When I recognized the knock on my door, I was overcome with a feeling of dread.
Cedric, the office intern/assistant, seemed to be getting bolder about interrupting my afternoon naps, uh, I mean my deep concentration creative time needed to churn out "Guns & Cornbread" each week. Then the door flew open, and Cedric swept into the room with what I thought was a particularly haughty air (for an intern/assistant).
"Mr. Case, the editors told me to come see you about an article again," he said with a definite smirk and no small amount of sarcasm.
I decided to take the "best offense is a good defense" route.
"Really?" I shot back. "What exactly did they say?
"Well, if you must know," he said and faltered for only a second, "they said get down there and get a column out of him, and if you can't, tell him to clean out that rat's nest of an office on his way out."
Quickly turning to new tactics, I snatched the mailbag from Cedric's claws and assured him I would have a column ready in two shakes of a lamb's tail. This was an increment of time that seemed to confuse him, but he nodded and left me in peace. Knowing I would find a world of story ideas in the mailbag (albeit a small world), I plowed into the task at hand.
I love this job! (Most days.)
Dear Outdoors Writer in the Paper,
You seem to know a lot about when buck deer will go into the rut, why turkeys gobble some days and some days not, and how to train various kinds of hunting dogs. Did you learn all this from years of experience, did you have a mentor to teach you, or do you just basically make it all up?
Really Would Like to Know, Oil City, Pennsylvania
Famous outdoors writers like me (well, maybe semifamous -- OK, there are at least five people out there who have heard of me!) get these kinds of questions all the time. It is really all of the above.
It is true I have spent years in the outdoors hunting and fishing, shooting various kinds of firearms, and training hunting dogs (which usually means you spend a lot of time looking for the dogs after they run off somewhere.)
I did have a few good mentors, and I learned a lot from them. I would have learned a lot more if some of them would have stayed out of jail and been a little more sober most of the time, but that is another story.
Serious, professional outdoors and guns writers only make things up when they are really up against it for a deadline and they need money.
Dear Fantastic and Wonderful Outdoors Writer,
I read your columns all the time and save every one of them. Your writing is absolutely brilliant, and I wish you would write several columns a week instead of just one. Can't wait for your first book! I know it will be wonderful and a bestseller!
Your Biggest Fan Ever, (address withheld)
Mom! We have been through this before! Stop sending these letters to the newspaper! No one cares about your opinions on this! (Except me.)
Dear Marginally Talented Outdoors Writer,
I am 18 years old, and I hunt and fish all the time, so I'm pretty much an expert at all of it. I also have several guns and I shoot all the time (when I can get money for ammo), so I know all about that, too. I have been thinking I should be an outdoors and guns writer because I have all this knowledge, and I should write about it and get paid a lot of money. It doesn't seem like it would be that hard to do -- I mean, you're doing it, right?
Pretty Sure of Myself, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Thank you for reminding me once again that youth is wasted on the young.
(Comments on Spam, Vienna sausages, potted meat and professional wrestling were censored by the editors in this round of "Letters to the Outdoors Writer.")
"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.