Great friends don’t grow on trees. And yet, like a tree, if you don’t nurture friendships they won’t grow. I’ve only known a few friendships like that as most of us probably have.
Friendships can be business related, activity related and in some cases love related. In this case, all of the above apply.
It’s often misused since a song by the same title was released in 1991, but the friend I’m referring to was, “The Man, the Myth, the Legend.”
Gary Harvey was the “Man” who never knew an enemy. He was a true family man who loved Peggy and his kids and grandkids as much as anyone could. Anyone in need could find solace in an encouraging conversation or more from Gary, even if it meant a fishing trip.
The “Myth” refers to the few close guarded secrets that he and his family harbored, dating back to his father Ralph, related to his cache of Native American artifacts that even I as a close friend never learned the location of, well maybe within a few hundred miles.
“Legend” refers to the fisherman Gary was. Lake Trout, or Mackinaw, was his favorite target and with several in the trophy 30-pound class and above, he obviously knew what he was doing. Either through the Flaming Gorge ice or from one of his boats, Gary had a knack for reeling them in.
I originally met Gary through business, calling on him for advertising while he was then sales manager at Evanston Motors and I was publisher of the Uinta County Herald (WY). Some of the crazy promotions we came up with can’t be repeated here. But they would have worked.
Once he learned I was a fisherman, the invitation was set.
It would be impossible to estimate over the next 3 1/2 years how many leisurely hours I spent with my best fishing buddy ever. Oh, they weren’t all leisurely as we worked at our goal, but how full the creel was at the end of the day really didn’t matter.
What mattered was the time we spent together. That was the “Man”, who proved to all who knew him that he loved life. And we all loved him.
I could go on forever about the adventures on Flaming Gorge with my best friend, including the early morning trips that may have included a cup of “joe” with a nip of the Yukon, and a 6 a.m. breakfast at the Wagon Wheel in Fort Bridger. My successor as publisher of the Herald and myself, Mike Jensen, reminisced last weekend about the day the three of us were on the ice and a snow whiteout moved in intense enough that we couldn’t see each other 20 feet away.
Then there were the annual Thanksgiving weekend trips to the Seedskadee just below Fontenelle Reservoir north of Kemmerer, better known to us friends as the “Koontair”.
Big Ray, Bob Severe and sometimes a few others partook in this pilgrimage in search of post-spawning Brown trout in the rolling Green River, after sleeping in the frigid November nights under the stars warmed by a campfire stew of beans, burger and spuds. Guitars and off-key voices around the fire were common, and Gary could pick a tune or two.
Gary’s closest friends knew he was quite the artist and a writer too, sketching many cartoons over the years that graced the pages of the Herald. I have several of his verses of prose and sketches in my personal collection that I will treasure always.
Here’s just a brief sample of some prose he shared with me about our trips to the Seedskadee: “The moon aglow and the nomadic Green River a shimmer in front of our campsite. Century old cottonwoods provide a stoic backdrop to this primitive scene. Here we gather for song and refreshment by a blazing campfire.”
Somewhat ironically, my last fishing trip with Gary was a float trip down the Green below Fontenelle a few years ago with my best friend from high school, Steve “Tobias” Kodad, former Herald sports editor, and Bob Severe. Sadly, we lost Steve too, just last June.
Not only an expert fisherman, Gary hunted too. He stood footsteps away, with son Casey and my oldest son Zach in tow, when I shot the biggest Mule buck I’ve ever taken in a burn area near Big Piney. He preferred to shoot does, but we won’t go there.
I could go on forever about adventures with Gary, but what really needs to be remembered is the simple life he really led and the fact he looked out for everyone. From the car club and show he helped to create, the numerous hours he dedicated as a volunteer in other endeavors, and to the attention and love he gave his family. I’m thankful that I can call myself family. I love you brother Gary.