Connections across America

fullsizeoutput_377f

After a spectacular day at Scattered Acres hunting pheasant.  These are all people I dearly love.

Easily the greatest joy on this Sabbatical Adventure was connecting with family and old friends. My many miles not only brought me to many of the best bird dog trainers in the country, but the road joyfully brought me to visit people I love.   This piece I have been wanting to write since day 1.  However, life happens, and I am publishing it five months after my return home.

IMG_1285

Scott, Jim and Jenny enjoying a Wyoming antelope steak recently harvested by Jim.

Scott, Jim and Jenny

I started this adventure with a visit to Cody Wyoming, the home of Jim and Jenny King and Scott Crook. These are some of my young friends, a generation younger, but we share the same values: God, family, making a difference with our lives and a love of nature.  Jim is an experienced fisherman and hunter. Scott is a neophyte fisherman and beginning to appreciate guns and hunting.  But he loves the outdoors, loves drinking whiskey around the campfire and allows us to tease him endlessly for his neophyte comments— “if a grizzly comes, should I hit him with my fly rod, or run?”  Our response, “If you don’t have a nymph on, run!”  The best is that Scott sometimes believes us!

This is our second time to meet in Cody because besides fly fishing, we discuss the Infinite Banking Concept.  They are both advisor/agents and Laurie and I have a policy with them.  It is a completely different way to think about money management and while Laurie and I have just put our toes into it, it has completely changed the way Jim and Scott’s family manage their resources.  It has really worked for them.  What I really appreciate about their system in the low risk which does not define other investments I am involved in.

IMG_0666

The men, telling lies about a day’s fishing with a nice whiskey beneath a lovely Wyoming sky.

We had three magical days fishing and a couple of my most memorable campfires eating Jim’s recently killed Antelope. Scott, who lives in AZ, was able to stay in “Hi Ho Silver” with me and I think I may have convinced him to consider the RV lifestyle. Jim and Jenny’s main work is running Sports Ministry trips to underdeveloped counties. To help support themselves they also have a thriving Airbnb business in Cody.  Our common interests: A living God, Honduras, ministry, baseball, fishing and hunting which give our rich fodder for storytelling. It was an inspiring start to my three-month adventure.

fullsizeoutput_3793

Tori with her new shotgun, a gift from me in celebration of a year of marriage to Lindy

Lindy and Tori

I am blessed by five amazing children and now that they are grown and have places of their own, visiting them is great fun.  I was with Lindy and Tori, only one year married, in their Billings home.  Tori is a wonderful and gracious hostess and despite dedicating every spare minute to studying for her Professional Petroleum Engineering exam while working full time at Conoco Phillips managing 150 Bakken North Dakota oil wells, she cooked delicious meals and spent time talking with me. Lindy is a structural engineer with a local engineering firm.  Together they are a dynamic duo—bright, happy and fun to be with.  On my first time through, Lindy and I hunted with Lonnie Meyer, Builder of Great Dogs and Fine Cabinets. I wrote a post by that title about our adventure.

The other cool event that happened while with Tori and Lindy was that I carried on a tradition my father, Lindsey Sr., began.  I presented Tori with her own shotgun, her first, as a gift for their one-year anniversary.  I never figured out my dad’s motivation for this gift.  Was it a thanks for the women to have put up with us four boys a full year? Was it a tool to be used to keep us in line?  He always said that he wanted the girls to appreciate and enjoy an activity that we all loved.  But my dad could be sly like a fox and I always teasingly wondered what motivated the old guy.  I will say that he had a sweet spot for women, and he was great to all our wives.

fullsizeoutput_3796

Tori shooting some clays with new new 12 gauge CZ.  By the time we go to Kansas she was a great shot.

