LAtest from your league
My uncle, John T O'Leary, was many things to many people. A devoted husband, loving father, caring uncle, and known by all as an outdoorsman and conservationist. John's love of the outdoors started at his aunt's farm, where he and his brother Dan and cousin Peter would make an untold number of unforgettable memories. One of my fondest stories was where the “boys” (as John, Dan and Peter were commonly referred) were out behind the farm and found a cow that their uncle had dragged out back after it had died. Johnny (John) had the bright idea to plug it full of 22's and needless to say, the boys quickly found themselves covered in a sticky mess.
As Johnny grew older, so too grew his library of stories to choose from, as his love of hunting, fishing and conservation continued to mature. He had a passion for all type of bird hunting and all sports related. I believe the only thing he enjoyed more than plucking a bird from the sky (clay or pheasant), was taking a newbie out to share his stories and educate them in the art of shooting. John took great pride in bringing out new sportsmen and women to shoot their first birds while his dogs would eagerly wait to retrieve and bring them to their master.
John was always involved at several sportsman's clubs and served on many a trap and sporting clay's committee. He was a dedicated member of the Worcester County League, in which he held many positions including President over the years. One of John's passions (known to all that knew him) was sharing is knowledge through the Worcester County League paper and his local newspaper.
It would be impossible to sum up all that John T O'Leary was, or what he accomplished for our community. For I, his nephew, John was a role model; a hero; a sportsman of the like of which I can only aspire. He taught me the art of shooting shotguns and worked with me over many hours breaking clays, going for the 10 ring, and drilling it into my head that one should never shoot large, dead animals without wearing appropriate clothing. I will never forget the sheer joy of shooting my first pheasant over his dogs, bass fishing in the summers and warmth even in the cold while ice fishing in the winters.
Johnny always had a joke and a story (or two) to share with those around him (or within earshot). I am sure that at Leicester Rod and Gun, Worcester County League, Addyville, many other sportsman's clubs around the state, and hunting cabins around the country John's stories will continue to be told, and the legend of the big Irish leprechaun will go on.
Rest in Peace uncle John.
The following is what Mark Blazis a columnist for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette wrote about last year's Worcester County League's Annual Appreciation banquet
Annual Worcester County sportsmen's banquet provides an unforgettable night
The Worcester County League of Sportsmen’s Clubs’ annual banquet at Wachusett Country Club in Boylston in some ways resembles Oscar night. Honors are given out, and everybody who’s somebody in the outdoors world attends — and not just for the fabulous prime rib.
Last Saturday, 247 wildlife biologists, environmental police, outdoors writers, sportsmen’s club representatives and supportive politicians were all there for the big celebration. Appreciating the magnitude of the evening, state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) chief of information and education Marion Larson fought bouts of bronchitis to attend.
If the late Joan Rivers had fished and hunted, she’d have been there, too, critiquing everyone’s attire. Respectfully, it wasn’t a night for camo, and nary a redneck was seen.
As usual, no one dressed more sharply or spoke more eloquently than 83-year-young Worcester County League of Sportsmen’s Clubs' Hall of Famer, Mel Crouse, who was sporting his signature Arizona stetson.
Rivers definitely would have highlighted the big stars of the evening: retired Masschusetts Wildlife magazine editor Peter Mirick, retired MassWildlife director Wayne MacCallum, and state Department Fish and Game commissioner George Peterson. Deputy fish and game commissioner Mary-Lee King was there, too, along with MassWildlife director Jack Buckley, MassWildlife Central District manager Bill Davis, and fish and wildlife board members Bonnie Booth, Dr. Joseph Larson, Michael Roche, and former board member Ernie Foster.
State Representatives Kim Ferguson, Susannah Whipps Lee, Kate Campanale, Hannah Kane, Joseph McKenna, David Muradian, Kevin Kuros and Jonathan Zlotnik all brought their legislative good will. They all support the sportsmen’s tradition and their critical role in preserving land and wildlife for all segments of the state's population.
Also on the celebratory red carpet were Mike Moss, John Fabroski, Dan Kenney and state Environmental Police Col. James McGinn, along with lieutenants Anthony Wolsky and Charles Ziemba.
