OUTDOORS IN THE OZARKS

I’d rather talk than write

Last week I spoke to the Sertoma (service to mankind) Club in Springfield. They are a group of 40 or 50 who work to help boys and girls clubs of the area, and they were surprised to hear that I have a ranch for underprivileged kids where they can come and stay free for a week or a weekend. Several of those men work with groups of children and vowed to use our place this summer.

I have never made a big thing of speaking to groups, but I have been a public speaker as well as a writer for decades, speaking in several states and once in Canada. I have spoke in huge beautiful cathedrals and little country churches; in grade schools, high schools, small colleges, big colleges…at wild game dinners, at ducks unlimited banquets, at various kinds of conventions and sport shows.

It is easy for me, I have done it so much that I never even prepare a speech or talk, I just try to add some humor to what I have to say, with a few minutes of seriousness about whatever I feel God wants me to say. Groups are so different, so you have to adapt to each situation.

A few years back, I was asked to come to a town on the northeastern border of Missouri and speak to a church. When I got there it was a giant cathedral that I absolutely was in awe of. I had never even been in such a place. Then Gloria and I were asked to speak in Plano, Texas, to a church that ended up being several hundred people in a huge community building. I spoke for 40 minutes and then signed books for more than an hour. They provided a place to stay and gave us a pair of beautiful matching jackets. I would have driven the whole distance just for those jackets.

I spoke to a convention in Hot Springs, Ark., a few years back that was in the Arlington Hotel, and they put us up in a room right across from the room where Al Capone always stayed when he came there. The room was just as it had been back then, set aside as something of a museum site. I never knew what that convention was all about, but they paid me well, and again, I signed books for an hour or so.

The following day, Gloria and Sondra Matlock Gray, who was my editor at the time, wanted to go to the horse races. Sondra’s husband and I bought three $2 tickets for three races and we didn’t win anything, but I swear this is true – Sondra, who had never been to a horse race, picked three straight winners, and her $2 bets won her about $30. She didn’t bet on the fourth race, but picked the winner anyway. If she had bet $2 on that race she would have collected about $20 more. It was one of the most unbelievable things I have ever seen.

About five or six years ago, due to my book on duck-hunting experiences, I was asked to speak at a Ducks Unlimited Banquet in Oklahoma City. I should have known, from what they were paying, that this would not be like speaking to DU banquets in small towns of the Ozarks. Gloria and I got there the day before and they had us staying in one of the fanciest apartments I have ever seen. At that dinner, there were about 200 members of the richest people I have ever seen, all in expensive suits and ties. Imagine how I felt that night, walking out before them in boots and jeans and a new $10 sports shirt purchased at Walmart.

I mainly want churches, schools, and civic groups to know that I will speak at any time, any place to any size group, especially if they are trying to raise money, and while I once was paid for doing it, when I was young and broke with a family to support, I now speak anywhere — free.

Speaking to any group of any size is easy for me, and I recall the times when I have helped raised a lot of money for good causes. Speaking at a big church in Kansas one summer, I helped raise enough money to buy more than a 100 pairs of shoes for Indian children on a couple of reservations in Kansas and Nebraska. Once 10 years or so back, I spoke at a Mountain Grove Baptist church and that night, we raised $981, which was spent to buy coats for poor kids in the county. At another church in Kansas, I finished speaking and turned it over to the pastor, and he asked if there was anyone in the crowd in need that night. A young man in a wheel chair came forward and said that he wanted to become a Christian.

Maybe nothing I have ever done equals the results of that 40-minute talk that night.

Those are the reasons I will go anywhere, anytime, and speak to any group. I enjoy it, and it is easy for me to do it. I’ll end this with a story about seven or eight Baptist ministers who got the idea to have a big “Outdoor Sportsmen” dinner to try to bring in men of the area, hopeful they would start coming to one of the churches in the area. They would have a free wild game dinner, give away tickets for a drawing which furnished all kinds of hunting and fishing equipment and in particular a nice $500 shotgun. I was to speak at the event.

It was cold that night, and the wild game, cooked and served outside, was just as cold when folks lined up to eat. Then they packed the church, and a group of musicians that were suppose to play for 30 minutes liked what they were doing so much they played for almost an hour and a half. Then a minister talked for a while and they announced that after I spoke they would have the drawing. At that time it was a past 11 p.m. Those men were really restless and they didn’t care about listening to me.

I confined what I had to say to about three minutes and then the drawing took about another hour. I remember that the preachers and others involved in putting on the event all had tickets. One of the minister’s sons won the set of books I had donated. Unbelievably, one of the ministers won the $50 Bass Pro Shops gift certificate and another one ended up holding the ticket for the shotgun. I think maybe not many of those folks who came that night ended up joining any of those preachers at Sunday services.

If you want information about my books or my outdoor magazine, just call me at 417-777-5227.

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