I am following his tradition and for me the gift of the sweet CZ Drake 12 gauge to Tori is motivated by a need to make a strong statement: 1. Tori we love you.  2. We welcome you into the hunting tradition of the Gilberts and with this gift you are part of a long lineage of Gilbert’s who love the field and hunt. While in Kansas, Tori proved more than worthy of the gift, shooting “beaucoup” pheasants.

I actually made two stops with them in Billings. One while I was hunting and visiting trainers in the West and once with Laurie as she flew in to spend a long weekend together and visit Tori and Lindy’s life. As soon as Laurie left, I headed for the Midwest to continue my adventures.

Portland Friends

Irene and Chris

I made three fun stops in the Portland area.  The first was with my cool friends Irene and Chris Rael. Irene had been part of a workout group in our gym that grew into rich friendships with people unlike me.  Native New Mexicans, Irene and Chris are a couple that this year moved from ABQ to Portlandia.  They fit well in the hip, progressive, urban environment of downtown Portland.  They are semi-retired having productive jobs and businesses in ABQ which they left to have an adventure while they were still young.  I admire their courage to break out of their comfort zone and pursue new adventures. It was a joyful reunion and reminded me again how much fun it is to have friends not like me!

IMG_1411

Pat was a great defender on a State Championship soccer team at Wasatch Academy.  Now he is a great dad and grandpa.  

Pat Sims

Pat was my advisee for four years at Wasatch Academy, a college prep boarding school in Mt Pleasant Utah, where I spent 17 years.  He played soccer for me and we went through a lot together.  Pat struggled as student but was a fun character—full of teenage craziness and joy.  He had joined his father’s business paving roads and was a master technician now. Pat has a family and grandkids—oye! Most interestingly, he was back together with his high school sweetheart, Kim.  I was happy to see the good life he had built for himself.

fullsizeoutput_37a1

Paul and me in front of Hi Ho Silver on a typical Portland rainy fall morning.

Paul Pappas

Paul was always an old soul. Another advisee and soccer player, Paul distinguished himself as a great leader, a tremendous defender and a young man who gave heart and soul in each match. He graduated high school only with the constant tutoring in Spanish 2 by my wife, Laurie.  Because of advisee meals and tutoring, Paul was a frequent guest at our home.

After graduation Paul kept in touch.  For over 20 years now, he calls me almost quarterly to check in, to share stories of his life and to play, “remember when.”  “Remember when, in the State soccer Championship, the ref gave me a red card, that was undeserved.  Remember when, I was so mad at my girlfriend Tracy that I chased her up the stairs in the girls’ dorm which was usually automatic dismissal and as Dean of Students, you didn’t kick me out.  Thanks! Remember when we played Rowland Hall and I scored two goals on direct kicks from midfield?” Paul’s calls are so honoring, and he is so gracious when I visit him that when in Portland, it is a priority to spend time with Pablo.

fullsizeoutput_37cf

Tom and I had some great Ruffed Grouse hunting in Wisconsin thanks to Mosey and his great dog,    .

Brother Tom and Christy Gilbert

One of the great family blessings in my life is my youngest brother Tom.  Fourteen plus years younger than me, I hAVE always claimed that he is the best raised of the four Gilbert boys.  The first three were just practice for my folks; they were all relaxed and wise by the time Tom came around. Our age difference also meant that we never competed and that in some ways I was like a second dad.  He met Laurie when I was 19 in college and he was 5.  He shot her with a rubber band held like a pistol and claimed in his adorable little kid voice, “my bwoder Lindy taught me how to shoot a wubber band like this.”  It was love at first sight on both sides.

thumbnail_elp-1074

Nowadays Tom and I are best of friends.  We love the same things: dogs and hunting and make sure that at least one if not two trips are planned each fall.  I absolutely could not have taken this trip without some quality time in the field with him.  Our first few days were pheasant hunting in Pipestone, MN with old hunting buddies Gary Groth and John Whipple.  There was still lots of corn up, so we walked long and hard for a few birds, but I never complain about good days in the field with our dogs and people who hunt enthusiastically.  The next days were spent Grouse hunting with one of Tom’s lifetime buddy’s, Scott Mosentine or Mosey.  I will have a whole blog dedicated to that hunt.

fullsizeoutput_37aa

Tom’s “son” Gus hosted the pups rather comfortably for several days in Savage Minnesota.

