After 50 years, there’ve been changes, but the joy remains

Anniversaries, I’ve had a few. As of this past July 11, Kay and I have been married 38 years. On November 24, it will have been 55 years since the morning I downed my first buck. This past April 13 marked the 30th anniversary of my bagging my first wild turkey gobbler. Anniversaries are sort of special.

Fifty years ago this month, a 35-year-old fellow did something he had wanted to do for a long time but lacked both know-how and intestinal fortitude to see it happen. He picked up a copy of the Guardian Journal, Homer’s weekly newspaper, and nervously flipped over to find an article under the heading “Hunting and Fishing with Uncle Zeke from Beaver Creek.”

There was no name of the columnist and here’s the explanation of the mystery surrounding the writer. In case the column flopped, he didn’t want his name associated with it, so for several months, this phantom outdoor columnist hid behind the name of Uncle Zeke.

The mystery of the identity of Uncle Zeke continued on until the identity of the writer became obvious. Homer is a small community and the secret couldn’t remain hidden for long. How do I know so much about Uncle Zeke? That columnist was yours truly.

Fifty years have passed since that first column went to press, and there have been very few weeks when I didn’t have a column somewhere, and I owe it all to the folks at the Guardian Journal for giving a nervous “green as gourd guts” guy a chance. They were even willing to pay me for my articles; $2.50 a week plus a free paper.

Once I was given the go-ahead to write a weekly column for the Guardian Journal, I had to do it nights and weekends because I had a regular job. What was my system for writing a weekly column 50 years ago? A yellow tablet and a number two pencil got it started; I wrote the column longhand.

Eventually, I had to use my old manual typewriter to transfer what I had written on the tablet to typing paper. My main stand-by I couldn’t have gotten by without was a bottle of White Out, and I probably used a gallon of it over the years to cover my miscues.

I had some readers of the Guardian Journal that took notice of my columns, and they mentioned that the Shreveport Journal didn’t have an outdoor writer. I got up the courage to talk to editor Stan Tiner who agreed to let me write weekly columns for that big city publication, something I did for several years until it sadly folded in 1991.

In the meantime, another friend referred me to editor Tom Kelly at my hometown newspaper, the Ruston Daily Leader, and on March 1, 1974, Kelly hired me as outdoor columnist.

Eventually I laid aside my yellow tablet and number two pencil and decided to write directly to the typewriter — which was somewhat nerve wracking at first, but I eventually became comfortable with it, although my bottle of White Out was right next to my keyboard. Then when the Internet came along, what a blessing it was because I could edit and delete without the need for White Out.

Today, I am blessed to still be able to write; I continue to write weekly columns for the Guardian Journal, the Daily Leader, and back in the big city for the Shreveport-Bossier Journal. There are plenty of outdoors lovers in cities!

I reach folks near Caney Lake in the Jackson Parish Journal, and along Cane River, Black Lake, the Red River and Saline Lake with the Natchitoches Parish Journal, which serves my birthplace of Goldonna and Northwestern State University, my college alma mater. There are some other weekly publications I’m in, as well. I eventually was able to place my articles in magazines and I still do some magazine writing today.

To sum it up, I am a blessed man. God has given me the ability to not only write but to absolutely love sharing my columns with my readers for these past 50 years. My prayer is that as long as these fingers work and my brain doesn’t quit on me, I’ll keep on doing it.

Thanks to all my readers for sticking with me over this half-century.

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