses that I have called home for so long. We will be back often. Life has most certainly been good to us.
When I think of our home here in Greeley I am reminded of Graham Greene's comment to Kevin Costner near the end of Dances With Wolves:
"We've come a long way, you and me."
Jim Vanek is a longtime hunter who lives in Greeley with his family. He can be reached at email@example.com.