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Breaking News: Remembering Norm Strung

leah kirk

Frank Sergeant’s The Fishing Wire carried a recent entry about The Outdoor Writers of Association of America’s 2018 Norm Strung Youth Writing Awards contest for promising young writers to showcase their skills in prose or poetry and win cash prizes totaling $1,400. I really don’t give a squirt of possum piss for the OWAA, but I was a member from 1981 until 1993. It’s a great group according to many if you like to hear a lot of nothingness.

               I was aware of the Norm Strung Youth Writing Awards were named after Norm Strung, who served as OWAA president from 1984-1985. Now deceased, Strung received OWAA’s Excellence in Craft award in 1989. He won the Ham Brown award in 1988 for his service to the organization. That same year, he organized and edited a book for OWAA titled “Selling the Outdoor Story.” He was also recognized as Outstanding Board member in 1975.

               Back in 1987, I along with a group of other writers was invited by SATOUR to spend several weeks in the then quite controversial Republic of South Africa. Our group left JKF on the last SATOUR flight before President Bush applied sanctions on the old heavy segregated African nation. While there we did it all from goose and big game hunting to fly fishing for trout and deep-sea fishing during our five-week grand tour of the country.

               Frankly among the writers on the junket, I was the only one in the group I had not heard of before. Sensing I was a little lost, two older gentlemen, Zack Taylor of Sports Afield and Norm Strung of Field & Stream took me under their wings (as well as introduced me to the wonders of the dry martini). 

On the trip we rarely slept in the same place more than twice. We literally did it all on an inclusive tour of the country from dining with parliament members and staying on a Boer farm to meeting with Desmond Tutu. Winner of the Nobel Prize and Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the leader of the Zulu. We even visited the country’s lone stripe joint at Sun City. As a twenty-something year old, it was one of many trips of a lifetime.

               Norm Strung took a liking to this opinionated hillbilly. We fished a creek together north of Cape Town where in the mountains we had to keep an eye not for bears but for baboons and leopards. Later at a lemon grove, we jumped shot Guinea and Franklin fowl, and Norm pulled me out of a bar one evening when I was having a friendly exchange with a likkered up local on how effective President Bush’s sanctions were. Bush had implemented US sanctions on the RSA and we discussed its effects on the rand.

Every day of the trip was a new adventure. At the time I did not know that Norm would be gone from among us in less than two years. The lessons he taught me about the business formed my conduct years at Vulcan Outdoors and later the magazine I now run. I know I did not impress him in any way, save for perhaps with how green I was.

Norm Strung was an okay guy. In those days he wintered in Mexico where he shot quail daily and summered in the Rockies chasing trout. He made such a deep impression on me. I wish you could have been with us.