Nebraska’s outdoor community lost another giant last week. Larry Porter passed last Wednesday. For those of you who may not know, Larry was the long-time outdoor writer for the Omaha World-Herald. The paper had this to say:
I spent a bit of time with Larry; am going to miss him. It does me good to write some things about these good friends that have passed. If you wish, you can read along. . . .
My first interaction with Larry was when he was working on a story about catch & release fishing. Somehow he got my name and needed some help with the story. Mostly what he needed was someone to catch and release some fish so he could take pictures to include with the story. At the time, we kept a variety of fish in the old hatchery ponds at Schramm State Park. Those fish would make their way to the state fair each fall. In a pinch, they could be good subjects for some photos on catch & release fishing. I met Larry there, and yes, the fishing was a good as you would imagine in a hatchery pond. We quickly had all the photos Larry needed, and Larry got a few quotes from me as well.
From there Larry asked me along on several other fishing stories he worked on over the years. I guess he liked having a “pointy-headed” fisheries biologist along, and I was given the green light to travel with him, and well, GO FISH! Both of us were doing what we loved and at times could not believe we were getting paid for it.
One of the best parts of those trips was the driving. Now, I hate sitting for long hours of driving as much as anyone, but with Larry there were a lot of stories to hear, a lot of things to learn. Larry had crisscrossed Nebraska covering high school sports. He had been everywhere and knew everyone. He also competed in the Professional Walleye Trail in the early years of that professional fishing circuit. I was fascinated by his experiences.
At one PWT tournament Larry donned a tuxedo for the weigh-in. It seems the tournament directors wanted their competitors to project a professional image, and implemented a “best-dressed” award for weigh-ins. Larry had a great sense of humor and took on that challenge by sneaking a tuxedo on board on one of the competition days. On the way to the weigh-in he put the tux on.
Were the tournament directors were amused? I do know, but he did NOT win the best-dressed award. Apparently, they had no sense of humor.
On the PWT, Larry earned the nickname, “H-man”. . . .
If you look closely at a label of Preparation H ointment (yes, that Preparation H), you will see that one of the ingredients is “shark oil”. Some anglers have been known to use that ointment as a scent additive on their fishing lures. I know, the mind wanders. . . . Anyway, I am told Larry was one of those anglers. It was one of his competitive secrets on the tournament trail. The secret got out and Larry got the label.
I told that story at Larry’s retirement. Also presented him a framed picture and a tube of Preparation H. Tom Osborne also spook at his retirement. I wondered what in the world I was doing there????
One trip we made I felt guilty about. Larry wanted to do a story on the trout fishing in Nebraska’s panhandle. Of course, I was all in favor of it, and tried to talk Larry into waiting until fall to do the trip. The fish were very catchable anytime, but in the fall the weather would be cooler, the brush would be thinner and the bugs a lot less abundant. But, newspaper guys have schedules and deadlines and Larry wanted to make the trip out west in the middle of the summer. So, that is what we did.
The fishing required a bit of hiking and bush-whacking to work along the stream, find, and catch trout. We got started fishing upstream and by the time we were done we had hiked in a good mile or more during the heat of the afternoon. We had the sweat, bug-bites, and scratches to prove it. I managed to catch a brook trout or three on the fly-rod and Larry had his photos and story. But, he wondered if I was taking him on some sort of a death march before we were done.
One fall Larry drew a paddlefish tag. He asked me and Jim McDonnell from Iowa to go along and help him catch his paddlefish. I do not know why Larry asked Jim and me to go along, we did not have paddlefish tags, and Larry would have to catch his own fish? He convinced us to go by promising we could fish for walleye and sauger after he filled his paddlefish tag. Larry caught the first paddlefish not fifteen minutes after we started fishing. Jim and I spent the whole trip trying to convince him to tag a legal paddlefish as soon as possible so we could get to the walleyes and saugers.
Larry caught several paddlefish. He let me hold the biggest. Finally, he caught a legal-sized one and put his tag on it. I snapped a picture of the outdoor writer with that fish. He was not the subject of many fish pictures. I got one!
Oh yes, Jim and I got to our walleyes and sauger. Caught some big white bass too.
Those are enough stories. There will be others that come to mind as I travel Nebraska and recall the adventures that I had with Larry. Let me finish with one more thing about Larry, something that impressed me about the man from the first time I met him. . . .
I know exactly how I would describe Larry in just a few words if I had to–a gentleman, a fine, Christian gentleman. Larry was one of the kindest people I ever met. He treated everyone that way, with a big, kind, smile. I have been driving while Larry wrangled with editors over the phone. They did not see eye to eye, but Larry treated them with kindness. Listened to him treat a disgruntled reader the same way. And that goes for everyone else we met on every adventure. Larry lived what he believed. If you spent a minute with him, you knew that.
Until we meet again. . . .