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Greetings from my little corner of Hot Spring County, where I celebrate my 15th Thanksgiving as the outdoor editor for the best newspaper in America.

First, I am thankful for the outdoors enthusiasts that stop by this booth on Sundays and Thursdays to share a good story and a few laughs. Thank you for letting us be a part of your lives.

I am thankful for the youngsters who have practically grown up on the Sunday Outdoors page, like Jeshon Mounce of Farmington. He first appeared as Sunday's Sportsman of the Week as a little kid. Now he looks like he could play power forward for the Razorbacks. Congratulations on yet another nice Madison County buck.

I am thankful for Mrs. Laura Hendricks. For 32 years she has tolerated hunting and fishing gear stacked and strewn over the house, and she has endured her husband's crazy work schedule that sends him to all corners of the state at all hours of the day and night.

I am thankful for Ray Tucker, Voice of the Little Rock Trojans. We met nearly six years ago. Tucker soon invited me to co-host his new program, Ray Tucker's Arkansas Outdoors, It's a Natural, which airs Wednesdays on KABZ-FM, 103.7, The Buzz. Tucker has taught me the craft of broadcasting, but we've also become close friends and favorite fishing partners.

I am thankful for Wally Hall. I could fill this column about how much Wally means to me, but brevity must suffice. It's an honor to be your friend, and to be a part of your fine staff. That includes the patient Jason Yates and Todd Pearce, who builds this page.

I am thankful for the management of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which allows us to cover this vibrant and vital element of Arkansas culture. We are one of the few newspapers that employs a full-time outdoors writer, and it's because we provide something that readers can't get anywhere else. We're all about hunting and fishing in Arkansas, featuring Arkansas people.

I am thankful to be cancer free. I ended treatment 10 years ago almost to the day. I am eternally grateful to my medical team from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Dr. Jonathan Laryea and Dr. Rangaswamy Govindarijan. We are friends, and Laryea is like family.

I am thankful for Dr. Bobby McGehee, dean of graduate studies at UAMS. A striper fishing trip several years ago blossomed into a friendship. Doc, that knife you gave me comes in mighty handy!

I am thankful for my friendship with federal judge Billy Roy Wilson. I greatly look forward to Wilson's annual "Stomp Out Ignorance" tours with former State Rep. Monty Davenport of Yellville. These include a few days of pheasant hunting in South Dakota. We have visited, among other things, a pony express station in Gothenburg, Neb., the Sgt. Charles Floyd Memorial in Sioux Falls, Iowa, the Geographic Center of the United States in Smith County, Kan., and, of course, the World's Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kan. The twine rests under a gazebo and is perpetually damp. When I leaned against it for a photo, mosquitoes boiled out like smoke and sent us all running for the truck.

Thanks to Wilson, a smart phone is a Ouija Board. This initially rankled the devoutly Baptist Miss Laura. She dropped her guard Monday and referred to it that way, too. She shall not live it down.

I am thankful for my friendship with federal magistrate judge Joe Volpe and his son John. I vicariously enjoy their hunting exploits, and our fishing trips together are fabulous.

I am thankful for Karl Hansen of Hensley. He's known for the provocative letters he writes to our editors, but he also offers private wisdom about the latest outdoors news.

I am thankful for Rev. Mike Stanley of Highland for his sage life counsel and for helping me become a successful turkey hunter.

I am thankful for my adopted "family" at the Old Belfast Hunting Club in Grant County. Mike Romine of Mabelvale and I met in 2005 when he organized a benefit dove hunt near England. He brought me into the Old Belfast club in 2009, where I became part of a circle that includes Zack Smith, P.J. Spaul, Larry Romine Jr., Alfred Romine, Ross Romine, Pam Romine and Henry Jezierski. We have shared laughter, loss and hardships that bond us like brothers.

Finally, I am thankful for my real brother Brad Hendricks. When nobody else will stand with us, we stand together. We always have.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette readers are a big, extended, argumentative family. I am thankful for every one of you.

Sports on 11/28/2019

Print Headline: Giving thanks from the Pine Thicket

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