Watching as a friend leaves on his final adventure
Published at | Updated at
“I’m a little mad at you for not telling me you were talking today,” Wylie Powell said as he greeted me in church last Sunday. Without waiting for an answer, he added, “Where are we going tomorrow?”
“We will go to Camas and then go take pictures of the waterfowl on the Henrys Fork between St. Anthony and Ashton,” I replied.
It did not happen, as 30 minutes later I saw my closest friend begin to have a heart attack and rushed off the podium to try to help him. Two days later with his family and my wife, we watched him leave on another trip, leaving us behind with some huge holes in our lives.
I have mentioned him many times in my column as we have been friends for 38 years and have spent almost a thousand days together fishing, hunting, birding; enjoying the great outdoors and each other. His wife and mine are best of friends and we share a fence together that was not a requirement to maintain “good neighbors.”
About 18 years ago, Wylie was hit by a massive brain aneurism that changed his life drastically and eventually led to him being unable to drive and needed help. Drivers were hired for him, but eventually family and friends were required to help him go for daily drives. He eventually became my Monday partner as we did a little rock hunting and a whole lot of birding. His double vision from the aneurism let him recognize the “Holstein pheasants,” his least favorite bird, but not much else.
Our last foray together was to the Little Lost River Valley to find the crazy Virginia rails that spend the winter in a warm stream and he wanted to see the Steller’s and blue jays that are wintering there this year. The birds were cooperative, and we found some of his favorites as well.
Four rails, a Steller’s jay, three blue jays, four golden eagles, a bald eagle, a prairie falcon, flocks of horned larks, chukars, California quail and plenty of magpies as well as a herd of elk and about 100 pronghorn antelope. It was a great trip.
“I loved your article about the turkeys last week,” he told me. “That is the best article that you have written (according to him, the latest article was always ‘the best”), but this one will be even better as this is my favorite trip, ever.”
He was always hungry about noon and we would always stop for a hamburger and fries on the way home. It was way past that, and he was really hungry.
“Where are we going to eat?” he asked.
“We will have to wait until we get back to Rexburg.”
“I know where there is a really good place in Mud Lake.”
He had me pull over at a little store where he used to take customers. As we walked in, he said to a couple of elderly women sitting at the counter, “We are here for a burger!”
“We haven’t served them for over twelve years!” was the reply.
“Well then, we better head for Redd’s at the golf course,” he said.
That was the last meal we had together, the last trip, and the turkey article about the herd of turkeys we shared was the last article he read to his wife. He will be greatly missed.
The prayers each Monday morning, sometimes very long ones as each of our wives, our children, grandchildren, sick in the community and anyone else who he thought needed a boost, was blessed; our laughing of our four near-death episodes; our contested fishing trips; our fathers and our spiritual experiences were discussed. We laughed a lot and appreciated each other.
These will be great holes in my life as I continue on without him. On the day he passed, he only left me time to run up to do half of our planned trip – take pictures of waterfowl the Henrys Fork. On the day after, Wednesday, I did the whole planned trip as I tried to fill some of the holes left by the passing of an awesome friend.