Has it really been that long? It seems like only yesterday I was walking out of the halls at North Texas State University and through the front doors of the Tyler Morning Telegraph.
According to the calendar it was 40 years ago last week. That means a bunch of you were not even born yet and the rest of you still had hair when I started. I did.
It has been a fun ride. Not exactly what I expected in some ways, but that’s life.
I always knew I was going to be a newspaper writer. Wrote my first story for a the school paper in the fifth grade. With the exception of maybe two years, I have been doing it ever since.
I thought I wanted to write about the other sports though. Football, basketball, baseball. That kind of stuff. To be honest though, after about two weeks I realized that was not for me.
I was hired at the Tyer Paper as a sports writer/outdoor writer. Through the years I have also covered cops, business, agricultural and whatever other assignment I was unable to slip out the door and avoid. You do that at smaller papers.
But with each year I kept finding ways to spend a little more time writing about hunting and fishing and less about the others until one day it was all outdoors.
The fun part about the job has always been telling people’s stories. As Calvin Clyde Jr. once said, outdoors is about the only page in the paper you can get your name printed for not having done something bad or dying.
If asked what were my favorite stories over the years, I could not give an answer. Part of that is because after something north of 6,000 stories it is hard to remember all of them. Heck I can barely remember what I wrote about last week. Because of the adventure surrounding them a top 10 list would probably have to be expanded to a top 100.
One that has always stood out was a bream fishing trip on Caddo Lake in the 1980s with an elderly gentleman who oared the boat from tree to tree. His stories about the lake were priceless. His effort that day was of a man of 40, not 80. It was such a throwback day, and one I will never forget.
My trips have been just part of what has made this so much fun. The hunters and fishermen I have met along the way are another part of the equation. I started writing about people who are now grandparents or great-grandparents. Yes, that includes both men and women. I have since written about their kids and their kids’ kids.
Even better is that a lot have become friends, good friends. Sadly, though we have lost a lot along the trail.
It has been about the places people have gone. Hunters and fishermen in Tyler and across Texas do not live in a bubble. You guys go everywhere in search of adventure, and have always been willing to share your stories.
It has even been about the dogs you hunt with. I have watched Labs and pointers grow up just like kids and pass away like old folks.
I have met biologists, outfitters, ranchers and fishing guides from all over the world. I have learned by talking to all of them, and tried my best to pass along that information.
If asked about my favorite trips it would be a much easier list. Any time I got to take my sons, Tristan and Thomas. The best perk of this job has been being able to take those two to some places and to do some things we probably never would have been able to do otherwise.
A close second would be the days on the road with my two mentors and friends, Ray Sasser from the Dallas Morning News and Mike Leggett from the Austin American Statesman. I met them during the 1980s when hunters and fishermen were working to pass the Texas Wildlife Conservation Act. It turned into two great friendships bounded by our career and love of the outdoors. We have traveled thousands of miles solving, at least in our minds, not only all of the problems of Texas hunting and fishing, but also the world.
Just like hunting and fishing have changed over the years, so has writing about it. In the old days I needed a note pad and a simple 35mm camera. Today I go to a blind or out on a boat with a the camera and multiple lenses, a GoPro, a video camera, a smart phone to instantly send pictures and if my computer is not in the pack it is close by. I have thought of buying a mule to haul the load, but I guess it is good cardio at my age
OK, I admit this is a pretty good gig. There are worse assignments in the wide, wide world of sports, but just like when you are hunting or fishing there are no rainouts, or delays because of snow. You go out if the wind is howling and the temperature is below freezing or if the sun is blistering down and there is not hint of a breeze. And you come home with some sort of story.
And now there is the Tyler Paper’s texasalloutdoors.com website. That has been interesting because it requires near-daily postings of new outdoor stories from around the state. It also features all the videos done for the last couple of years.
I know not everyone has always liked what I wrote or agreed with my opinion. I keep a framed letter on my home office wall that clearly notes that. That’s OK. I think sometimes I don’t agree with myself.
It has been a good run. Thank you.
Have a comment or opinion on this story? Contact outdoor writer Steve Knight by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Steve Knight on Facebook at Texas AllOut doors and on Twitter @txalloutdoors.