The Outsider: Do they hunt in heaven?

Bruce ‘the barber’ Sawyer, friend to me and many, many other folks both near and far, has taken leave of this earth and gone to chase bear, moose and deer in Heaven. 

He died on Boxing Day, and, as the news of his passing filtered through the communities within Haliburton County there were many tears shed and quiet moments taken to remember Bruce. People loved him you see because he loved people. He was one of those guys that met you with a great big grin and a witty remark and then the jokes and stories would just keep on flowing so long as you had time to sit back in the barber shop and enjoy. 

I remember often the steely stare and mock serious face of the barber creasing with laughter as he saw that he’d hooked me with another incredible hunting yarn that I couldn’t quite work out whether to believe or not. 

“Ninety percent of what you’ll hear in this shop is lies, and the other ten percent, BS” he’d say and burst out laughing, along with his audience of barber shop customers. 

The thing was, on many occasion afterwards I’d meet one of Bruce’s longtime friends and they’d get to talking. I didn’t say much because listening was way more interesting. Anyhow, they’d be chatting back and forth about things old and new, when right out of the blue Bruce’s pal would recount the same remarkable story that the barber had told me as we sat in his shop. He’d given them no prompt, there had been no cue, the barber’s incredulous tale had been neither BS nor lies. It was just one of many experiences that helped mold Bruce Sawyer the boy into the man and gentleman that we all knew and loved. 

I remember Bruce once marching me through the bush for eleven hours in pursuit of bears and his beloved hounds. We didn’t get lost once but he assured me that there had been a couple of times when he didn’t quite know where we were. Then, at the end of the day, the hounds all captured, the barber, almost 30 years my senior, congratulated me for being able to keep up with him. I laughed, his mock serious face creased into a grin. 

Bruce taught me to catch lake trout, and to like rum and coke, albeit a taste for the fish came much sooner and with less persuasion than a liking for the hunt camp’s drink of choice. 

He enjoyed bringing me into his outdoor life and relished, I think, the chance to show the English man who knew nothing about hound dogs, fourwheeling, firearms, outboard motors, snow mobiles, trap lines (the list goes on), the techniques and traditions of hunting and fishing in Haliburton County. He made what could have been a hard slow outdoors journey for me into a sheer joy every time we got to hunt or fish together. 

But I did not know Bruce for that long and I can not imagine the sense of loss felt by Bruce’s family, nor by the many local people who have been friends with him for their entire lives. I only had the privilege of knowing Bruce for nine years and it saddens me greatly that he’s gone. 

However, I’m truly grateful for the friendship he afforded me because Bruce taught me many things about hunting and fishing but much more about enjoying life, being kind and fair to everyone, and most of all, he taught me how to tell a good story. 

Bruce, you’ll be greatly missed. I hope the hunting’s good up there in heaven.

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