We were in South Africa when we got the news. Eric Poole, Eddie Stevenson, Len Waldron and I had all shared fields, ranges and campfires with Guthrie. We would not have been anymore shocked if we had learned the South hand once again succeeded from the Union.
We did not know what to do. Some thought of coming home and others wanted to be alone. In the end we discussed it and decided – maybe somewhat presumptuously – we knew what Guthrie would have wanted. We decided to hunt and hunt hard so we picked up our rifles and headed out.
That evening animals died, we rolled in the dirt taking photos, glasses were emptied and smiles and tears were shed; all in Guthrie’s honor. Everyone who has ever met Guthrie has a “Guthrie story” and there were no shortage of those around the fire for the rest of the safari. Guthrie was one of the few people you only had to meet once to remember for the rest of your life.
Last year at a bachelor party / gator hunt for a friend, my son, Bat, met Guthrie and they immediately hit it off. Bat was drawn to Guthrie because he was a man living his dream and having fun and because Guthrie could go from adult to teenager in the same sentence. Guthrie liked Bat because – I think – he saw some of his same gregarious personality in him. Guthrie told Bat he laughed like a little girl, Bat told Guthrie he could out shoot him and after dinner one evening they were in the parking lot talking about girls and seeing who could jump the highest.
That was the magic inside James Guthrie; he infected everyone with his smile and energy.
All writers hope they can leave a legacy with their work and Guthrie undoubtedly touched many with his words in print and in film. But, at least to me, Guthrie’s true legacy is the smiles and laughter he has etched on so many hearts. I’ll forever think of Guthrie anytime I laugh beside a campfire and my life and the lives of many others – including my son’s – are richer for knowing him.
One thing we can all be sure of is that wherever Guthrie might now be, there is laughter. And, we should all endeavor to be a little more like that unforgettable, gun toting, story-telling, hell-raising Southern boy.
Life is too short; smile wide and smile often.