Copyright Lark Ritchie 1995. 1996.
The Remains of a Fire|
There is a hill somewhere with the remains of a fire.
Embers once red and hot lay there cold and black
Evidence that we were part of a tribal people.
In the cold were sat
The elements were a part of us
and we a part of them.
The smoke once rose from that fire
I have been thinking of you and thought I'd record some memories of you that span the time of our friendship.
Back in 1985 I remember my wife telling me that "some American guy" had called and wanted to know more about an Ontario hunt. She mentioned that he seemed serious about a hunt for 1986, and that he was really talkative. He had wanted to know much more than she could tell him, and she promised that I would call. Little did I know that 'American" and I would strike up a friendship and lead us both along the way to this day so many years later.
I still remember that call; how you wanted to know about the country, the weather, how much snow we had, what was the best time for hunting, and so many other things. Shortly after, you booked your hunt with me.
Between then and your hunt date, I received at least a call a month from you; each time you wanted more information, checking on things like guns and bullets, equipment and clothing. Each of these calls placed you slightly apart from the other clients who had made arrangements for the hunt; each conversation showed me a fellow who passionately desired to make his hunt something special, a fellow with a dream to hunt in northern Ontario.
In the last week before the hunt, your calls were more frequent. On the day you began your trip, I remember that you called to say you were on your way. I remember that you called along the road while still in the States, and again when you arrived in Ontario.
I remember Connie telling me that you called one more time the night before you arrived. I can remember saying to her that you must be really excited about this trip, and that I hoped we could give you a successful hunt. We met the next day, a Saturday, in the late evening. I remember you and Randy, two West Virginians re-playing the first-time meetings I had run through before every hunt over so many years of guiding. There was an assessment by me on that night that would be gradually changed.
That night, and the next day, I saw you as a bit of a car salesman; full of talk, competing with the other hunters on equipment and experience; a little bit of a 'story enhancer', much like the fisherman whose fish is just a little bit bigger than everyone else's.
I remember putting you on the swamp stand, where a yellow sunlight detergent bottle marked the site along that long and muddy road, and the mosquitoes and blackflies that infested that area. You stuck that out for four days, and although the flies and bugs were probably the toughest they could be, you went back. I remember that Randy became a little discouraged, and that you helped encourage him to stick it out. He was successful, and you were happy for him, even though you had not seen anything. And you went back out to the swamp stand. We never did get that one. In fact, you were the one of those unlucky guys, who, on the last day had not had success.
I remember talking with you in the following days of that hunt, in particular one conversation over the picnic table at the Lake. It was late afternoon, and you talked of your brother, your daughter, and your wife, Judy, and how you considered her your best friend, and how you loved to be out in the Ontario bush and happy that you were fulfilling your dream to be here. You talked of other things; things close to yourself. That conversation impressed me, not because you were living out a dream, but because you let me see some of who you really were as a person. In the quiet of that evening, you allowed me into your personal life in a way that few people do, and as a result, a friendship began.
I remember talking with Tom Baker on the last day of the hunt and planning a last ditch effort to have you see an animal, and the trek we three took to make that happen. I remember going around that bend, and seeing him just moving out of view. The images of you getting your gun and cartridges together are burned forever in my mind; you have an olive green army style jacket on, with same style pants, with umpty-three pockets which you are searching for cartridges. I still see you beginning your approach, and I see you stop.... then move up again.... then stop again.... the rifle goes up.... a pause that seems like forever... and a shot rings out, echoing through the bush.. Tom and I rush to join you, the hunt now over.
The next image I have is of you, with your blue plaid shirt, and all the effects that years of dreaming, and a heavy shot of adrenaline brings when you know you have done the job. I remember shaking your hand, Tom shaking your hand; the babbling that comes with that time. It was, and is, one of my memories that have not yet faded, nor will it fade for many years to come.
Throughout the next six years you attended five hunts, quickly learning more, and each time helping me when I needed help, always there. (Sometimes in the way, but always there!) You became part of the hunt.
I remember the year my back was bothering me, and how you said you would handle everything, and not to worry. I also remember that you held to your word and generally worked you buns off. For those things, I an grateful, and will never forget.
As the hunt years went on, I remember the friendly competition; the challenges and the general teamwork we used to help each hunter towards his dream; the scouting, tracking, and the skinning. I remember Judy's first hunt, and the next year's help in the kitchen, and the many things that brought both you and Judy closer to us.
I can remember the sound of your diesel engine rattling into the driveway each year, and having a special good feeling that we would again re-enact those things we both had come to enjoy.
Your work and experience paid off for those you brought with you; for Dana, for George, and for others like Scotty , and Davie on that night when he played out his hunting experience over the back of the half-ton; as you had done on your first hunt. I remember the praise he had for you, and I was happy that you had come to understand, first hand, in the eyes and babbling voice of the hunter, why I guide. You took it all in, from that first day, and put the skills to use, first for yourself, and then for others. For me, you had hit the mark of guide, as my father, and then I, understood it.
I also remember you taking my son Allan with you to build blinds, and sitting him in a stand; the things I couldn't do, because I was in the middle of a hunt. And the kidding with Connie that comes when we know we are friends.
I remember all of these things, and more that would take too long to list, and I appreciate the time we could spend with each other. You are with me, and I will be with you as far as we can go together. Dave, you are a friend, I love you, and I will remember always.
I am including two other pieces I have written through the years, for I know you will appreciate them. The first (Remains of a Fire) is a piece I wrote in 1991. It is what I give you now. The other piece explains why I give special people the gifts like the axe and the knife etc. and why I am enclosing this compass.
Dave; I wish you well, and ask you to blaze the trail well, so that I can meet you later.
© 1996 Lark Ritchie. Contact me at this address..