Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gone Fishing

When we all walked into our respective magazine offices last Monday, we were met with an interesting scene. Blown-up covers featuring celebrities’ faces greeted some and others glimpsed leftover swag from the beauty closet strewn across editors’ desks. Me? I walked into a place where the walls were covered in animal heads. A giant large-mouth bass suspended on the wall next to an African Kudu, with a wild boar hanging near the copy machine and a horned Gemsbok peering down from above my desk. Fishing rods, hunting knives and wilderness survival gear were scattered throughout the office, waiting to be tested or sent off to prizewinners. To most interns, this may have been a shock having just come from the streets of NYC only nine floors below, but I actually felt right at home.
I grew up in the rough and tumble town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, often referred to as, “The Last of the Old West.” The Rocky Mountains, more specifically the Grand Teton range, were the backdrop to my childhood, and Yellowstone National Park is pretty much in my backyard. It’s not surprising, then, that I come from a family that loves the outdoors. I have fond memories of many weekends spent fishing, horseback riding and downhill skiing. We have a gunroom in my home and animal heads, trophies from my father and brother’s various hunting expeditions, decorate the walls.
But at times, I have revolted against this upbringing. I tend to shy away from anything caught or hunted by my father and brothers, finding it difficult to stomach the gamey taste knowing that it was frolicking through the woods the day before. I’ve also never been hunting and don’t have a real interest in learning how to shoot.  In truth, I’m more of a tree-hugging hippie than a rugged outdoorswoman. So when I first heard that I would be interning with Field&Stream, my initial reaction was that my dad was going to laugh out loud when he heard. “This is SO not my scene,” I thought, but I tried to remain positive.
When my editor sent me copies of the magazine to peruse, I felt like a deer in the headlights (pun intended) reading over all of the makes and models of shotguns and instructions on how to properly tie a fishing lure. But then I kept reading, and I found stories about wilderness survival and features on sportsmen working toward a better tomorrow through various conservation efforts. There was even a piece that blew me away with its facts on how much money the hunting and fishing industry pumps into the economy each year and how many jobs it provides.  I started to take note of the design decisions and beautiful photographs covering the pages, and I started to relate to Field&Stream in a lot more ways then I originally thought I would.  I also realized that I could learn a lot from the publication about myself, my family and good journalism.
One week later, I’m happy to say that I was right, and I honestly can’t imagine being any place else. From the first day when I opened a letter from a reader detailing a squirrel skinning contraption that came complete with pictures, I knew every moment was going to make for a great story. Since then, I have corresponded with our shotguns editor (not every mag has one of those), edited four articles, (two of which will appear in the August edition), compiled a dummy of the upcoming issue and went to a food photo shoot where I got to try pigeon pizza. To top it all off, everyone is incredibly nice, accessible, easy going and wears blue jeans to work. They also all have an appreciation for the outdoors, making it easier when I start to feel a little homesick.
Tomorrow marks the start to my second week and I can’t wait to see what it will bring. The office will be pretty empty because everyone will be away at a retreat in Louisiana.  In the morning, they will have meetings to discuss the direction the magazine is headed in, and in the afternoons? Well, they’re goin’ fishin’.
--Tommie Ethington, Field&Stream, Trinity University 

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