It has been a while since I last updated you about my friend, John. After we took him home for a special Thanksgiving, John seemed to gain a little pep to his step. All he could talk about was how much he enjoyed the day, and he started thinking about maybe moving back home. I even let him convince me it was a real possibility, and I helped him research as to how much it would cost to hire an in-home care giver for twenty-four-hours a day care. It was going to be pricy, but John had his mind made up. John was going home right after the first of the year, 2023.

In the meantime, John decided that he would spend Christmas day back at his farm. Harry and his family had put up a tree and, with the help of Jeanne and my family, John’s home was completely decorated for Christmas. We picked John up mid-morning on Christmas day 2023 and took him to his farm. As we turned into his drive, he said that he decided that he wanted to get his shotgun, and head to the back of his property, and try and shoot some geese before Christmas dinner. That caught me a little off guard, as I really didn’t know what to say. After a short uncomfortable pause, John laughed and said he was only kidding. However, he said that many a Christmas morning, he had shot geese off the back pond and sometimes Liz would bake it for Christmas dinner!

Once inside, John went around and looked at all the decorations and let everyone know how appreciative he was of the effort that had gone in to making everything so festive. He even laughed out loud at the Santa hats that my daughter, Anna, had put on many of his mounts. As the girls already had the meal ready, we all sat right down for Christmas dinner. As he did at Thanksgiving, John said the prayer, and we all dug into a meal of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, sweet potato casserole, apple mash, apple salad and homemade roles. I watched as John took time to look at Jeanne, my kids and grandkids and glance over to a picture of his wife, Liz, that sat on a table in the dinning room. I imagined that he was thinking back to past Christmases, and I remembered something that he had said to me the very first day I met him, “I have outlived my wife, Liz, and all my buddies.” I’m sure he must have had some mixed feelings.

After dinner, John insisted on washing at least some of the dishes. He told us that he always did the dishes, as he felt it was the least he could do to repay his wife for the effort that she had put into every meal. He couldn’t stand long enough to finish them all, but John washed a bunch of the dishes before he retired into the living room for a nap. After everything was in order, everyone came into the living room for a gift exchange. John loved the slippers that we got him, and I was overjoyed with the gift he gave me. It was a leather journal, titled “Keith’s Adventures” that John said would force me to write down some of my own hunting stories. I told him I would.

After the gifts were opened, John got up and went over to his bookshelf and picked out one of his hunting journals and settled back into his chair. After thumbing through some of the pages, he stopped and asked if we would like to hear a short story. Of course, we did, so we all gathered around to listen.

In a voice that did not sound like a man who was about to turn 100 years old, John began. “This is a story of a long-ago Christmas morning. ‘Merry Christmas, son,’ my dad said as he handed me a worn gun case. ‘This gun is yours now. I know it’s a used gun, but it sure has been a good one for me for many a year.’ I had seen my dad pull a gun from that case my entire life. My heart was pounding in anticipation as I prayed that my dad was giving me the Winchester 30-30 that I had watched him shoot so many times before.

When I unzipped the case, my prayers had been answered, as in my hands was the gun I had seen my dad shoot several deer and many a coyote that had come too close to our farm for comfort. He could see how pleased I was, and he said, ‘You are almost 14 years old, John, and you are ready for it. I’m sure you and her will share many adventures together.’ With that, he hugged me and said, ‘I love you, John! Every time you shoot that old gun, I hope you think of me.’”

When he finished that line, John stopped and gazed out of the window. He didn’t even try to hide the tears that ran down his face. “That was nearly 85 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I sure wish I could hug my mama and daddy one more time.” After a short pause he looked at me and said, “Hey Keith, if you look over there behind the tree, you will see one more gift and it’s for you.” When I looked behind the tree, I saw a worn-out gun case. When I unzipped it, I could see it was a Winchester 30-30. So many thoughts ran through my mind, but I just couldn’t find the words. John broke the silence and said, “Keith, I want you to have it. I’m sure you and her will share many adventures together.”

It was now me who had tears running down my cheeks. I hugged John and told him that I loved him. He whispered in my ear, “You have no idea what you have done for this old man. I love you like the son I never had.” My own Dad has been gone for nearly 18 years, and I felt like a kid again to feel the hug from John’s old arms. Needless to say, it was a very special Christmas.

Well, in late January 2023, John moved back into his own home. John had a full-time caregiver, and Harry and his family all but lived there, too. I stopped by regularly, took Sunday supper with him nearly every week. There were a few speed bumps along the way, but John adjusted to moving home and was doing great. His health and mobility seemed to improve every day.

