But over time, the big galoot kind of grew on me. He was kind and sweet and gentle. Sort of a teddy bear, really. By the fall of their senior year, I was going to his football games because he cared about football and I cared about him. He wasn't kind or sweet there. He was scary – big, strong and fast. But he had a wonderful heart, and Mama B (she was a long way from being Mama B yet, but I've gotta call her something here) saw that. Pretty soon, he was going to the cabin with us. He was going to church with us. We were helping him with his homework. He wasn't vermin anymore. He was the boy who would grow to be the man we call Long Rifle.
He was a great young man, but he wasn't much of a hunter or angler until he fell in with us. He'd done it some, hadn't really loved it. But any guy who loved Mama B was going to have to learn his way around in the wild country, and so he did. He took to it immediately. The first time I took him elk hunting, we killed a cow deep down in a sagebrush draw below a rim. His dad and I stumbled and struggled and finally after 20 or 30 minutes, we managed to drag the front half of the elk to the truck. He watched us, then simply squatted down in front of the back half and asked us to put it on his back. He grabbed the legs behind his head and just walked off with it. Elk hunting got a lot easier with Long Rifle in our camp.
But he’s not just the designated pack horse. He’s as quiet as a whisper of wind going through the woods. He knows the country now, and he can cover a vast swath of it in a day. He’s a good hunter. He may be an even better angler. I know hundreds of people who are involved in fishing, but I’m not sure I know anyone who loves it more than Long Rifle. He’ll fish all day, just to be fishing. But what really endears this big, strong guy to all of us is his commitment to teaching the kids. He’s dad when he’s teaching his own kids - Spunky, Bubba, G-Baby and Gus. He’s the world’s coolest uncle when he’s teaching the Apprentice, the Ranger and the rest of them. But for me, he’s the man I wish I had been when I was in my 30’s. I’m dang proud of him. Meet Long Rifle.