Petzal: The Saddest Story of All

Before outdoor writing became all how-to, all the time, one of the more common subjects was loss of friends, human and canine. This produced a great many maudlin, sappy articles but it also accounted for a few masterpieces.

Probably the best known is Corey Ford's "The Road to Tinkhamtown," which was first published in the late 1960s and then again in our 100th anniversary issue in 1995. It has also, I believe, run elsewhere in recent years.

Ranking right up there with Tinkhamtown is the very first column written by our late, great Gun Dogs Editor, Bill Tarrant, entitled, "And I Do Not Walk Alone." It contains one of the most memorable sentences ever to appear in Field & Stream: "I have seen men bury their dogs and not be able to stand up to leave the grave."

But in the eyes of this grizzled, embittered old observer, the all-time masterpiece is a short story written by Gene Hill. Entitled "Old Tom," it appears in a book called Tears & Laughter, and is only six very short paragraphs long. It is unspeakably sad and, from a writer's standpoint, is a jewel. For this reason, I once read it aloud to a class of prospective writers, and when it was over most of them were crying. Gene would have been pleased. That is why writers do what they do. It ain't the money.