By JIM ABRAMS
We’ve officially entered a new year and a new decade. It’s difficult to believe how quickly some years seem to vanish. I can’t help but to reflect on what I’ve accomplished but also upon those things that my propensity for procrastination seems to have prevented me from completing or even starting.
It seems like I always manage to make it to work on time, cut the grass when it needs it and tackle most of the daily chores of life that require regular attention. I also seem to put off going on the next fishing trip, running bouncing Briar the bird dog or searching for morels. Then, somehow, the clock runs out and another year’s midnight chimes.
Mr. Cosgrove was an old fishing buddy of mine. Proving that he was both old in years but also in wisdom, he once told me, “As you get older, the days get longer and the years get shorter.” When he said it, I recognized it was an earned insight. I also had no idea what he was talking about.
I first met Mr. Cosgrove when he was camping at Beaver Creek State Park in Columbiana County. I was a fledgling seasonal park ranger doing the “Ranger Rick” walk through the campground, welcoming folks that were rolling into their sites. He was sitting in a tattered lawn chair beside a campfire.
As I approached, he stood on shaky legs while he grabbed his cane. I tried to wave him down but he caught my hand in mid-direction and shook it. “No need to stand for me,” I said.
“It’s out of respect for the uniform … respect for the man comes later,” he replied with a smile. He motioned to an empty chair. At first I ignored his offer until I realized he wasn’t going to sit until I did. As I sat, I saw a brief look of relief as he gently lowered himself into the webbing.
I’ve always been able to learn a lot from folks by carefully volunteering a little information about myself. Mr. Cosgrove hailed from Florida, where he’d moved to get some relief from the cold that made his joints ache.
Beginning in the Roaring ’20s, he was a motorcycle cop in Wellsville, Ohio. He worked during the Great Depression and through Prohibition — rough times in a rough town with rough people preying on banks and smuggling liquor. He was working the day that the infamous hoodlum Pretty Boy Floyd was gunned down by the FBI on the edge of the very park we were sitting in.
He was disabled by another cop who was backing out of his precinct space and collided with his motorcycle, crushing his leg. That explained the limp, the cane and the move. It didn’t explain his own explanation that it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
Mr. Cosgrove said that the accident cost him his job, slowed him down and forced him to take another look at his own life. He loved being a policeman, making a difference. When that ended — and after he was done feeling sorry for himself — he realized that he’d forgotten how important the rest of his life was and how much he’d been missing. That’s when he began spending more time with his son and learned to love to fish for breem, pronounced “brim.”
I remember telling him that I had no idea what a breem was, so he volunteered to show me but said he needed a wheelman. That lead to our first outing along a private pond where he assured me we’d find the fish. To my surprise, it seems a breem is about anything that looks like a bluegill.
While he used a cane pole and worms, I tossed my ultralight spinning rod’s line to the waiting fish. He showed me exactly how old school can out-fish a college kid’s “fancy stuff.” We did that nearly once a week for three summers until I got word that he’d passed.
I never knew Mr. Cosgrove’s first name. If he told me, I didn’t commit it to memory. My upbringing directed me to call him “Mister” and his upbringing expected it. In his own way, he forced me to take a break from the job I loved and showed me the value of taking the time to just go fishing, something I’d loved since a young child.
You know, as you get older, the days do get longer and the years really do get shorter. We all need a Mr. Cosgrove in our lives. He can come in any age or gender. He can be someone you just met, a friend for years, your next door neighbor or even your own kid. They’re right there waiting to be your Mr. Cosgrove — or maybe, they’re waiting for you to become theirs.
“The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes
Along the way:
In 2017, a financial analysis of the Division of Wildlife revealed a severe financial shortfall facing the agency. As a result, the division had a backlog of projects that were going to make a huge difference to sportsmen. Management, renovations, maintenance and improvements had stalled on the state’s shooting ranges, fish hatcheries, wetlands, habitat projects and wildlife areas.
Because of funding shortfalls exacerbated by the last administration, the agency just couldn’t afford to effectively manage the problems they faced. Without taking action, the impact would have been catastrophic for conservation funding across Ohio, and would have even jeopardized federal funding.
The problem was made worse when American Electric Power (AEP) announced its intention to sell its ReCreation lands, which encompassed 60,000 acres in southeast Ohio. Due to an agreement with the division, this property had been open to public access for over 40 years, then called Ohio Power lands.
In total, the property amounts to 10% of all available public land in the state. Because that administration was moving at a snail’s pace, AEP was preparing to move forward with other buyers, which would have been a disaster.
Ohio’s top sportsmen’s groups gathered to discuss a strategy to address this crisis and the Protect What’s Right Campaign, coordinated through the Sportsmen’s Alliance, was born. Representatives of the alliance are now able to work closely with the new governor and legislative leaders to help make these issues a priority.
More than half of the AEP property has now been retained, and Governor DeWine, Ohio Division of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz and Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker continue to work closely, making admirable inroads with the serious backlog of projects that had landed upon them.
The cost of the Protect What’s Right Campaign is roughly $50,000 per year. Primary funding partners include the Ohio State Trappers Association, the Buckeye Firearms Association, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Ohio Conservation Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Safari Club International-Central Ohio, Greene County Fish and Game, and the Mingo Sportsmen’s Association — and now, a Hancock County conservation club has stepped up.
Black Swamp Bucks Unlimited has chosen to donate $5,000 dollars to become one of the top contributors to the “Protect What’s Right Campaign,” helping to protect hunting, fishing, trapping, outdoor ethics and professional wildlife management in Ohio. They’ve made their members — and me — very proud. Thank you.
• Six trapping permits are available for two segments at the Andreoff Wildlife Area in Hardin County: Jan. 13″”31 and Feb. 1″”29. Registration is open now and is on a first come, first served basis. Visit https://apps.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife/educationregistration or contact Jaron Beck, 419-429-8324.
• Today and Sunday: Tri-state gun collectors show, Allen County Fairgrounds, 2750 Harding Highway, Lima.
• Today-Tuesday: Statewide muzzleloading deer season.
• Sunday: First trap shoot of the New Year, 1 p.m., Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Delaware Township 186. Time to start that new hobby or improve on your old one.
• Jan. 12: Sporting clays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard 45867-0413 or via email at email@example.com.