Fishing with John is an excuse to get outdoors and listen to him spin yarns. The fish are a bonus. I’ve fished with John, a Lebanon-based nationally renowned outdoor writer and author, for over a decade, most recently on an excursion to Percy Priest Lake.
My ribs are still aching.
Earlier in the spring John invited me to go with him on a return trip to White Oak in Alabama, a hunting reserve with lakes stocked with behemoth bass and monster bluegills.
I couldn’t go because of family obligations. One morning a few days later I received an email from him tagged: “Get ready to drool!” tormenting me with photos of him with a boat-load of fish.
I emailed him back: “May your boat capsize!”
In his younger days John was a rodeo rider, specializing in riding bulls that didn’t want to be ridden. How many bones has he broken? How many bones are there in the human body?
Nowadays his knees are stiff, his back hurts, and on each cast he winces from an old shoulder injury. Call it Revenge of the Bulls.
A native of Pineville, Ark., John made stops in Texas, Wyoming and Nashville before settling in Lebanon in 1980. Before joining the rodeo circuit he was a Western hunting guide who also ventured into the rugged Canadian wilderness in pursuit of big black bears and monster bucks.
He recalls one morning so cold the coffee froze in his thermos and “everybody with any sense” stayed in the warm cabin. That, of course, excluded John, who trudged off into a blizzard and bagged one of the biggest Canadian bucks on record.
That was some 40 years ago. He says he has almost thawed out.
Although the walls of John’s home/office are adorned with the mounts of some massive animals, nowadays he hunts for, well, the hunt. He is no longer a trophy hunter, and like me, is concerned about today’s deer-trophy craze.
John’s specialty is bow-hunting and he writes for a number of national archery magazines. But expertise aside, his real talent is tale-telling, and his newspaper and magazine columns routinely sweep writing contests.
I still remember one of John’s classic columns I read over two decades ago about a deer hunt. You didn’t realize until you got to the end that the story was being told from the perspective of the deer.
John freely admits he’s not a reporter; he’s a story-teller.
Anyone who enjoys a good story well-told should check out his recently-released Kindle books, “The Empty Chair,” “Memories of a Dying Fire” and “Leaving Saline.”
As delightfully humorous as John can be, he has a poignant side. He battled through some serious health issues, underwent a lifestyle re-dedication, and was baptized (naturally) in a fishing hole by outdoor writer/Sunday School teacher Wade Bourne.
Nowadays when he’s not fishing or hunting or writing about it, John volunteers as a Lebanon drug and alcohol counselor. The man who enjoys telling funny stories hears a lot of sad ones.
But he hasn’t lost his sense of humor or his love of the outdoors, and having endured more than his quota of bumps and bruises says he’s enjoying life more than ever.
As soon as my ribs heal, I’m ready for another trip.