I have enjoyed an outdoor writing career lasting over four decades. Thousands of hours in this craft taught me many lessons, including the true meaning of success.
Being inducted into three halls of fame as a writer is humbling, but not at first. Your head starts to swell the moment that plaque is placed in your hand. Your friends and family pat you on the back and your name is listed in history. Then you start to think about what all of this really means.
My first honor was the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in their Legendary Communicator 2010 class. Suddenly my name could be mentioned with the world’s elite of fishing journalists, but then I started reading the list of my fellow inductees.
The list was full of writer’s names I had read throughout my childhood. They planted a seed in my mind decades ago that made me start recording fishing trips on paper throughout my youth. These guys painted pictures with words that touched a young boy’s heart while making the world want to fish. They introduced me to a future that would make my life complete, and that is serious power.
I read further down the list and found several lure makers, a few I had known. Their advertising dollars required to present each crafted lure to the public made it possible for fishing publications to exist. Photos of Arbogast, Heddon, Mepps, Roostertail Spinners and many others whet a young angler’s appetite to own these lures and catch fish. That is good marketing and partly why fishing has always been a huge market.
Ray Scott is in the Fishing Hall of Fame and he started the Bassmaster tournaments. We had small tournaments before then, but this was the beginning of big payoffs for successful anglers. Scott’s contributions made bass fishing a huge international sport.
I looked father down the list and found many names the public would recognize, including Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway. How many outdoor lives did these two American icons inspire to fish or hunt?
My second honor was induction into the Missouri Waterfowler’s Hall of Fame in 2013. I joined some of Missouri’s greatest waterfowl hunters and conservationists in celebrating what made waterfowl hunting huge in the Mississippi Flyway.
I was humbled to join one of my mentors, the late Bill Bennett who redefined newspaper outdoor journalist in the St. Joseph News Press. He gave me a lot of sound advice in my fledgling journalist years and a mindset on how to appreciate your readers. More importantly, he taught me how to laugh at myself in print while not offending others. I watched him stand up for conservation and sportsmen’s rights and have tried to do the same.
Sportsmen’s dollars have made waterfowl and other wildlife programs exceptionally successful in Missouri and Kansas, starting with outdoor communicators that kept the public informed. Today many are trying to channel conservation dollars to their own agenda. Taxpayer beware if you care about our great outdoors. Read the fine print before you vote.
The history of waterfowl conservation and hunting is inspiring. I am humbled to be included with the amazing men and women that made the very existence of ducks and geese possible through game laws and the elimination of market hunting. Thank God these people stepped up to protect our waterfowl hunting legacy, and many were my teachers.
Finally, my third honor came in 2019, induction into the Park Hill High School Alumni Hall of Fame. I was gratified to see many of my childhood friends on this list. Some were high school standouts, and some not – like me.
How much credit can a writer take while standing in front of teachers that make successful careers possible. Two of my teachers that helped shape my life, Barbara Bucker and George Stewart attended my induction. There was very little to say about my personal accomplishments, so I talked about my remarkable teachers. They started making my successes possible.
I will conclude by noting that if anything, being inducted into halls of fame is a humbling experience. Reading the lists of names makes one wonder, what am I doing here? How can I possibly be included with my teachers, heroes and people that shaped our outdoor industry?
My hope is that some of our youth will write stories about outdoor activities. More importantly, tell their generation about the importance of conservation dollars while not forgetting to paint pictures with words of sunrises on the marsh or watching a good dog work. Perhaps they will encourage youth to try fishing while leaving their computers or phones at home or simply write a good fishing story.
Writing outdoor stories made my life more complete. There is plenty of this priceless prose waiting for the next generation of outdoor writers, a career that may someday be worthy of induction into a hall of fame.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.