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This application is for both the Norman Gray & Charles Dobbins Memorial Scholarships.
My Tribute to Norm Gray
I remember the nervousness as I dialed the phone. I was a greenhorn trapper and I wanted to learn how to beaver trap. I had been told by many that he was the best there was and my hopes were running high. I can still remember the disappointment I felt when he told me that he and his son had made extensive plans to trap together that winter. When he told me that he would call me and I could tag along with them sometime I said it would be great but I doubted that the call would ever come.
In about an hour the phone rang and it was him. I didn't hear much after he asked me if I would be interested in trapping with him that coming fall as partners. "I think there might be some things I can show ya", he said. I could hardly contain my excitement. How could I have ever known what was about to happen in my life. In 34 years of living, no single person has ever had the impact on my life that Norm Gray had.
Our relationship which started out as teacher-pupil quickly turned to a deeper friendship than I have ever experienced in my life. He enjoyed teaching me and I felt so proud when I did it right because I know it pleased him. "Don't try to teach the animals," he would say. "Let them teach you." Through hours upon hours spent together in the woods and fields and back roads and waters of this land, Norm shared with me a lifetime of knowledge and love for the wildlife and the land about us. Every knoll, every brook, every back road, every corner, every field, held an adventure from days past and I spent joyful hours listening to this man's vast wealth of experiences. He never repeated the same story twice. Every animal and tree and stream was it's own personal memory. I was to learn that that was the kind of respect these things deserved--just one of many lessons Norm taught me. I felt privileged and awestruck at the same time. Books, professors, and universities could never teach the lessons of life I was learning from this man. I never realized what an important part of my life he was becoming.
As we roamed about together, we would constantly stop at some new field or brook or corner in the road; places that hadn't been visited in years yet never forgotten. A story would be told and after a few minutes of search, an old hole might be found still showing the signs of animal interest or perhaps a drag with several strands of long since rusted wire or even an old moss covered notch in a tree that had fallen over the years. With each discovery he would chuckle with joy and say "There are memories of Norm Gray scattered all over this land and you never know when you'll find one." I would often think that though there may be many men who know the woods and the animals that own them there are few that it can be said that the woods and the animals know in return. Norm Gray was one such man.
There is a special bond that grows between men who share the woods and fields and streams. it can't be described nor reproduced. It just happens. Though rarely and perhaps never expressed in words, it manifests itself and is recognized in those short moments when eyes meet and silently say thank you. Thanks Norm for your willingness to share your lifetime of knowledge with me. Thanks for accepting me for what I was. Thanks for showing me the world of the whitetail and the moose, the bear and the bobcat, the otter and the beaver, the mink and the muskrat, the fox and the coyote, and the coon and the fisher. Thanks for caring. Thanks for being you .... and most of all, thanks for being my friend.
There are times when I think this emptiness is about to overcome me. I wonder who will fill the void ... and then I realize that there is no one who can because you were a once in a lifetime type of person. I can only be thankful for the time we did have though it seems so short now. in all the time I spent with you, you never said "Good-bye" once. There was never time for that with a new day and new adventures just waiting to be experienced. And even now there can be no "Goodbyes...... for just like the woods and fields, there are memories of Norm Gray scattered throughout my very being and soul. I love you old friend ... and I miss you.
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