Editor’s Note: When Sporting Clays magazine retired a month earlier than originally planned, “Sporting Road” writer Richard Owen didn’t have the opportunity to publish the farewell to his readers he had planned. We are pleased to post his final column here and pass along his good-bye and good wishes to Sporting Clays magazine readers.
Just like the legendary baseball great Lou Gehrig proclaimed in his famous retirement address, “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Gehrig, of course, was saying good-bye to his illness-shortened 17-year major league baseball career, propelled by an abundance of talent and a high degree of athletic skill. My own 66-year tenure as an outdoor writer, however, is less easily explained. Starting with only a basic understanding of the English language, no technical knowledge of firearms, and even less competitive ability, the success I’ve enjoyed seems highly unlikely.
I sold my first article, “Snowflake Brookies,” to a regional magazine at age 20 for a payment, as I recall, of six dollars. But this small victory fired in me an intense desire to share my love of the outdoors with others, which led to a “minor league” entry into writing: selling lots of words to local publications, for very little money.
The turning point in many careers often hinges on a single break, and mine was provided by skeet shooting Hall of Famer Phil Murray. Back in 1979 Murray owned a small regional magazine called The Skeeter, for which I wrote a monthly column. Phil liked my aesthetic approach to outdoor writing, and when he moved to the Skeet Shooting Review as editor, he took me with him as a columnist. This led to a 20-year stint with that national publication, which, I think, helped me secure a continuing role with Clay Target Nation‘s predecessor, evolving into its back-page “Sporting Road,” where I remained for some 26 years. Along the way, the Trap & Field (ATA) publication added about another 18 years to my column production.
Fortunately, this success as a columnist gained me a closer look from other editors, and I have written shotgunning pieces for such notable publications as Outdoor Life, GUNS magazine, Shotgun Sports, and Sporting Classics magazine. The ever-increasing popularity of sporting clays shooting greatly inspired these writings, and during my visits to hundreds of gun clubs to gain material, I made a pleasant discovery. Many club members who enjoy sporting clays also share my own secondary passion for fly-fishing. Through the years a good number of these instant friends have joined me in creating same-day “cast and blast” adventures which have appeared in print. They are also deposited into my bank account of special memories.
By far the greatest blessing I have received throughout this lengthy period happened 19 years ago when I won the matrimonial lottery, and LaDonna Sue Land agreed to become my bride. Many of you have met her along our “Sporting Road.” At the time of our wedding, Donna was neither a shotgunner nor a fly-fisher, which gave me the opportunity to practice what I often preach in my writings and coax her into these sports. Two years later she was proficient at both, and together we have shared these passions in all 50 states. Thanks to the NSCA’s programs expanding into foreign countries, we have extended our “Sporting Road” far beyond our national borders. We are truly grateful for this opportunity.
But it’s you, our faithful readers, to whom we owe our greatest gratitude. You have welcomed us into your clubs with open arms, sharing your vision for future growth, and sometimes even taking us to your secret fishing spots. Some have invited us into their homes as honored guests, like the Inmans of Alaska, the Ponces of Mexico, the Van Zyls of Africa, and so many more the list would be almost endless. It’s folks like you who have made our travels so memorable.
Donna and I are both Christians and believe in an afterlife far more wonderful than the human mind can imagine. But I have told my soul-mate, quite seriously, that I would gladly accept as my Ultimate Reward, a continuing journey together along our “Sporting Road,” just as we have done in the past, into an infinite future. It has been that perfect.
But in this life all good things must eventually cease, and sadly, we have come to the end of our “Sporting Road.” Oh, as long as our health holds we will continue to travel, shoot our shotguns and wield our fly rods, but it will no longer be possible to share those adventures on the pages where we did in the past. So all that is left is to thank every one of you from the bottom of our hearts, and bid you a fond and final farewell. You will not be forgotten.
— Richard Owen