Two women with great voices and good senses of humor, commanded the attention of the audience, as Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito was the evening's first guest speaker, highlighting emphatically how Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration supports sportsmen. Then, state Sen. Anne Gobi of Spencer, “one of us,” presented numerous awards to her sporting “brothers,” delighting them with her renowned wit and ready laughter.
A second Polito — Jim — of WTAG-AM radio talk show notoriety was there to present the keynote address.
Polito, poking fun of the current snake island controversy, started off with a rattlesnake joke but he soon got to the matter of our first president’s sporting life. Polito shared how George Washington was in fact both a fine horseman and passionate red fox huntsman. He spent much time following his hounds on the chase in Virginia. Our greatest president also enjoyed fishing for sturgeon, cod, sea bass and tautog.
Next, Gun Owners' Action League (GOAL) of Massachusetts president Jay Beard and executive director Jim Wallace addressed the group firmly standing up for Second Amendment rights. Beard warned there are some radicals wanting to take away our right to shoot a pellet gun on our own property. Fittingly, Bettina Romberg received the Words of Wisdom Award, most notably writing for the GOAL newspaper on gun rights.
Gary Zima, one of the best waterfowl hunters in the state, was there and being deservedly congratulated for his perennial leadership at the Big MOE (Mass Outdoor Exposition), where he succeeds every year in exciting many kids to get passionate about the outdoors.
The WCLSC presented Carl Dewey with its Farmer/Landowner of the Year Award. His Hardwick farm is managed to have room for wildlife. Dewey broke up the audience with his trapping tales.
During the Depression in 1938, while only an 8-year-old, he saw that a trapper could earn $1 or $2 for a great skunk pelt. Back then, the fur was sold vigorously as Alaskan sable, many being shipped to Europe for luxurious coats. A dollar was a lot of money during the depression — especially for an 8-year-old.
Well, Dewey proudly caught his first skunk, and in the process of dispatching it with a club, got sprayed. When he tried to go to his one-room schoolhouse the next day, he hadn’t succeeded in hiding the offensive odor. Everyone immediately objected to his presence and he was summarily sent home. Not to be discouraged, Dewey continued trapping skunks, and even with a .22-caliber rifle in hand, subsequently got sprayed again. Yes, he had to miss school for another couple days!
Dewey never lost his love of trapping, hunting and fishing, and kept his farm, when he inherited it, open to outdoorsmen. Without hospitable private landowners like Dewey, sportsmen would be pretty desperate in Massachusetts.
Rep. Muradian was deservedly given the Legislator of the Year Award. As his assistant, Muradian was well mentored by Peterson, showing his support for sportsmen with efforts in trapping and crossbow legislation.
Pam Landry was given the Youth Mentor Award. Mirick confided she was an environmental giant here in Massachusetts, over the years instructing literally thousands of teachers how to teach about the importance of wildlife and conservation — Project Wild and Envirothons all have her stamp on them.
The WCLSC also presented a very humble L. A. Jones with the Sportsman of the Year Award, in recognition of his work promoting the issues of sportsmen and sportswomen and helping the League stay fiscally prudent with his financial advise.
The League also inducted Dave Paple into the Worcester County League of Sportsmen’s Clubs' Hall of Fame, which includes the legendary likes of Ray Gribbons, Franny Walleston, Charlie Yanusas, Charlie Bucko, Noel Hare, Dick Woodard, Frank Smith, Crouse, Fred Warren, Jim Malo, Jim Berube, Ray Whitaker, Ernie Foster and Ed Foley, all of whom have had an important impact on our sportsman’s privileges in Massachusetts.
Ron Amidon, Berube, Dave Morin, Joe Afonso, Jim Nishan, John O’Leary, Jones, Rosemary Charron, Crouse, Phil Dumas, Foley, Randy Klockars, Paple, Ken Stidsen, Bob Polchlopek and Pete Silva should all be commended for perennially pulling off this mega event.
The Worcester County League of Sportsmen’s Clubs is a class organization that promotes not just sportsman’s rights, but just as importantly, ethics and education, and land conservation. They’re a major community asset working to join sportsmen and naturalists together for the benefit of all.
Here's the key-note address I delivered to the Worcester County League of Sportsmens' Clubs Appreciation Banquet on Saturday night at Wachusett Country Club. I received several requests to share it. We did not record it so this is the text I prepared. The actual speech included adlibbing.
