|Jim Low (right) presents the Jade of Chiefs Award. A humbling acceptance speech.
photos c. Tom Ulrich ©2012
CHENA HOT SPRINGS, ALASKA — OK, it’s true confession time. I have a mistress, and have had for 44 years. There, I feel better getting that off my chest.
She’s not some cute woman 25 years my junior. My wife knows about her, all of our friends know this little secret, and they know I’ll do whatever she asks of me if it is possible. It’s been this way for more than four decades, and I’m actually proud of my actions.
Whoa! What’s up with this? Richey is publicly confessing to having a mistress. Well, yes, I am doing so and freely admit it.
All of this is just my reason for being what and who I am.
My mistress is an organization. Her nickname is OWAA, which stands for the Outdoor Writers Association of America. We began as just friends back in 1968 when I was much slimmer, had blond hair, and was more tidy than now.
I’d began writing outdoor magazine articles in 1967, and seemed to have a way with words. Magazines bought the first six pieces I wrote, and two went to Sports Afield. I figured this was so easy I should have started writing in high school.
The good times lasted as long as those first six stories, and then I smashed headfirst into the brick wall of magazine rejection slips. My first six stories were something of a tease, and despite the rejections, I felt head over heels in love.
Writing was all I could think about, and even though I had some natural talent, I had to learn how to write saleable copy. That took more time than I earlier believed was possible, and after several years, my reputation began to build. Magazines began to come to me, and sales increased.
My first three-year term on the Board of Directors as a great experience.
With increased sales, my reputation began to grow, and as time went on, I ran for the OWAA Board of Directors. I wasn’t nominated, but 20 people thought enough of me to sign a petition and in time I became a Board member. After three years, I got an Outstanding Board member award and was kissed goodbye.
I then ran for the Board again after a year off, and yet again had to gain 20 signatures to get on the ballot. Again I was elected a board member, and again three years passed, and then I said goodbye for another two years, and was re-elected as a Board member the third time, somethng that has happened only twice in OWAA history.
I served on my mistress’ Board of Directors for a total of nine years, ran for 3rd vice-president several times, but was never elected. It seemed my mistress had other plans for me, and over many years I served on many ad hoc and standing committees. If memory serves me right, I served on nearly 50 different committees over four decades.
Somewhere along the way, I was rocked to my sox by being awarded the J. Hammond Brown Award, for many years of continuous service to my mistress. With the Ham Brown comes a lifetime membership. She and other Board members thought enough of me to give me this award.
I was deeply honored, and nine years later she blessed me with the Excellence in Craft Award, which meant a great to me because I came to feel my mistress was again paying tribute to my work. Sometime shortly after, an article was written about me in OWAA’s Outdoors Unlimited newsletter, and it called me a Legendary Writer. Now, my friends, that’s some pretty heady stuff.
Other honors had a deep and meaningful effect on me.
After another nine years of service to my mistress, and after a long flight to Fairbanks, Alaska earlier this month, the angels smiled again. This time, dressed in jeans, baseball cap, jacket and scruffy beard, I hobbled up the podium steps while leaning on my stick, and was presented yet another prestigious OWAA award – the Jade Of Chiefs Award by Jim Low, a past recipient of the award and a past president.
If I’m correct, I am the 44th recipient of this award since it’s inception in 1958. It is not awarded every year, and in my wildest dreams, I’d come to believe that this award wasn’t to be. It isn’t given by OWAA, but given by other living OWAA recipients to honor a person by affirmation of OWAA adherence to, and support of, the principles of conservation. It is the highest conservation award among outdoor writer’s groups.
It puts me in with some pretty heady and influential past and present writers. Past recipients include such worthies as
- Arthur Carhart
- Henry P. Davis
- Nash Buckingham
- Roger Latham
- Homer Circle
- John Madson
- George Laycock
- Karl Maslowski
- Ed Zern
- George Harrison
- George Reiger
- Ted Williams (not the baseball star)
- Joel Vance
- Erwin Bauer
- Leonard Lee Rue III
- Charlie Elliott
- Grits Gresham
- Michael Furtman
- Tony Dean
- Greg Patterson
- Rich Patterson
- Chris Madson
- Jim Low
and many others that I have known over the years.
These members had a terrific impact on how I approached conservation issues.
This award was granted for a wealth of conservation stories I had written for The Detroit News, and during my freelance career. A 13-part series on profit poaching in Michigan brought this problem to the forefront. Other stories including an 18-part series about the need for increased study on state black bear numbers, and more positive studies on this animal. I covered Indian Treaty Rights and negotiations from both sides, fought hard for a dove season that lasted only one year, and many other resource management stories.
My 44-year affair with my mistress, and 36 years with my lovely wife Kay, has brought me many highs in my lifetime. It hasn’t all been fun, and that’s one of the things about life we must accept, but I consider my life and career to be the best thing that has ever happened to me.
My long-term friendship with these and many other writers have been a joy to my life. I’ve mentored many beginning writers over the years in hopes they carry the literary torch for conservation in the future, and it’s all been a great and wonderful time.
My life as an outdoor writer has become the model for my professional career. Honestly, I must admit to being one of the luckiest and most humbled men men in the world. And I also admit that my wife, and my mistress, are greatly responsible to me being what I am today.
May God bless and smile kindly on all present, and all who have blessed me with their friendship. Your obedient servant. — David J. Richey