The young public information officer who handled the front desk with good humor and courtesy wanted to write for my Department publication. Had a line on a falconer he thought might make a good story. There was a small sturdy community of raptor-trainers and enthusiasts in Arizona. The guy he went to talk to was a sort of eminence grise. It was a good story. But my young friend was bummed about his own photography screwup. Berating himself that since childhood his mom always said get the sun at your back.

Ye olde editor took one look at the above snap and said that’s our cover shot. The headline, based on the subject’s intimate knowledge of the history of the sport, wrote itself. How does that go about lemons and lemonade? It was one of our most popular covers. Damn, I loved being an editor for Wildlife Views!

All long ago and far away, ephemera on a thumb drive to fuel an old man’s nostalgia. And this one:

Pat O’Brien was a raw-boned lanky tall drink of water who could be mistaken for an Arizona gunfighter in his boots and jeans and cowboy hat, toting a revolver. The badge made him a Wildlife Manager, modem bureaucrat speak for what used to be called Game Rangers. He did not suffer game-law violators gladly, and had a wide network of ranchers and others who reported to him on night-time headlights in deer areas, and nocturnal riflery.

His other, sensitive nature surfaced behind a camera lens. Coworkers talked his images up, so I asked for a photo spread. And boy did he deliver. Only an artist could capture the soulful look of that masked rapscallion. The interior spread backed up the out-front advertising. Another very popular issue. Did I mention how much I loved this job?

But I voluntarily gave it up for a state bureaucrat’s job back home in Washington. Deskwork. Coat and tie. For an agency whose work made me think I’d stepped into an Untouchables rerun. Topless-tavern wars raged; fire-bombings, shootings, a man “drowned” in Puget Sound with no salt water in his lungs. Our attorney, whose office was next to mine, always checked his car for explosive devices before he drove home.

One of our liquor agents still was recovering from an ambush in front of his family. Wasn’t long before federal agents arrested a sitting county sheriff for hiring the hit on our guy, after the hitters were run to ground in Bangkok.

I sure missed Arizona’s simple outdoor pleasures. And always would.

Editor escapes office to fly fish for trout on Becker Lake, high and damn cold opening day, near the New Mexico border. Snow blowing sideways at daybreak; back home in Phoenix the orange trees were in bloom, filling the back yard with their perfume. Arizona was interesting.

Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.