Today’s post comes from Steve.
A cherished tradition among outdoor sportsmen is sharing experiences with a special buddy. People can, of course, have fun while hunting, camping, canoeing or fishing alone. Yet most outdoor sportsmen much prefer experiencing those activities with a soul mate. Traditionally, that outdoor buddy has been male, but one of the loveliest trends is the interest women are now showing in outdoor pursuits.
I’ve had several outstanding outdoor buddies. Early in my marriage I introduced my wife to outdoor sports, and she became a treasured partner during outdoor adventures. Our friend Jerry had a kinky sense of humor that made him a favorite companion. Jan, so athletic and intelligent, became a frequent fishing partner after her husband’s death. And then there was Dick, the perfect partner for me, right down to the fact we both were writers. Alas, Dick accepted a job in Washington shortly after we met, so that partnership died almost before it was born.
Meanwhile, the young man I spent the most time with outdoors was Bill. Bill is the smartest and most universally competent man I’ve met. He can fly an airplane, pilot a sailboat, paddle a canoe, drive a team of sled dogs, and walk forever. Like me, Bill dives into outdoor sports with more zeal than is prudent. In Grand Marais, where he practiced medicine for decades, Bill was regarded the most accomplished angler in the county. And when outdoor trips get challenging, as some inevitably do, Bill is a good sport.
And yet Bill and I were so fundamentally unlike each other that our friendship was improbable. Bill has a temper. I do not. He frequently becomes obsessive-compulsive, which is the opposite of loosey-goosie me. Bill overplans, whereas I’m sloppy and trusting to a fault. Bill has been described as “controlling,” a word nobody ever applied to me. We’re just different.
Even so, Bill and I share a great deal of history. I met him at the University of Minnesota fifty-four years ago. Together we have experienced marriage, divorce, childbirth and the too-short lifespans of many wonderful dogs. We’ve suffered horrific weather in seven states and three Canadian provinces, nearly dying a time or two when we took chances prudent men would never take. I’ve seen the worst of Bill, and he’s seen the worst of me.
And yet I kept hoping to find the perfect partner I’d always dreamed of, the partner I had in Dick before fate determined we would live a thousand miles apart.
I remember the night Bill told me about a steelhead fishing trip he had taken with other friends to a wilderness park in Ontario. Bill described sitting in a camp chair, sipping scotch while the Milky Way lit up the sky over the big lake. Bill said, “It was so beautiful! And I thought, ‘Gee, this couldn’t be more perfect . . . <i>except if Steve were here.’</i>”
That line hit me like a blow to the solar plexus. I reflected on times Bill and I had laughed and cried together over our long friendship. I realized that I had been pining for an ideal outdoor buddy although I already had found him, long, long ago. And oddly enough, after all our time together it seems I have become a bit like Bill, just as he has become more like me. In view of how imperfect I am, I can only shake my head about my silly drive to find a perfect partner. I’m lucky to have the partner I have.
Have you ever looked for something you already had? Do you have a friend who is your natural partner in a favorite hobby? What qualities distinguish your best friend? Do you prefer hanging out with someone just like you, or do you enjoy the sizzle of a friendship that flourishes in spite of differences?