What makes a legend a legend?
With this particular band of lake effect snow crushing the area I live in right about now, it is finally time to concede: winter is here in New York. Couldn’t run from it all winter despite being lured into a false sense of security by hunting deer in December in my Sitka base layers. But with true winter finally here, there are a number of activities for the sportsman that will take a bit of grit in order to enjoy the frozen landscape. If you prefer staying warm, there are plenty of regional sport shows where local vendors, manufacturers and every so often a true outdoor industry legend will make an appearance.
What makes a legend a legend? What really makes people noteworthy? One of the things I see coming back around in the hunting culture is the true cherishing of unique and quality stories. A rediscovery of authentic and down-to-earth people who are simply driven to live their lives to grab ahold of the pure raw heartbeat of life.
I sat at a table in the kitchen of one such man several months ago just to talk and hear a story of persistence and determination. George Bolender founded New York Outdoors Unlimited in Ontario, N.Y, after finding himself having to work with rudimentary gear back in the early to mid 1990s after a severe car accident which left him paralyzed. When he isn't hunting himself, George dedicates his time to the non-profit organization dedicated to helping disabled sportsmen and women get back in the field after life-changing accidents.
George talks with great passion for the wild, although he acknowledges he can’t always get exactly where he would like to be. Utilizing cleared lanes or the paths in between apple orchards, George works with friends and family to get as close as he can. But you won’t hear him complaining either way. When I sat and talked with George he told me story after story of success and mishaps. There was joy and laughter in his voice as he spoke. It is this same joy he strives to help others experience.
George started New York Outdoors Unlimited as a way to help others with disabilities get the gear they needed to be able to hunt again. A true non-profit, the group runs on volunteered time and donations. Paul Jusczack, president of the group, lights up every time I ask him about taking people out in the field after outfitting them with the right gear. Seeing the joy on the faces of those who thought they may never be able to enjoy the wild again is a driving force for everyone involved. The group has helped paraplegics, quadriplegics and those who can only turn their head a few degrees.
Listening to the stories and seeing the impact a few dedicated folks can have on the lives of others makes me re-think how to define the word hero or legend. Sometimes these people are right in our home state, but we wouldn’t know. Visit with a few of these people at the Syracuse Sportsman Show Jan. 29-31 to hear stories of courage, share a few laughs and see there are still good people in this world working to make a difference.