At Long Last

The cover of Nick's book "Life and Longbows".

My love of literature began at infancy.

My mother would dispute anyone who dared challenge the statement. According to her, all three of us Viau boys latched on to specific objects around the house without any prompting or explanation. My brother Matt loved hammers and hitting things with them. My brother Isaac loved whatever he could find on the floor and fit into his mouth. And I loved books.

“My Nick always loved his books.” She’d say. “You shook whenever you’d see one and pretended to read them to me the moment you learned to babble.”

That love for reading grew with me. I looked forward to Book Order time and always had a pile on my desk the day they’d arrive. Mom never said “no” to books. She put a premium on them and it stuck with me.

The third grade was my first literary epiphany. I enjoyed everything I read, including youth classics like Charlotte’s Web and Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac MacGee, which is still my favorite youth novel of all time. It was during this time, I discovered outdoor authors Gary Paulson and Jean Craighead George. Their novels Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain, spoke to me in ways no other books had. I grew up in the woods and spent hours exploring, making forts, crafting weapons, and knocking over decaying birch tree stumps. The idea of kids surviving on their own in the wild was everything I’d ever wanted in a story. I was so infatuated with Hatchet, in factthat I saved up the $50 and bought a leather-wrapped Estwing. It hardly left my side for several years.

The seed had been planted and was cultivated in middle/high school through Richard Adam’s Watership Down and Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. While not “outdoorsy” per se, the animals were the main characters, and the storytelling was top notch. I had little issue relating to the characters or the world, in which they lived.

While my appetite was always there, my tastes changed in college. Giants such as Crane, London, Twain, and Hemingway changed the way I looked at literature. Reading it was no longer enough. I needed to participate and believed I could. The next few years were spent on songs and poetry with the occasional short story sprinkled over the top. But I was lacking a consistent topic and an outlet to share my work.

I found the topic when I discovered archery in 2009. The outlet arrived in 2010, when I discovered blogging and created Life and Longbows. Still, the education was far from over. The journey had just begun. My archery immersion led to my re-acquaintance with the outdoors, which led to further writing discoveries. Authors such as MacQuarrie, Ruark, Voelker, and Colonel Tom Kelly changed the way I saw the page. Gordon MacQuarrie, in particular, had a profound effect on me. He showed me the power of relationships, humor, and dialogue and how they could make a good hunting/fishing story a great one.

This changed the game completely. I no longer felt that my outdoor experiences were inadequate in comparison to other hunters. In fact, I realized comparing was silly to begin with. The value of an experience is subjective to the hunter. Some search for solitude chasing moose in Alaska. Others long for the romance of the Dark Continent. And some find satisfaction hunting whitetails in their backyard with a buddy or two. This is where the idea for Life and Longbows manifested.

I wanted to introduce you to a younger me, walk you through my experiences (good and bad) and show you how I got to this point — with as much transparency as possible. I am no expert. I wouldn’t even call myself a “good” bowhunter. But I do love bowhunting and the people I’ve hunted with.

All that being said, I hope you will consider purchasing Life and Longbows and will recommend it to your friends when you are finished. I hope you will enjoy reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it.

You can purchase a signed copy of Life and Longbows here

 

 

Snagged

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Fishing was never easy for me. I found it boring and stressful, as a child. The idea of touching worms and fish grossed me out. In fact, one of my earliest childhood photographs depicts my (much younger) father tormenting his bawling son with a freshly caught perch and a devilish smile across his face. Mom offered a comic book bounty for the biggest fish caught just to get me to participate.

Dad loved to fish. It was his release. Taking us fishing – not so much. We snagged more than we fished and the old man spent more time untangling our messes than fishing. When he wasn’t fixing snags, he was griping about fixing snags. No one could gripe like my old man – not even the rookie version. He had an aptitude for it and is a veteran now that he’s in his 60s.

We were terrified of him. He was never violent but could be terrifying nonetheless. We hated coming clean on wrongdoings and there was nothing more egregious than a snagged fishing line on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. It was understood amongst us boys that you kept your mouth shut and rod straight should you find yourself in the salad. We would sit there, lines tight, until the wary eye of the seasoned angler happened to glance our way. He always knew. He ignored us sometimes but he knew. Mom was there to point it out whenever that happened. He would’ve ignored her too, had it been possible. She had a way of being heard when she wanted to be.

“Steve?”

Silence.

“Steve?”

Silence.

“Steve!”

“Whaaaaaaaat?!”

“I think your son has a snag.”

“Ahhh for crying out loud! Which one?”

“All of them.”

The results were always the same. You could hear his heart racing and synapses snapping up-and-down the Cheboygan River. He’d throw a fit, reel in his line, and mutter his way down the bank – arms flailing for maximum effect. He would then spend the next 10 minutes trying to free the line. If that didn’t work, he would break off and spend another 15 retying and baiting. Then there was the state of our reels, which was usually abysmal post catastrophe. That would add another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the nest we’d constructed by not owning up to the mistake. By the time the old man had one of us straightened out, another would get fouled up. It was a never-ending cycle of comedy and despair. To fully grasp my father’s frustration, you’d have to have lived it yourself or attempted to change consecutive flats on a busy highway with temps well into the 90s. He must have been out of his mind to have subjected himself to that level of anxiety. But that is what good parents do – and I had great ones.

These memories have always made me smile. Now a right hand filled with river-kissed cork makes me grateful. I am a fisherman. It took me 20 years to get here, but I am here nonetheless. Dad knew what he was doing. He understood the bond-building elements of outdoor activity and how important planting the seed was.

Now its my turn.

My daughter Aubrey in her first pair of waders.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out our latest Traditional Outdoors episode with Glen Blackwood of the Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company. Glen is a life long trout enthusiast and his passion for the sport is infectious. We also talk about taking kid’s fishing and share a fantastic online resource for doing so.