Quality is always deeper than meets the eye. People are that way too. Once in a while I meet someone who strikes me as deep. Most of these people are both personable and authentic. As a side trait most of these quality people make you part of their story. Often they leave a legacy behind. Think about someone who you look up to. They likely have some of these personality traits.
TWO SPECIAL FREDS
For some reason many of the special people in my life are hunters. One guy who invested in me and who exhibited these traits was an Athabascan Indian from Kenai Alaska by the name of Fred Mamaloff. We hunted Alaska Range moose and dodged Brown Bears while hunting Kodiak Sitka Blacktails together. We brushed against death on both the Yukon and the Kantishna. We shared a ton of campfires and more than one adventure that were both miserable and memorable…sometimes life threatening. These are interesting people and they are the fodder for great campfire stories. Not everyone gets the privilege of having one of these unique people in their lives. I was lucky to have spent time with a number of these folks along the trail I’ve followed.
Nearly 20 years ago I traveled from my home in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains to Tulsa Oklahoma to attend a convention. It was the Pope and Young convention and I was there with some notable bowhunting friends from Alaska to hear another Fred tell his stories. We were in a giant ball room with fancy chairs and linen. I had met the keynote speaker before, but tonight I was privileged to sit around his ‘final campfire’ and hear the stories of his life of adventure. Fred Bear was one of these quality people.
Fred Bear was given the floor that night to share his message for 60 minutes. At least that is what the program at my place setting said. Fred got up behind the podium… and the ball room turned into a campfire that we all sat close around. Three hours later as the embers died, he closed with one final story. Fred’s eyes often stared past the crowd and into the spruce forest beyond the bowhunters sharing this evening with him. We heard Fred Bears best stories that evening. His eyes were alive with excitement as he took us with him on stalks along distant mountainsides and along great rivers. The best part of his stories was that he never made you feel like he was somebody special. The stories were about the adventures and miss-adventures, about bowhunting… and not about him.
He joked about tiger hunting in India from elephants and stalking brown bears on the beach at Wide Bay… he shared the details of hunts that had occurred 30 years before. Fred talked about both good and bad hunts where the weather and not the grizzlies were the real danger. He often spoke with more excitement about the misses and follies than his significant accomplishments. It was a real privilege to be part of his last campfire. Fred Bear passed away shortly after that last evening with friends.
THE LEGACY ENDURES
I took my first whitetail with a hand-me-down Fred Bear Kodiak II recurve. I paid $15 for that bow. I bought it from my buddy’s brother who went by the name of “Chuck Roast”. I also purchased 3 cedar arrows with Bear Razorhead broadheads. That bow started me down the trail I’m still on … 50 years later. The old Bear Kodiak recurve now hangs along with two of those arrows in my office.