As mentioned previosuly, on day 5 of my sheep hunt, I learned of the tragic death of my good friend, Amos Ridenour.
Amos appeared in Montana Sporting Journal (Fall 2007) in an article I wrote on winter fly fishing. There couldn’t have been a better guy to personify the spirit of winter fishing. If something was more difficult, the conditions harsher and less people willing to do it, Amos was all about it. Fearless defined him to the core. As a surfer in the Atlantic Ocean and avid climber scaling frozen waterfalls and cliffs in the nearby Gallatin Range, he gravitated towards nature’s ultimate challenges, be it water or rock. As a sportsman he gravitated towards fly fishing (mostly at first because his wife, Liz, was an avid angler) and waterfowl hunting. More than anything he seemed to enjoy the inherent camaraderie the two pursuits naturally produce. A duck hunt or a day of fishing was always brighter with Amos along. He was the first one to break out a fine cigar during a lull in duck blind action. He was also the first one to laugh at you if you missed an easy shot, lost a fish, or fell in the water.
More than all of that, he was a dedicated husband and father with a deep faith in God. He always seemed to show up in your life when you were in need of some good advice. In the short span of time that was his life on earth, he affected more people than most of us will in a long lifetime. All of us who knew him are better for having him in our lives.
Still processing and grieving the loss, I will never look upon certain places with the same eyes again. From the Bear Trap stretch of the Madison to the spring fed runs of the East Gallatin, all hold a deeper significance now. I will still go but they will not be the same. Amos’ spirit will always be there in the rush of the water, the tight line of a hook-set brown and the hum of a mallard drake bombing into the decoys. All the while I will be waiting for his laugh or a wise crack that he always had ready no matter what you did. As Norman Maclean said at the closing of A River Runs Through It, ‘I am haunted by waters.’
To that Amos would probably say ‘Bro! Please! Don’t be so dramatic’ but I can’t help feeling it. He wouldn’t stand for any of us letting sadness getting in the way of and putting off doing the things we enjoy. So while a normal aspect of grieving is lacking interest in things we enjoy doing, I will commit to the opposite. Never let an opportunity to hunt or fish, especially with good friends, get away from you. Soak it up and savor it as none of us know when we will catch that last fish or take that last shot.