Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by ...
It's best just to be honest from the start. When I got the call from this newspaper about the possibility of including my sometimes hazy ramblings in the Times Free Press, well, let's just say I was pleased. About as pleased as if you had just given me the keys to a thousand acres of new hunting ground and told me you thought it had too many turkeys.
I love Tennessee and have visited your fair city. I love how Tennessee seems to be three states in one and is made so by the wandering of the Tennessee River. I hope I get to explore a lot more of it.
I know just a little about Tennessee, but you don't know anything about me, so maybe a little introduction is in order.
I started on this writing trail with my column, The Trail Less Traveled, more than a year ago after spending 36-plus years in the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. Like many of you, I have been a hunter and a fisherman and a shooter for most of my life. I have tried my hand at trapping, trap and skeet shooting, and somewhere back in the mists of time, I was a river guide.
I really don't know how many shotguns I have right now, but whatever the number, it is not enough. I have owned beagles, blue tick hounds, cur dogs and pointers. Once upon a time I was lucky enough to own a couple of really good dogs, and I have spent more than I would care to admit trying to replace them.
I should probably admit to somewhat of an obsession when it comes to hunting turkeys, both in the spring and the fall. I don't see it as a problem anymore, but evidently other do. Yes, it's that bad.
I also love to squirrel hunt while following some good dogs. Tennessee is a hotbed for this tradition, in case you didn't know. There are many high-caliber squirrel dog people in your state. (I am going on here and have not even mentioned all of your excellent fishing!)
I won't fib to you folks, I'm the guy who forgets his lunch (and will eat yours), didn't fill the truck with gas and will probably want to bum some shells from you before the day is over. I will get you lost, make you late and direct you to the worst road-side eating joints known to man.
After about two trips together, your wife or girlfriend will not even speak to me. (I have a real knack for this one.)
I love sweet-handling shotguns, flat-shooting rifles and lazy rivers. I like the smell of Hoppe's No. 9 solvent, burnt gunpowder, bacon frying in hunting camp and - sometimes - a wet dog. I like baggy camo pants, threadbare hunting vests and will wear a hat guaranteed to embarrass even the guys you hunt with.
I will make excuses for my dog and compliment yours, all the while hoping you won't point out our (my dog and I) many shortcomings.
This trail may have a few obstacles, but when I started on it, I knew I wanted to do one thing - make this column different from any other you've read.
Like anything else, the hunting, fishing, shooting and outdoors-related world has issues. You may not agree with everything you read here, but you have my solemn promise that what I write will be heartfelt and factual to the best of my knowledge.
Something else: I want to hear from you folks. I insist my email appears with every column, so let me know what you think about what you read here.
So now we embark upon this trail, you and I. Are your boots cinched up tight? Got enough shells? Candy bar and water bottle in your vest?
Larry Case has a longsuffering wife who has endured his hunting and fishing escapades for 30 years and two grown children who hope Dad will stop embarrassing them by wearing camo year round and making comments about field dressing or skinning something in polite company. He has no idea where "The Trail Less Traveled" will take him but hopes you will come along. You can write to him at email@example.com.