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DRIFTWOOD OUTDOORS: The benefit of experience

DRIFTWOOD OUTDOORS: The benefit of experience

Outdoor adventure with old-timers always interesting

May 12th, 2013 by Brandon Butler, columnist, in News

I'm lying in a Motel 6 hotel room about two hours from my house. I've been on the road for over a week and there is nothing I want more in this world than to sit on my couch with my wife and kids and kick up my feet.

But my traveling partners, all more than 30 years my senior, wanted to stop for the night based on their shared philosophy of "Why push it?" And so it goes when on the road with old-timers. The lessons learned though, make the slower place something to appreciate.

We were attending a conference of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers in the Black Hills of South Dakota. There were about 40 people in our group hunting for turkey and fishing for trout. Everyone is somehow affiliated with the outdoor industry. The age range consisted of folks in their early 30s to Thayne Smith, who is 84.

Thayne has been working in the outdoor industry for more than 50 years. He's been a writer for more than 60 years who has handled public relations for companies like Coleman and Jayco, and he lives in Oklahoma.

I've sat next to Thayne for more than 20 hours in the back seat of a Ford Explorer picking his brain about how things are today compared to years gone by. He shakes his head when talking about how fast the world moves these days.

I have to admit, before leaving on this trip I thought Thayne would have a hard time killing a turkey in the Black Hills. They're really mountains with elevations approaching 7,000 feet. I was worried about myself hiking in such elevations in search of a gobbler, let alone a man pushing 85 years old.

My worries began to dissipate a bit when we toured the Badlands National Park the first day of our trip. Thayne was spry, hiking trails and snapping photos. He always has his note pad in his front pocket, like you would see a newspaper man do back in the day. Always aware, always thinking, reaping the most from every day he has left, Thayne is an example of how we should all make the most of our time.

Thayne doesn't move fast, but he doesn't need to. Experience tells him to relax, to follow the process and things will work out. And work out for him on this trip they did. Thayne killed a turkey, and his success brought joy to every heart at the conference.

Chances are you know someone who is elderly that unfortunately chooses to spend their twilight years waiting to die. I surely know a few old folks like that. Thayne is not one of them, and I hope to be like him if the good Lord blesses me with similar longevity.

If you have someone in your life who tries to use the excuse they're too old to fish or hunt anymore, use Thayne as an example to encourage them to get back out there and enjoy themselves.

I must admit, spending money to stay the night so close to my house was a little frustrating, but when I took a second to realize how fortunate I am to have the company I do, then I realized it's a blessing to be able to spend another night with a great man who just completed quite an adventure, conscious of the fact his future hunts are limited.

See you down the trail ...

Brandon Butler is an outdoor columnist for the News Tribune. Contact him at