I have no doubt that if George Washington were to magically appear at the cocktail party prior to our dinner, wearing modern clothing and speaking in the contemporary parlance, he would fit right in with all of the hunters, fishers, and lovers of the outdoors. Truly, he would be one of us.
I'm confident that many of you already know this about George Washington. And like me, maybe this is one of the reasons why you admire him. Tonight, I want to give you one more reason.
Perhaps I'll be sharing new information with you, or maybe I'll say things you already know, but have never heard them presented in this way.
You share so much in common with the father of our country. Yes, George Washington was many great things, and accomplished many great things, but his greatest love, maybe even more than Martha, was the outdoors.
His grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, wrote in 1860 that Washington enjoyed fox hunting during the fall and winter at Mount Vernon, often inviting his neighbors and business associates to join him in the sport. The only extended interruption of this tradition was during the War for Independence.
In his memoirs, Washington's grandson describes the incredible sight of the General on horseback, furiously chasing these "fiery animals" alongside packs of his beloved hunting dogs. Washington and his guests would rise before the sun, eat breakfast by candlelight and then head out. After the hunt, he would gather with the others for dinner and a couple glasses of Madeira. Then to bed by nine pm and up again for another day of hunting. This could go on for weeks.
Thomas Jefferson is one of the many people who describes Washington as THE finest and most skilled horseback rider of his age, whether in battle, the hunt, a race, parade, or just travel.
The only times Washington ever fell off a horse was when the animal tripped or the horse was shot out from under him. During the French and Indian War, two of his horses fell to a musket ball, and four musket balls made holes in his long blue overcoat.
Fishing was another of his favorite pastimes. In Washingtonâ€™s diaries there are entries for days when he would, "Go a dragging for Sturgeon" and sometimes "catch'd one" and sometimes "catch'd none." In 1787, he was visiting Philadelphia, he returned to what was left of his old winter encampment at Valley Forge and spent a day fishing.
Another entry describes an ocean fishing trip, he writes, "Having lines, we proceeded to the Fishing Banks a little without the Harbour and fished for Cod; but it not being a proper time of tide, we only caught two."
In 1790, a newspaper reported President Washington recovered from sickness by visiting the ocean and when he was feeling better, he went fishing. The newspaper account says Washington caught a great number of sea-bass and black fish. Iâ€™m assuming the black fish may have been Tautaug? I wonder, what was the minimum length to keep a Striper back then?
Actually, Washington likely would have supported limits to prevent over fishing or the extinction of a species.
He was a conservationist, devoted to the proper stewardship of the new worldâ€™s abundant natural resources.
He excelled in mathematics, despite having no formal education. He was likely tutored as a child, but he never attended college. His mathematical aptitude led to work as a surveyor in the Virginia wilderness. He understood the importance of planning and land management.
As a farmer at Mount Vernon, he innovated many methods that maximized crop yields while protecting future productivity. He experimented with fertilizers, and seed types. He designed and constructed a gristmill that was considered state of the art for its cleanliness and efficiency.
He kept elaborate records of weather, temperature, rainfall, soil conditions and erosion. He was also an expert breeder of hounds, he treated them like members of the family, much like we do with our own dogs.
And, George Washington presided over the convention that drafted our most important document, the Constitution. Which, as we all know, contains the bill of rights, and I believe all of us have a certain affinity for the second amendment.
So, he was a hunter, a fisher, a conservationist and a protector of the right to bear arms. Again, he would be quite popular here, and probably a better speaker than yours truly.
Follow me now, because in order to make my point, I need to first illustrate how Washington was a mortal, he was human, he made mistakes, had shortcomings, like all of us. For example, if George Washington were to appear here, he would not engage in one of the most common greetings. Washington did not like to shake hands. I donâ€™t think he was a germaphobe, or suffered with some form of OCD. Most historians theorize that he did not think it was a proper greeting and that his was beneath his dignity. Meaning, he was a snob.
Remember earlier when I said Washington may have loved the outdoors more than Martha?
Well, there is a consensus among historians that he married Martha and assumed responsibility for her two children because she was a very wealthy widow.
There are letters that show he professed his love for another woman and corresponded with her until his death.
Washington was vain. Remember when I said he lacked a formal education? In an era of brilliant men, Washington was not a deep thinker. He never wrote a book or even a long essay. He was embarrassed by his lack of training in the classics, Latin, Greek, spelling, and English grammar. How do we know?