Tom’s life improved about 600 percent this summer when he married Christy.  It only took Tom until he was 46 to find the woman of his dreams and Christy is that and more.  Get this—she loves dogs more than Tom, is the Greek goddess of cooking and always has a great whiskey for me when I show up.  Who could ask for anything more?  Besides that, she’s smart, comfortable in her own skin and has two great kids, Alex and Gus, who love Tom. Tom has a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Benelli, who hunts pheasants enthusiastically but retrieves as if his tail is on fire.  My dogs range father out than Ben but their styles tend to complement each other.  He has learned to go flush birds in front of EB’s on point.

Rebecca and I hamming it up in front of a Columbus train.

Steve and Rebecca Moir

Two of our young friends live in Columbus Indiana.  Steve is a mechanical engineer with Cummings and Rebecca runs Steve, the home and half of Columbus.  No disrespect intended but although Steve and Rebecca are young, they aren’t as cool as Irene and Chris.  I think living in Indiana hurts them.  However, we love them dearly and named our third daughter Rebecca after big Rebecca who was our constant companion the year, she volunteered at Wasatch Academy in the mid-80’s.  We had a blast during my day and a half visit with them.  Rebecca is one of those people who invites teasing and dishes it out with extra chocolate and whipped cream.  Steve is smart and fun to talk with so hanging out with them is highly addictive! I did no hunting but did enjoy visiting Columbus, also home of America’s Vice President, Mike Pence, who is a local hero.

IMG_1576

Granddaughter Charlotte plays a mean game of checkers.  We had a fun night camping out in Hi Ho Silver.

Amanda, Will, Charlotte and Caroline

Two days of difficult travel brought me to Lynchburg VA, home of Liberty University, Virginia Episcopal School and my eldest daughter, her fun hubby and well above average grandchildren plus a spunky French Brittany Spaniel, Sancho (Amanda is a Spanish teacher) and a horror of all horrors, a cat. Cat dander makes me sneeze and cry, so I stayed in my trailer to limit my exposure.  Amanda and Will are full time boarding school teachers/mid-level managers, which means they live in a large apartment attached to a dorm full of 9thand 10thgrade girls, so they have dorm duty, coach sports teams, have advisees at their home and live among 5-6 other similar families. There is amazing activity with lots of kids, dogs and people around.  I met and hung out at the cafeteria meeting their colleagues, visiting kids around my granddaughters ages Charlotte, age 7 ½, with a mature, serious soul and Caroline age 5, with red hair, passion for all creatures alive and no thought for tomorrow. One night, Bompa (that’s me), got to babysit so we had a sleepover in Hi Ho Silver which was really fun.  We played checkers, told stories and giggled.

fullsizeoutput_36d0

Three pheasants and 4 quail was the reward after Will, I and our three EB’s spent a day a local Virginia hunting preserve

Will and I spent a day at Orapax, a well-done hunting preserve, about an hour away.  We wanted to give our dogs some work on pheasants and quail in preparation for the Kansas hunt about two weeks away.  The dogs did well, our shooting was a bit ragged, but it was a great day.  Will’s EB, Sancho, is a smaller version of my dogs but was tenacious on points.  A couple of times we lost him in the heavy cover. Overall my visit was an absolute joy. Watching Will and Amanda, both gifted educators in the thick of teaching, leading and mentoring was fun. As an old boarding school guy, I completely understand their work, challenges and joys.  They live rich lives with many friends, little privacy but making significant impact on the people around them.  It was quite rewarding.

