I had every intention this week on writing a piece about a few wild edibles that we could utilize if the you-know-what ever hits the fan. But I had to change things up a bit so that I could tell you about something that recently happened in my life.
You know they tell you that heroes never die, but they do. They do die. They leave us. They’re here one day and then they are gone. Yes, I know it is part of life that has to happen and that we all must prepare for it but the emptiness that one feels when that day comes is almost too much to bare.
In your mind you never think that a hero could die. You don’t think about it. Deep down inside you know that one day it will happen, but you hope that day never comes.
Spiritually they will live on forever but physically they are gone and that is where the emptiness takes hold. That itself is the hardest part.
We all have heroes that we hold close. For many it is an athlete or an actor or someone that we have no real personal connection with. And by that, I mean knowing them deeply.
I am fortunate to have a hero that was close to me, a family member, a cousin in fact. He was nearly 25 years older but that made no difference to me.
I was just a young kid when it all started. He would be back from Montana to visit his folks when my family to would stop by for a visit. I would sit at the bar in the kitchen of his parents’ house and look at all the photos he would bring back.
He was a hunting guide and outfitter living in southwest Montana. How he got there is a story in itself that I will share with you another day. But anyway, in those photos I would see bears, and elk, and mountain goats, along with the mountains, trout, wild scenery, and a mountain man, a real-life mountain man. That mountain man was my cousin of course and sitting there that very first time I knew I wanted to be just like him.
As I grew our only contact was those yearly visits that I looked forward to so much. In between I would gather information from his mother who I was very close to. I always knew what he was up to and what was going on in Montana.
Then it finally happened. I went to Montana. It was a Spring bear hunt and if I wasn’t hooked fully, I was sure hooked then. It was one of the greatest experiences of my young life.
No, I didn’t get a bear but what I got was something even more special. We got to know each other. All those photos that I looked at over all those years were now coming to life, now they were more than just photographs. I learned about his life, he learned about mine. I learned about my family, our family. We were blood after all, and it was just what I needed.
We were close after that first visit. I would visit Montana several more times and when he would come back to Illinois we would take off on daily jaunts.
In between visits we would keep in touch with letters. He would always send a photo or two that always kept me inspired. It might be a photo of a mountain or his snow -covered sheep camp or maybe an elk. It didn’t matter they were all great.
Whenever I did get a letter, he would end it with by saying ‘Happy Trails’. And now that ending has more meaning than ever.
I have been going through photos of us together and time did not allow me to get them into the column this week, but I will share a few next week with another story or two.
It is just hard to believe that he is gone. His wife and daughter posted a little something on his Facebook page to let his friends know of his passing. I have looked at that post now 50 times and I just cannot get the words out of my head. He is really gone.
His ashes will be spread near Watchtower Mountain. We had been there together three times I believe and I plan on taking one last hike with him as we go into Watchtower later this month.
Happy Trails to you Ken Allaman. May you rest in peace. We will meet again someday….on a mountain somewhere.