Good writing by a good friend
By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
Aug. 22, 2003
Last night I turned on the reading light, slid into bed and reached for my September/October issue of "Bugle", the official magazine of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, that came in yesterday's mail. As is my habit with all outdoor magazines, I looked first at the list of articles to see who the writers were for this issue.
There, just two names down from the nation's most prolific elk writer, Jim Zumbo, was the name of Larry Baesler, my close friend from North Dakota. I was no longer drowsy. I turned to page 59 and surveyed the title page that featured a tasteful sketch of a pile of hunting gear and his title, "Traveling Hopefully."
I eagerly read Larry's lines. A magnetic opening, "The huge bull elk disappears over the crest as I struggle the last few steps to the summit…" And on I read, "Good," I said under my breath, anxious to find genius in the lines of my cherished friend. "Great!", I smiled as I completed page one. He was writing in present tense. "Wonderful…wow!" I caught myself thinking right on through the short piece. "But will the end be right?" I wondered, applying the strict analysis that I impose on every writer, including myself, in search of words that move me.
Then there it was, the perfect ending that left me suspended in a state of brotherhood with my young writer friend; the amalgamation effected by his description of inspirational circumstances familiar to elk hunters.
Because I encouraged Larry to try his hand at writing over 20 years ago, the article holds special meaning for me; uncommon delight and a measure of pride.
Larry Baesler, his wife Marcie, and their three children are a family that must have been what God had in mind when He conceived the idea of family. On a 2001 pheasant hunt with them in the rolling prairie around their place, my minister and I were guests in their home. "You are going to love this family," I told James on our way up to North Dakota. Well, he was quite taken by them. Searching for a way to show his admiration, he gave Marcie his Model 1100 Remington 20 gauge shotgun on the morning we had to leave for home.
Back in the mid-seventies, the young couple moved to Beeville, Texas to take a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I was Larry's supervisor. We quickly discovered each other's love of the outdoors and made some hunts together. Larry's artistic leanings impressed me. He crafted all kinds of handy things for hunters, all with artistic adeptness. Several pieces of his art are in my den collection. One is a knife, polished to a mirror finish and with a mule deer antler handle, that he made from a buggy spring found on the Dakota prairie. Marcie made me a splendid leather sheath for it.
Larry got me into bowhunting and I will always be grateful he did. He is a skilled archer.
Recognizing all his talents, I suggested one day that he might enjoy writing outdoor stories. He was taken aback and expressed skepticism. But I knew I had planted a seed that had a good chance to bear fruit.
The Baeslers lived in Texas only a couple of years, and then home and the farm in North Dakota called. They moved back to the prairie and grew cattle and grain and sunflowers. When the big snows came and stayed for months every winter, Larry would trap and shoot coyotes and foxes and write outdoor stories. We exchanged letters often over the years, and ultimately E-mails, sometimes sharing our writing successes. He began selling stories to regional magazines and then I would see his work in national publications, mostly on bowhunting.
When we walked his fields with him two years ago for pheasant, Hungarian partridge and sharptail grouse, I learned that they were thinking of moving to a city now that the kids were leaving home. But still it came as a surprise last year when he wrote that they were moving to Cheyenne where he would become Director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation. His love of wildlife was leading him to bigger things.
Of course they kept the farm and they get back there often, especially during pheasant season. Too much of their lives were spent there to abandon the land.
Marcie and Larry Baesler are people of enormous faith, talent and benevolence that make me so glad that I can call them my friends. And now Larry has reached a plateau in writing that few attain.
I take no credit for his talent. My only claims to his writing success are my suggestion that he give it a try and my encouragement. I do chuckle at a certain preposition in his elk story that he uses to tie the pivotal thought to an introductory phrase. The effect is like a large wave crashing against a shoreline rock immediately following a lesser one. Ironically I use that little preposition in exactly the same way, a usage that is not common among today's outdoor writers. But Larry did not learn the technique from me, for we write for different publications. We adopted the practice independently and I like to think it is more evidence of our kindred conceptualizations.
I have photocopied "Traveling Hopefully" and will keep it handy. When I want to be reminded of what good writing looks like, I will pull it out and read.