Then, on June 13, 2023, I received the call I had hoped would never come. It was Harry and he said that John was gone. He said that after breakfast, John had gone into the living room to watch his favorite show, “Gunsmoke.” His caregiver looked in on him about an hour later and found him sitting in his easy chair, with one of his journals across his lap, sitting so peacefully, he looked like he was just sleeping. John had gone to heaven to be with his Liz, and to start his eternal adventure.

I got there about the time they came to take John away. Harry gave me the journal that was in John’s lap. He said that John had made it clear that I was to get all his journals when he was gone. He said that he didn’t know John was still writing in the journals, but it was obvious that he had been writing as the last entry was not complete. Isn’t that the way it always is, our work here is never really ever completed. One day, I will share with you John’s last story, as well as many of the other exciting adventures that he recorded.

God Bless!

KeithMark-Sign-200x80

Keith Mark

Founder of Hunter Nation

6 Comments

  1. John A. Webber on December 25, 2023 at 1:58 pm

    I can picture John sitting in his chair watching Gunsmoke. They broke the mold with that generation. Tough as nails, honest as the day is long, God fearing people. They are turning over in their graves watching our country today. We will miss them! Thank you Keith for what you do!!

  2. Steve Hansen on December 25, 2023 at 2:51 pm

    I just completed the entire 5 parts! I have to hold back my tears as I can relate to this story! I too had a very close friend who was much older than myself! He was an avid outdoorsman- hunting and fishing! He became so close- we spent hours together in his cabin together telling stories about hunting and fishing! I had to wait for him to retire from his dentist life! He was a Dentist Furst- not second- but Furst- as that was his last name!! Doc and i would find a pond- cast a line and sit and visit- many times about all the trips he had gone on in his Furst life! He had hunted around the world also- but he throughly enjoyed the calm bobber sitting on a calm pond’s water just waiting for it to drop out of sight! We caught many a catfish! Or the times we sat on an edge of a hay field in some big bales waiting for the large honkers to settle into our decoys!
    On our last fishing trip together- we weee fishing together( 4 friends together) miles from home- in a cabin planning to catch the early flights into the river next to us as the daylight broke! Then we were planning to fish the “chute” on the river where the big fish ly!
    But as I was sound asleep- I heard a loud noise coming from the bathroom in the cabin! One of the friends jumped up and went to see what was going on! Our plans changed quickly as Doc was bleeding heavily from his bowels!! No warning ahead of time/ no sign of trouble beforehand!
    We got everything gathered up and loaded up including the dog we had with us (a beautiful golden retriever) and headed towards home! We had called Doc’s wife and she headed towards our location! We met and loaded him her car and off they speed to the big city for the hospital! Our trip was canceled and we went back home and waited to hear back about Doc!
    He was alright- just a bowel issue that they corrected and he came home after a few days! But as it turned out- that incident caused Doc to have an onset of dementia and he slowly went downhill! He developed a completely different personality- angry- ran naked one day down the street. Finally had to go to the nursing home in a locked wing for his own safety! I went to visit often- some times to just sit and look at each other- other times to revisit trips we had gone on or some we had gone on in his mind!
    My friend/ a Great Man was just a person without any memory finally- but he sure had a beautiful smile when I walked in to visit! I sure miss my fishing buddy!
    Your story here reminded me so much about Doc, I had to share with you my story!
    Thank You!
    Merry Christmas!
    Keep up your love for the Wild!

  3. Jim Vilos on December 25, 2023 at 4:10 pm

    That is a POWERFUL story and holds so true to those of us, who carry on and pass on the traditions and things that mean so much to us, regardless of relatives or just true friends. WOW!! It hit “HOME” with me, and so many of today’s youth have been poisoned by the “trashy garbage” that engulfs cell phones and video games. I see children 6+ years old running around staring at a cell phone. They live for TODAY ONLY! I asked some kids a few months ago, if they really think about life TOMORROW, NEXT WEEK, MONTH, YEAR? Their response was “No!” I said “what if something happens to your parents?” Their response, “I don’t know, I guess I’ll see “if” that happens.” They will be a lost generation, and their children will be even worse, in most cases! I pray this turns around before I go to the “HAPPY HUNTING GROUNDS!!”🙏🇺🇲🫎🐗🦌🐻‍❄️🦆🪶☘️🍀☘️🍀🇺🇲💯☝️

  4. Brian Solum on December 25, 2023 at 8:24 pm

    A great story. God bless you Keith & Hunter Nation!

  5. Bill R. King on December 26, 2023 at 9:08 am

    God is amazing, may you, John and all of your family be Blessed in the upcoming 2024 year.

  6. Darrel Purdy on February 12, 2024 at 3:52 pm

    Thank you. Beautiful life, well lived. Thank you again.

Leave a Comment