Long ago God came to earth as a man and showed us how to live. We celebrate His birthday at Christmas. He was so influential that many books have been written about Him, including that book of many books called the Christian Bible. The book is so revered that we capitalize its name in the widely used English language.
We learn in the Bible that all men have sinned. Those who come nearest to living outside of sin interest me, and I assume interest others.
I have a friend, Larry Baesler, who died in 2008 but who remains with me in spirit and whose life influenced me greatly. I never saw Larry sin and never heard of his committing what I understand as sin, although I believe Biblical truth prevails. I knew Larry on earth some 35 years.
The glue that bound our spirits was our outdoor lives, primarily hunting, and mutual Christianity. Larry’s successful practice of the latter far exceeded mine to the point of his setting repeated examples for me.
Larry was unlike the folks of my southern homeland. He arrived in Texas to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture from his home farm outside of New Leipzig, North Dakota, the community about the size of our Enterprise named after the city of Leipzig not far southwest of Berlin, Germany.
He was blond, strong and one of the few of my friends shorter than I at about 5-foot-6. I can’t recall seeing him without a wide smile on his face. He and Marcie had their first of three children while in Texas. Chris is now a Lutheran priest in Rapid City, South Dakota where the family lived before Larry’s passing.
In Texas, the call of the farm got to both Larry and Marcie and he quit USDA and went back to the farm. Times got tough and Larry went to work obtaining easements for his beloved elk, employed by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Early in our friendship I persuaded Larry to try his hand at outdoor writing and he eventually was regularly published nationally. Through the years I visited their farm and they visited us when we lived in Washington, D.C. I hunted pheasants on his farm with my son once and again with my minister. We exchanged letters and phone calls with every hunting season’s results.
In Bowhunter Magazine, he wrote of his dream season; a North Dakota whitetail hunt with his two sons-in-law and his son, and a following hunt alone in South Dakota. On each hunt he took a trophy buck, the two finest of his long bowhunting life. Within weeks he was diagnosed with cancer. We spoke on the phone when he felt like talking and I kept in touch with Marcie about his condition. Larry used one of his expressions to describe the debilitating cancer. He called it a “bummer.” Larry, still in his 50s, died before the next hunting season.
After his death I read an article he wrote in a Bowhunting Magazine, his manuscript having been written prior to his diagnosis. In it he told about feeling terrible on an entire elk hunt. This was unusual for a writer and especially Larry.
Larry got the bad news following the elk hunt, around Christmas time in 2007. So I and his family mourn during every Christmas. We all wish everyone could have known Larry Baesler, the short happy man with the Scandinavian accent from North “DakOOAH-ta.” The man who married the tiny and beautiful Marci who, like her man, pronounces “HUNT-ing” with the ing completely enunciated so that it rings in your ears.
He made us all feel special. Some things he made for me are some of my most cherished possessions. He had time to make things when North Dakota was buried under deep snow in winter, One is a large powder horn with brass fittings. The gleaming horn is from a Texas pasture. Its end cap is of polished mesquite and the strap is leather of his braiding.
Another gift is a knife that he ground from a weathered buggy spring that lay on the North Dakota prairie. I like to think that the buggy belonged to one of George Custer’s officers before they traveled west to their demise at the Little Bighorn, or perhaps when its owner was killed fleeing the Little Bighorn massacre. The blade can be used as a mirror.
His gifts will constantly remind me of a friend on whom I shall lean to help me along for as long as I live.