I got a call recently, the kind nobody wants to get, but far too often do; a friend of mine has passed away. More so than just a friend, he was a mentor of sorts in my young adulthood and was a cherished member of a class of the most influential outdoorsmen. The influence of men of that class is sorely needed these days, more so than ever… My friend, Jimmy West, of Dade City, Fl, was an “Old Timer.”
Old Timers are that class of outdoorsmen who’ve been there, done that and are now able to teach how they did it. They are always the first welcomed to speak at the campfire and the ones most sought after by the younger crowd for when things just aren’t going right. And it’s the youngsters that the old timers always seem to key in on because somehow, subconsciously, they know that their entire purpose is to pass on as much of their experience and knowledge as they can. It’s the old timers who best can teach the youngsters our history and heritage as sportsmen.
I know for myself, growing up in a perpetual sort of hunt camp, the old timers would dote on me, often they’d pick on me good-naturedly, certainly they called on me for chores, but very often they would just sit and talk to me. I loved those times. I learned a lot from all of those old timers during my youth and all phases of growing up. Jimmy was the last of the real, old timers, in my life and he’s gone ahead now to join so many others.
With his passing, the startling realization has struck me quite a blow, that now I’m an old timer! It’s my turn to pass on all I can to the youths of today, which is something I try very hard to do anyway. I see things differently since that revelation; the gray in my beard really stands out, as do the wrinkles around my eyes. The miles seem longer, the grades feel steeper, the hunt camp cot doesn’t seep as comfortably as it used to, back when I was young. I guess now that I’m an old timer, I can admit that the aches and pains from a lifetime of use and abuse are far more pronounced.
I look now into the eyes of my nephews and niece, looking up at me with awe and respect with a million questions on a million topics. I watch them learn and teach them all I can while I remember looking up to the old timers that influenced my raising. It makes it quite clear that this time of my life may very well be the most important; it’s like the entire lifetime of fun and adventure has been leading up to this, preparing me to be just another old timer.
But, I need some help. I’d love to see all of you other old timers stepping up for the kids. If you haven’t any of your own, there are some great programs, such as the Florida Wildlife Commission, Youth Mentorship Program and another hosted by the 10Can Alliance, both of which I volunteer with. There’s no finer time in the outdoors than when you go afield with a kid who’s eager to learn. So next time you’re planning your hunt, embrace that old timer role and let’s pass our skills down to a new generation.
I love hearing from so many of you in my inbox and I thank you so much for allowing me the chance to visit with y’all here each week. All feedback is welcome and I love to hear a good hunting story, so feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. God bless and good hunting!