Well, Washington's grammar and spelling improved as he aged. When he began to realize that he had an important place in history, Washington went back to things he had written, like his diaries and notes, to correct the misspellings and grammar. Historians regularly come across these notations while researching.
I for one am glad that we have spellcheck now, trust me, Iâ€™m covering my tracks.
In addition, George Washington would have been LL Beanâ€™s worst nightmare. You know, the outdoor catalog store that allows you to return any item, anytime. Prior to the revolution, the British restricted manufacturing in the colonies. Their reason was purely economic.
They wanted the colonists to buy most of their goods from British merchants. I have seen reproductions of many letters from Washington to British manufacturers complaining about the quality of things he had purchased, like Marthaâ€™s dresses or other finery. He regularly demanded refunds or replacements. Our first president would have tried the patience of even the most patient customer service rep.
Iâ€™ll wrap up this partial list of blemishes with this: It has become fashionable for many to dismiss the contributions of the founding fathers because they were slave owners. Iâ€™m not here to debate the complexity of that issue, but it is not widely known that upon his death, Washingtonâ€™s will provided for the freedom of all his slaves. He is the only slave owning founding father to do so. Jefferson wanted to, but he died in such great debt that his slaves were auctioned off on the lawn of Monticello to pay off his creditors.
Now to my point, Washington and Abraham Lincoln are universally considered the two best presidents in our nationâ€™s history. Some believe Lincoln is number one, others say Washington was our first and best president. I propose to you that not only was Washington the greatest president, he is also the greatest leader in the history of the world. I believe he became the greatest leader in world history before he was elected President, yes, itâ€™s what Washington did after the surrender of the British, securing the independence of the colonies and the birth of a new country. What did Washington do?
He went home. Yes, he went home. He resigned as commander of the continental army and went home to Mount Vernon. Iâ€™m not alone in marveling at this great accomplishment, many historians and writers have said the same. Even Washingtonâ€™s greatest enemy recognized the significance.
When it became obvious that the Americans would win the war, King George III asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, â€œThey say he will return to his farm.â€ Upon hearing that, King George said, â€œIf he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.â€
Following the end of the war, many Americans would have been quite happy to replace one King George with another King George. Itâ€™s true, Washington was so revered, that he could have easily assumed leadership over the United States of America.
And, frankly, Washington would have been behaving no differently than any other conquering general or revolutionary in history. Think about it, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Vladimir Lenin. They all assumed power following their victories. Our current president just returned from Cuba, where Fidel Castro led a revolution against a corrupt regime, only to install himself as the leader of a corrupt regime.
Remember the French revolution? They overturned the monarchy and then proceeded to cut many of their own heads off, trying to prove who was more loyal to the revolution. Thereâ€™s only one time in history that a revolution was not followed by another monarch or dictator.
There is only one revolution in history where peace and the orderly formation of a government was accomplished.
That's why when I hear someone like Bernie Sanders calling for revolution a chill goes up and down my spine, unlike the chill that goes up Chris Matthewsâ€™ leg when he hears Obama speak.
Every time someone calls for revolution it does not end well, except for our revolution and we can thank George Washington for that.
But wait, thereâ€™s more. After serving two terms as President, George Washington, again, went home. He could have run for office again and won, probably for the rest of his life.
Every successive president maintained that tradition for 150 years. It was Franklin D. Roosevelt who broke it by thinking himself irreplaceable. The 22nd Amendment to the constitution made law, what Washington did himself, two terms and then a peaceful and orderly passing of the presidency to another.
It's no secret that while I always show respect the office of the President, I'm not a political fan of the current occupant. Mr. Obama has joked that he would like a third term and even claims he could win a third term. A bill to abolish the 22nd Amendment was recently introduced into Congress. Again, a chill goes up and down my spine because I do not see another George Washington on the horizon.
So let's raise our glasses and toast the greatest leader in the history of the world. Oh, and by the way, a toast is the most appropriate way to honor Washington. You see, after he left office, he didnâ€™t write a book, get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to make speeches, or form a shady family foundation to siphon money out of countries and corporations. Nope, he hired a Scotsman and built a distillery. At its peak, Washington's distillery produced over 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey. It was one of his most successful enterprises.
So hereâ€™s to George Washington, Sportsman, President, and distiller. Cheers