I attended a memorial service yesterday. The time had come to say goodbye to one of my best friends, Greg McBride, who had finally lost a long, tough battle with cancer. He’s been gone a month. At least twice a week I pick up my phone to call him or text him, then remember that I can’t. I do believe that this will be the first draw deadline in a decade, that I didn’t consult with him prior. There’s a big ol hole in my life – a man like Greg leaves a big gap when they leave.
Greg’s service was nice – I had planned on speaking during the open mic portion but honestly, the other folks had really told in a much better manner, what I had intended to say. “Besides”, I thought to myself, “you’re a writer. It would come out much better if you wrote something.” Between you and me, I’m not sure I could’ve gotten it all out anyway. My daughter and wife came along and I think it shook my adult daughter to see me crying that much – it was a rough day for me – I don’t know how Greg’s wife Carol and his daughters Bethany and Ashlyn did it with such grace. That’s a tough crew, right there…
A number of the speakers talked about hunting with Greg. I too, have been both the benefactor and victim of hunting with Greg. We hunted together several times, and I think my 2019 Coues hunt in 36C was one of his last hunts. In typical Greg fashion, he drove down in the middle of the night, got us up and going, and in what seemed like 20 minutes, was seeing deer everywhere. He still had his chemo port in, but was looking and feeling pretty decent. I was really worried he would overdo it and Carol would be upset, but Greg really only has one speed when it comes to hunting. Greg managed to get me onto a weird, suicidal little 2×1 Coues with eye guards by the end of the day – you can read the story here: My 2019 Coues
That hunt actually went better than most of my hunts with Greg. You see, Greg was a master hunter, and I am not. Greg almost always found game when we hunted together, and then would get frustrated at my bumbling around. I would get frustrated at his frustration, and so it went. I recall a December Coues hunt in Unit 33 where he was so agitated with me not getting set up on a shot quick enough that before we were even down off the mountain, he had called a friend to discuss my ineptness (he didn’t call it that lol) and together they had come up with the requisite shooting drills for me to practice, so this wouldn’t happen again. On an elk hunt in 6A I missed so many times he and another friend dubbed the area the CSR – The Canadian Shooting Range lol
Our adventures in the field aside, Greg was an amazing teacher. I learned more from Greg and another friend John Greiss, than I could ever quantify. Greg taught me reloading, shooting and scope mounting. We talked about cooking and smoking a lot. Greg prepped all of his own meat, and smoking may have been the one thing in life that he asked me advice on. I was pretty handy at it, and he was always bouncing his ideas off of me. We aligned politically on most things, and for much of our friendship, I worked for the University of Arizona – which Greg seemed to like. Greg was a highly skilled taxidermist – whose business waned because he wouldn’t lower his standards. When competitors are taking shortcuts in both their work, and regulatory matters – it is hard to compete. Greg was not a man to sacrifice his values. He was an accountant too, and a good one, doing my taxes for years and in true Greg style, charging me barely enough to cover his costs.
It is so cliché when remembering a friend or family member, to go on and on about what a “good man” they were. For Greg though, he was a good man. And well into our friendship of over a decade and a half, what I grew to admire most about Greg wasn’t his skill at hunting or taxidermy, or his knowledge of reloading and fieldcraft. It was his goodness. You see, Greg was a Christian, as am I, albeit I’m not a very good one. And when you’re a Christian, regardless of denomination – you’re called to live a “Christ-like” life. I would offer, with no embellishment – that Greg lived a Christ-like life, more than anybody I know. It was wrapped in camo, sarcasm, and a wry smile – but it was there.
Greg was astoundingly kind, and would help anybody. As a matter of fact, that’s how we met. Many, many years ago I decided to take a crack at being a Booking Agent, booking hunting and fishing trips for outfitters. I was going to have my first booth in my first outdoor expo, and I thought some mounts would add credibility. We didn’t have Google back then so I must’ve used the yellow pages, but I called a few taxidermists, letting them know I was trying to borrow some mounts for a few days. Greg didn’t know me from Adam, but he didn’t hesitate. He thought it over and said, yeah – I have a caribou mount here, and a deer you can borrow. I failed miserably as a Booking Agent – I’m too much of an introvert to sell anything. That was however, the beginning of a long friendship. Over the years I saw Greg help a ton of people, with nothing expected in return.
Greg had more bad luck than anyone I know. So much so that it became a bit of a ritual that whenever I returned home from visiting Greg, my wife would ask how Greg was – always with a bit of trepidation. Invariably, Greg had encountered some more bad luck since our last visit, and as usual was taking it in stride. His house was built wrong. His property went through imminent domain. He had customers. some of whom were “friends” – rip him off – sticking him for thousands of dollars in taxidermy work. He had a new flock of chickens killed by a dog. He bogged his 5th wheel in the mud up north and had to leave it until he could get back and haul it out. And of course – the worst luck of all – that damned mass they found on his stomach. I remember the day he told me – I was dropping off taxes or something and while investigating another health issue, they had found something on his stomach. Greg took it all in stride though – a perfect example of resiliency, faith and good nature. What would have broken most of us, Greg just shrugged off, and moved on to whatever was next. It was only when he started to ask me to help him move stuff did I begin to figure out just how sick he was. Until that point he always downplayed whatever he was going through – always shifting the conversation to whatever I had going on, and how my family was doing.
Greg loved his family beyond description. Even in sickness he worried more about his wife Carol and he was tremendously proud of his girls – but also he was always just a bit concerned too – as they are both in law enforcement. As agitated and fervent as he would get about politics, he was never mean or hateful. I’m sure his family has seen him mad, but I sure as heck haven’t – even when he had every right to be.
Greg had impeccable values. Although our hunting skills were on opposite ends of the spectrum, we wholeheartedly agreed that hunting was way more than killing. It was about rules and ethics. Fieldcraft and good sportsmanship. It was about sharing your knowledge and treating game with honor and respect. Together we often lamented today’s hunters and anglers – who often seemed to obsess with quantity and quality – not ethical harvests gained through hard work and wisdom gained afield. We were saddened by what social media has done to hunting and fishing, and what greed has done to the lifestyle we love.
So – a man who was a teacher. A man who lived life’s hurdles with faith and resiliency. A man who was kind and loved unconditionally but was always willing to speak up for the rule of order and the folks who were wronged. A man with ethics and morals. Sure sounds Christ-like to me. Those are the things I learned from Greg, and were affirmed after nearly every conversation. Sure I’m grateful to know how to reload, and I’m a better shooter and hopefully (Greg may argue lol) a better hunter – but I learned, no I saw – what it was like to live a Christ-like life. I’m deeply, deeply saddened that my friend is gone. But I’m so grateful for his friendship, and everything I learned from him. Especially the important stuff.