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Before it's Too Late
Posted on 09/06/2012 in Out On A Limb.

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This won’t be news to anybody, but I need to say it. Shoot, I’ve been told this a hundred times and though I never doubted for a minute that it was anything but the truth, I guess you try not to think about it. I’m talking about letting someone know that you care about them because you never know if and when you will see them again. Two very different situations drove that point home for me in the last couple weeks. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I hope I do a better job practicing it.
Mack Watson was a member of the Johnson County Houndsmen Coon Club in Edinburgh, Indiana. Many of you knew Mackie far better than I did. I met him three years ago when we held the first of three UKC Squirrel Dog World Hunts at the Johnson County Horse Park in Camp Atterbury. He was different. He was not different because of his health situation, which was very noticeable. He was different because he lived every day as if it was his last, and his outlook was great. His happy-go-lucky attitude was infectious to everyone around him.

That man just purely enjoyed hunting and fishing as much as anyone I knew. He wasn’t a specialist. He was just someone who loved the out-of-doors. And he knew Camp Atterbury very well. He was an excellent guide for his club when it came to hosting events, and he was always there in the morning to contribute in any way that was needed.

When I first met him, I heard his prognosis was not good, but for the next three years he hadn’t changed a bit. Then you kind of take for granted that you will always have that person and time isn’t really an issue. Well, I didn’t take the opportunity to tell Mackie back in March how much I had enjoyed his company the last three years, and I will not get a chance to do it anytime in the future. Mackie passed away and left a big hole in hearts of the Johnson County Houndsmen and all that knew him.

Zack Neal, from Fulton, Michigan, was a young man of just 24 years. He hunted Redbone Coonhounds and had success with them for such a young man and being on his own, for the most part, in the sport. In 2009, his dog, ‘PR’ Allnight Treeslammin Sycho, was named the National Redbone Days Nite Hunt Overall Winner. I would attribute that to hard work and his love of the sport. Like Mackie, Zack would never consider himself a specialist. He would be right in the middle of whatever hunting or fishing activity was going good for that time of year.

I got to know Zack pretty well and did a lot with him outside of the sport of coon hunting. I was just pointing out Zack to my wife two nights ago at a town festival and telling her what a good young kid he was. Quiet, polite, respectful, hard-working, yet always fun to be around and always had a smile on his face. The only problem is … I didn’t tell it to Zack. And like Mackie, I won’t get a chance to. Zack was killed late July when the semi he was driving rolled over in an attempt to avoid hitting someone who pulled out in front of him on a country road.

I can’t help but think of these two great people that our sport has lost. Though their situations were very different, the lesson that I learned from them was the same.