My friend George Smith publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with ALS early this year. When he told me in late last summer, I was shocked and saddened. I can’t imagine the Maine outdoors without George in it.
The following is my article from the April issue of the Northwoods Sporting Journal.
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that George Smith has spent the majority of his life being dedicated to the Maine outdoors and the sportsmen and women who enjoy it as well. He is passionate about hunting, fishing, hiking and everything outdoors related, sometimes to a fault but, no matter how you feel about him, I am sure that some aspect of the outdoors that you enjoy has George somehow tied to it.
I don’t need to write about George’s accolades or his writing, time at SAM or legislative work because I am sure you know of them. What I will write about is how George has helped me get my writing ‘out there’ through his own connections and reputation. Thanks to George, I published an article in Downeast Magazine about the rise in female hunters and the fact that we live in urban areas! I was on Wild Fire with him and Harry Vanderweide and I wrote a chapter in his book, “Maine Sporting Camps.” He has always been a huge supporter of me and my writing and for that, I am forever grateful.
One of George’s big initiatives has been getting kids and new potential hunters into the woods. He has written about taking his grandkids fishing and the importance of getting kids interested in the hunting world early on. He and Portland Press Herald writer Deirdre Fleming chronicled her first season as a deer hunter and the importance of getting women comfortable in the outdoors. All of these stories have helped to showcase our outdoor heritage as something that should be protected and celebrated.
How we are viewed as hunters, trappers and outdoorsmen and women to the general population can be a very slippery slope that George has taken on again and again. You and I see a picture of a dead coyote with a smiling outdoorsman and we get it. We get the excitement and energy that surrounds a successful trip into the woods but so many people don’t. A dead coyote can launch hundreds of comments against hunters. We see that same dead coyote as one less fawn-eater in the woods. George’s writing in the Bangor Daily News and on his own website has been a bridge for people to
possibly learn a little bit about what we do and why it is important. I am not sure who will take over that role and help us get people to understand our passions.
And there are so many of us who are passionate about the outdoor issues that impact this State, be it native brook trout, the moose population, bear hunting, Sunday hunting…I worry that as
George slowly steps away from his advocacy work at the legislature and his writing, that there will be nobody to fill that seat. Nobody to push issues, voice concerns and question what’s been done, being done and is it in the best interest of the Maine outdoors. We all have big shoes to help fill.
Thank you, George. Thank you for dedicating your career and passion into making the Maine outdoors a better place for future generations. Thank you for advocating. Thank you for mentoring young interested hunters and anglers. Thank you for not giving up and being dedicated to the cause no matter how sharp the criticism.
We owe you a debt of gratitude for all the work that you have done and I hope in the years to come, that us Maine outdoorswomen and men can meet the high benchmarks that you have set.