Going to miss my favorite storyteller, Gary Clancy

I wasn’t surprised when I heard that Gary Clancy had lost his battle to cancer. He had been battling the disease for more than a decade. I was deeply saddened that one of the best storytellers to ever appear in print was gone. Clancy had a legion of fans, myself included, who detested the wait between his columns in Outdoor News. There was never a doubt that he would exceed our expectations with his stories of hunting with his favorite dog or fishing with a family member or friend. 

 Clancy and I started around the same time in the outdoor communications industry. It was in the early 1980s when we started penning articles and selling them to some of the regional publications in the Upper Midwest. We met early on at a sponsored hunt in the Dakotas and one could not help but immediately admire this soft-spoken guy with an easy smile and yes, he was as good at telling stories around the fire as he was at writing them.

 During those early years, editors often told we rookie writers that the “me and Joe” story was dead. Instead of writing about one’s exploits, the content needed to be about the “how-to” and the “where-to.” Anything else just would not sell. Thankfully, Clancy stuck to the style of writing he loved and proved them wrong.

 Sure, he wrote stories that were educational, but teaching someone how to fish a particular presentation or telling someone about a particular destination was secondary to the great personal story he would weave around the instructional information he shared.

 On one occasion Clancy was on his way north and passing through the Twin Cities. I told him to visit my place and grab one of the new underwater cameras I had obtained so he could try it. He said he only had a minute to pop in, and I said no problem. We’d make the hand-off and send him on his way. The moral of this story is when you put two storytellers together, no one will be on time. He didn’t leave my place until two hours after he arrived and I never did handle some errands I had that day. But, I was still chuckling two days later at the stories we swapped, and he later sent me an email stating the same.

 Great storytellers are not made, they are born. Clancy was No. 1 in my book of the greatest living storytellers around, and now he joins the ranks of Ted Trueblood, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and all the other great storytellers who made us laugh, cry, and yearn to be outdoors. 

At a sportshow I was chatting with someone who had come to the Outdoor News booth to renew his subscription. They told me their favorite columnist was Clancy and I asked why. The reply was that he painted a picture in their head where they wanted to be. No matter what frame of mind you were in when you started a Clancy piece, you were always in the right place when you finished it.

 I’ll miss you Clancy. Everyone who anticipated their Outdoor News so they could immediately open it to your weekly story will miss you, too. Rest in peace.

Categories: Blogs, Tim Lesmeister

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