I had known Earl Bumgarner for about 20 years and enjoyed every minute we were together.
When we first met, Earl, of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, asked if he could call me Uncle Steve, because he said I reminded him of an uncle he never had. For the life of our friendship, I was always his uncle.
Earl was a avid hunter and fisherman. He loved hunting in the Western states and had taken everything from mule deer, to antelope, to black bear, turkeys, and beyond. Earl was a humble man who loved his family. He and Tammy were high school sweethearts and had two boys who were following in Earl’s footsteps.
When Earl asked me if he could hunt on my farm in West Virginia, the answer was, of course, yes. Earl took the biggest deer ever taken on my Out Post land and never hunted there again. When I ask him why, he replied, “I don’t want to ruin my own record. One hunt, biggest buck killed there. How do you top that? By the way, the deer had 13 points.
Earl loved to see me come to North Carolina to stay in their cabin and hunt on their land. My mind may fade even more than it has now, but the friendship, love, and the closeness we shared together will never be forgotten. He took his sons to the New River to fish — his favorite river by the way — and got sick while on that trip. Because of a rare form of lung cancer, he crossed the Silent River just a few days later, on June 30. My friend Earl was only 44 years old.
I can see Earl in my mind’s eye laughing, wading the river with his two sons and leaving here doing something he loved to do. See you someday soon, my friend. And don’t catch all the fish!