fullsizeoutput_37ac

Beca, Ben, Missy

My most urban stop was to visit, my second daughter Missy, daughter three, Rebecca, her husband, Ben and their sweet dogs, Loki a two-year-old EB, and Zeenah, a 6-year-old moody mixed breed mid-sized dog.  I left my trailer in Lynchburg and drove into the traffic of DC and their lovely suburban home in Falls Church.  There was no hunting on this trip and because of the constant rain we had little outdoors time; this deficit was offset by the amazing ethnic food—El Salvadorian, Middle Eastern, that we ate.  Missy is an ER nurse in one of the toughest Level 1 units in DC.  She is a relatively new nurse having just completed her Master’s in Nursing at John Hopkins.  She has a big heart and the gift of helping others heal.  I am proud of her courage.

Beca was joyfully pregnant and at this writing the happy mother of my third granddaughter, Vera Claire.  Beca is also just beginning a career in real estate and killing it already.  Beca is an organizer and connector so this position leans on her strengths as well as giving her the freedom of a flexible schedule to take care of Vera. Ben is a Middle Eastern expert and works on challenging diplomatic projects.  He has been in Algeria, Oman, Egypt, Iraq and now working with the Israel/Palestine conflict. That’s job security if I even saw it. In two days, we ate amazing food, played some serious hands of Dutch Blitz, reflected on our lives, and reconnected. It was great to see my children engaged in good work and living interesting lives.

IMG_1609

Mississippi Gun Dog Supply

While hunting with Will in Virginia, I dropped and lost my e-collar controller so my route to Texas brought me nearby Gun Dog Supply, the premier shop for dog supplies in the US.  I stopped by to see what they recommended as the best e-collar.  I already had ideas from speaking with a variety of dog trainers. Most were using the new Garmin product, the Pro Plus. The owner, Steve Snell, took some time to show how the new Garmin Pro Plus functions. He already owned one and helped with the development of the functions.

Here he is demonstrating how the complex set up works.  This tool not only has great flexibility to vibrate, beep or stimulate my dogs up to 8 miles away but it has a GPS function, so I know where my dogs are at all times. The controller has a small screen with a pointer that tells their direction and distance.  This is a great help to find a lost dog or to locate a dog on point in thick cover.  This technology means we yell less, and hunt more allowing our dogs more freedom because they do not need to be within sight all the time.  Steve sold me on its value and although the unit cost almost $900, which was painful, it works like a champ and is worth every dime.

fullsizeoutput_37b7

Ryan and I experimented with hunting quail on her 1200 acre deer lease.  We had little luck but I did bring a delicious Texas Whitetail home

Texas with Big Dude

Some of my former students have become my lifelong friends.  Ryan is at the top of that list.  Since his years at Wasatch Academy when he was 6’5’’, he was called “Big Dude by my then small son Lindy (now 6’5” himself). Including him on this trip was imperative so I drove from Virginia to San Antonio for almost a week of Texas hanging out and hunting. We had a great time hanging out with his delightful wife, Kristi and fun teenage daughter, Kendall. We spent a couple of days around his house, organizing, hanging in his club and visiting important people like his father who is in hospice but getting better!  Then we went to his deer lease and hunted deer and quail.  It was the easiest deer hunt of my life.  Ryan dropped me off at an elevated stand at 4 pm.  I watch two small bucks from my vantage point but had no clear shot.  At 4:42, right below the corn feeder set to go off at 4:45 sat a perfect cull Whitetail.  I killed it cleanly and at 4:45, I dragged it away covered, quite ironically, with corn from the feeder.

The quail hunting was not so easy.  We spread hundreds of pounds of corn on the trails hoping to drag the birds from thick cover and hunting with Ryan’s new mega hunter German Shorthair, Gordo.  We hunted hard several different times but only managed to find a couple of birds.  The lack of birds was a small matter as we had great evenings around big mesquite campfires, drinking whiskey and telling stories about our lives. I left Ryan and Texas with a nice Whitetail and great memories!

