Honorable Mentions

Life On The Back Page - January 2023

Daryl Gay | December 29, 2022

Flip backwards amongst all these pages and somewhere you’ll trip across what I writ concerning Sam Muzayen. Which is about half of what I wanted to write, but other folks hereabouts is better at this than I is so they has to have their pages, too. Editorial Capacity Supervisory Specialist (I just made that up!) and rabbit huntin’ champeen Brad Gill tells me when to stop spitting out space-eating words; just before he starts flinging rocks.

Then promptly forgets that I also have MORE space back here! (What he don’t know won’t twist his thinking, so hush.) This is kind of like my own little closet down the hall; nobody remembers what’s stored within and everybody is scared to open the door. 

The primary job of an editor is to place 10 pounds of words into a five-pound bag without mashing them first. Like taters. Gill is very good at that. And with them thar leftover words, some sly editor many moons ago came up with what’s called a sidebar. This very possibly fits into that category…

OK, so I meet a lot of people. A LOT of people. I have acquaintances by the score; but very few friends. So, probably, do you, whether or not that fact is acknowledged.

I meet hunters and fishermen, as well as fisheries and wildlife experts, in my job on a routine basis. Most fit like an old shoe: down-to-earth, common-sense-equipped, outdoors-loving guys and gals who are my kind of folks.

(Strangely enough, over all these years there are but two men that I took an INSTANT dislike to—and both are involved with the premier fishing organization in this country.)

Finally, there are people who make me realize what an honor it is just to be able to spend time with them. A few: Charlie Elliott (dear friend and mentor), Leon Kirkland (former DNR Commissioner and a large reason you’re reading this), Doyle Dowdy (the best friend a man ever had); and then there are Jeff Hutcheson and Sam Muzayen.

Honor: high respect; great esteem.

Yeah, that’s what I felt with each of those guys. 

Did several features on Hutch over the years, and he has his own chapter in Rabbit Stompin’ and Other Homegrown Safari Tactics. Pull a camper from south Georgia to Ontario—3,920 round-trip miles—with a man to check out the bear population and you get to know him fairly well.

He could also drive a golf cart, pre-dawn checking traps, faster than a Hemi Cuda. I’ll never live to be a hundred after undertaking those trips. We duck hunted, deer hunted, trapped, fished, shucked, jived and laughed until our guts hurt.

Did I mention that he was paralyzed from the waist down?

Neither did he.

And if you wanted to perturb him in the worst way, offer to lend a hand. It was like slapping him in the face with a dead housecat. Never thought I’d meet another like him…

And I didn’t. Until Sam Muzayen came along. You may have read about Sam before getting here, but if not, he has a prosthesis for a left leg, all the way to the hip.

I had a lot of experience with Jeff, so I hung close to Sam and pulled him out of a couple swamp holes back in October. Not because he wanted me to exactly; simply the quickest way, and we were in a hurry.

But I was curious about the prosthesis, and he was very open in explanation. So I began contrasting my hunting, among other things, with his.

For instance, if it’s too warm or too cold or the wind is blowing from the wrong direction or I have an ache or a pain, let’s just ditch the deer hunting expedition and sleep in.

Here’s Sam’s take…

The stump of my left hip is going to be rubbed raw if I take too many steps, and a two-mile, five-plus hour jaunt into the Okefenokee chasing a bear qualifies. I know I have an elk hunt scheduled in Montana, and may not have time to recover, but right now the most important thing on this planet is a black bear just a LITTLE farther and it’s leaving here with me…

And here’s Jeff’s: My parents (obviously in a moment of temporary insanity) won’t allow me to go on this Canada trip unless Daryl goes with me, and I know it’s going to be 4,000 miles and I’ll have to eat what we kill and he cooks, and he’ll have to pack me on his grumpy back to the tree if we ever get a bear up one but there IS a bear up there that’s coming back with me…

And if you wonder about that back-packing part, it’s because Hutch was a hunter. He totally, absolutely refused to shoot a bear over bait. He wanted it done ahead of the pack, just like everybody else in the group; no shortcuts. It never happened, but brother we gave it all we had. And I gotta tell you: that big galoot was heavy!

So Sam gets his bear, we all come home, rest up and off we go again, right? How about, after sleeping 16 hours through six alarms, what’s left of your leg is so raw and painful that you can’t even put the prosthesis back on for days? And the twisting, turning, falling and being hefted up has your back in such spasms that even trying to get out of bed is agonizing? You’d get the crutches out of the closet, but putting weight on them is pure torture for your shoulders.

 So I ask myself: how much do you REALLY love to hunt?

 Meeting Sam Muzayen and remembering Jeff sparked a new resolution: Whine Not…  

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