McNaughten's laugh will be missed

Nashville Public Television

Popular TV host Hugh McNaughten will be missed.

The first thing I thought about when I received word of Hugh McNaughten's death last week was how much I'd miss his laugher.

Hugh, one of Middle Tennessee's most popular outdoors personalities as the long-time host of the Southern Woods & Waters TV show, died of a heart attack on Sept. 21.

Thousands of viewers who knew Hugh through his outdoors show were familiar with his moonbeam smile and booming laugh. When he got tickled about something -- which happened about every five minutes -- he laughed so hard he jiggled like a camo-clad Santa.

I knew Hugh for about 30 years and I never once saw him frown.

I never saw him in a bad mood, never knew him to get angry or peevish, never heard him mutter a negative word about anybody.

He was always out-going, jovial and gregarious. He was everybody's buddy, someone you'd like to spend time with in a fishing boat or turkey blind.

I had the pleasure of doing the former a number of times.

One of my favorite memories of Hugh is taping a TV show with him and Channel 5 Sports Director Hope Hines on Marrowbone Lake. The theme of the show was "Take a Kid Fishing."

We took the grandsons of Hugh and Hope, both about six years old. They were filmed baiting hooks, reeling in fish -- mostly little bluegill -- and jabbering with excitement as the flopping fish were unhooked and released.

It was hard to tell who had the most fun -- the grandkids or their grandpas.

I was a guest on Hugh's Nashville Public Television show several times, usually to discuss some outdoors topic that was in the news.

The last time I was on was to talk about growing concerns over kayaks. They had increased in popularity so fast they had out-paced regulations governing them. They were becoming safety hazards on congested lakes.

Hugh had recently come across a kayaker paddling across Percy Priest Lake in the middle of the night, without any type of light. He worried that someone was going to be injured, and devoted the show to calling attention to the problem.

A Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency boating official saw the show. A couple of weeks later, the TWRA announced new kayak safety regulations.

Hugh was a friend of Lebanon's Roy Denney, on whose farm he turkey hunted. One of Hugh's TV shows featured a turkey hunt with Roy.

The last time I saw Hugh was last February at the Tennessee Boat and Fishing Show at Lebanon's Expo Center. He had an exhibit promoting his TV show, and also conducted daily fishing seminars.

Roy and I dropped by Hugh's booth for a chat, and as always, he spent the visit laughing and joking and telling stories.

We promised to get together for a turkey hunt. But we all were busy, and before we knew it, the spring had come and gone. So has the summer. And now it's too late.

Hugh loved the outdoors, the fields and forests, the lakes and streams. More than that, he loved the people of the outdoors.

The feeling was mutual. We'll miss our fun-loving friend.

Larry Woody is The Democrat's outdoors writer. Email him at larrywoody@gmail.com.

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