IMG_1652

The Family Hunt in Kansas

My favorite time each fall is a gathering of people who love to hunt birds together.  It is normally just a guy’s hunt but this year we invited families.  At Scattered Acres in Palmer Kansas, we spent three delightful days telling the stories of our lives, eating our favorite recipes with each family taking turns to cook, and shooting an amazing number of birds.  Joining us this year from Texas was Bill and Karina Allen, Judd and Denise Olsen and their son Tristan, from Minnesota, Tom and Christy Gilbert and their son, Gus; From Virginia, Amanda, Will, Charlotte and Caroline Rhem, from Montana, Lindy and Victoria Gilbert and Laurie and myself from Albuquerque. We shot 142 birds in three days and our dogs performed magnificently even if our shooting was spotty.

IMG_1697

Tim’s big dumb lab and Tim and I in front of his hunt club.

Tim Wells California Duck Hunting

Another old student friend is Tim Wells from the Bay area of California.  Tim was another Wasatch Academy advisee whom I took hunting in Utah. He told me many times that it saved him and helped him connect with one of his favorite activities—duck hunting. Thirty at years later, Tim is a bigger than life character, successful high-tech entrepreneur and absolute duck hunting wild man.  I have discovered that the men I enjoy hanging around most are big personalities and in that light Tim is bigger than life.  He is like his father, Ben, whom I met a few times. Tim has scads of stories about his adventures in business, sailing, hunting and surviving his crazy lifestyle.  At the same time, he is a committed husband, father and growing into a philanthropist.  I am trying to help him and Menaul School with that at the same time.

IMG_1693

Tim is a fantastic chef.  We feasted on fresh crab, prime steak and organic Brussel Sprouts.

Tim is about the whole experience of duck hunting—the camp, the birds, the dogs and the stories.  I drove a bunch of miles to make this hunt and Tim had it lined out in a magnificent way.  The first night he cooked a gourmet dinner of crab legs and prime steak. This insured that we could barely fit into waders and waddle to the blind.  The next day we hustled out early to one the of club’s cherry sunk blinds.  This blind is a metal box sunk into the mud and in about a foot of water.  There is room for two hunters and one dog.  Around us was prime duck habitat—old rice marshes now restored to wild grains and rushes.  There are decoys already set up and we added a few Mojo Duck which are decoys with wings that spin, or they swim in circles, so the ducks see motion in our set of fake ducks. This was duck heaven. We had two days of great hunting and catching up on 30 years of our lives.  It was worth the long trek to fulfill a bucket list hunt and to reconnect with Tim.

IMG_1727

We shot a bunch of ducks at Tim’s Northern California duck hunting ranch–great food, fun shooting and interesting conversations.

Headed home

Problems at the home front forced me to turn Hi Ho Silverback to Albuquerque via Mesa to visit my mom who is losing her memory and her significant other Bob who is just failing.

IMG_9154

Scott, me and the Crook girls in a fun selfie.

I also had the opportunity to take the Scott Crook and his amazing daughters shooting trap.  We shot well.  Andrea and Gabby really became strong shooters after a few rounds. Andrea even bloodied her finger and put it on her face as an initiation rite. Sophia discovered she was not ready to love trap shooting.

IMG_9164

Me, Andrea and Gabby after shooting in a local AZ shooting club.

My amazing journey had inspiring visits with people important in my life, hunts I will never forget, new connections with professional dog trainers and a lot of time to reflect on my life and its purpose.  As I write this I am profoundly thankful for so much: my amazing wife Laurie who gave me the gift of this trip, to my school who put this in my contract, to my board Chair, Drew Henry, who encouraged me to take this sabbatical, to our amazing country that has so many beautiful wild places to explore, to the welcoming family and friends who gave purpose to my travels, to my pups: Chaco and Tex, who kept me company and make trekking the fields and forests joyful.

 

 

 

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: