As we start a new year, I am grateful for our readers and, of course, my friends Ben Gish and staff at The Mountain Eagle for their help in doing Struttin’ Time.
Many friends came up to me during my annual break to tell me how much they enjoy my little column. The early Nineties was a tough time for me. My health was failing, my business and my job were going downhill, my money was going out faster than it was coming in, and my hunting buddies were leaving my side like a sun setting at dusk. But to everything there seems to be an exception, and this column is about the exception.
While the Bakers — Renfrow, Tim, Robbie, and Jonathan — never left my side, a hero stepped into my life in the person of Brandon Mason, a brother of Tim and Robbie. Each Friday evening about 4:30, a little truck would pull into my driveway at Dry Fork, and Brandon would load my hunting things up in the back of the truck and take me to Nancy to hunt. Brandon never once asked anything in return. Neither did any of the Bakers. They were true friends.
Brandon Baker was at that time a high school student, but he acted much better toward me than some of my old friends. He once helped me get into a tree stand and was to come back to get me. In the meantime, some other friends came by wanting to put their dad up in the stand. I was too sick to get down, so I just let them think I was being a jerk. They probably still do.
Brandon grew up and married a wonderful woman, mother, and wife. Her name is Donna and they have a young son that gets the love and attention that many other children don’t get these days. His name is Nicholas (we just call him Nick). An avid hunter, he has already done something amazing. At his current age of 9, Nick not only became one of a select few to draw a Kentucky elk hunting tag; he also got his elk last month.
I gave up trying to get a tag last year. As I understand, so did Brandon. But Donna never did and had Nick apply. Donna brought Nick to see Santa at “Christmas in our Hometown” in Whitesburg on the Friday night before he was to hunt on Saturday morning. As he talked with Santa, you could feel his excitement. How many kids get to talk to Santa and go elk hunting the next day?
The hunting party comprised of Nick, Donna, Brandon and Robbie was up long before daylight. After an all day hunt in beautiful weather, Nick downed his elk. My heart is still full of pride. Donna told me she has sent the ivory off to make a ring. Elk teeth make beautiful rings. I have one myself.
I am proud to call this family my friends. Who knows, it may be Nick pulling into my driveway in a few years to take me to hunt somewhere.