It was Feb. 12, 1988, when the first of 1,621 weekly Open Season columns was published on these pages. Excited I was, reading my first column in the paper, even though when I now read it and other early columns, I pinch my nose and go “PU.” They weren’t very good. Since then, I’ve remained eager and loyal about bringing the outdoor news to my readers every week. I’ve also been proud to be a voice for sportsmen and women, defending our traditional American rights to firearms ownership, hunting, fishing and access to wild, open spaces to pursue our rugged and simple pursuits with rod and gun.
More pleasurable than communicating outdoors news and engaging enemies over the past three-plus decades, has been telling stories about area folks and boasting of them, their adventures, accomplishments and the contributions they’ve made to our beloved pastimes. I also liked sharing some of my own escapades with my kids, family and friends and was fond of poking fun at my own foibles, faults and failings. They made for humorous tales, and I hope some of them made you laugh.
Last year, in February, I considered retiring from the column as it was my 30th anniversary. I like milestones, so it would’ve been nice to go out on a high note, on my terms. I was getting tired. Writing the column is like having homework or a term paper to write once a week, but I found renewed enthusiasm and decided to stay — at least another five, maybe ten years (I don’t believe 20) — to the next milestone. Sadly, it’s not going to happen.
On March 15, I was told that, due to budget cuts, the paper regrettably was forced to let me go. I got “the boot.” It’s not my editors/bosses at the downtown office — they’ve all been great to me over the years. It’s a corporate thing from the higher-ups. Little guys like me don’t matter to big shots. March 17 was to be my last column and I could write a final farewell for the following week if I wanted. But I had several columns written ahead so my editors graciously agreed to publish them, with today being the last of 31 years, 2 months and a week’s worth of stories — without a miss. That’s right, I graduate with a perfect attendance pin.
It was fun visiting with the people I interviewed and wrote about, especially the kids and the veteran hunters and anglers. Youngsters would describe their first deer, turkey or trophy fish with all the wide-eyed excitement of a child finding a shiny new bicycle under the tree on Christmas morning. And it always impressed me how the sentimental older folks still hung onto their beliefs, guns and fishing tackle, some with weathered and trembling hands, refusing to loosen their grip. I’d think to myself, “that’ll be me someday.”
Covering the outdoors also afforded me exciting opportunities to work with MassWildlife and MarineFisheries biologists and technicians on such projects as trout and salmon stocking, striped bass tagging, pheasant stocking, electrofishing census, wild turkey census, duck banding and deer checking. My stint as a predator control technician for MassWildlife, while camped-out on Penikese Island in Buzzards Bay in the late spring and early summer, also enabled me to share with readers the story and photos of abundant and emerging wildlife on the island. My time as a quasi-wildlife and marine biologist and photographer was extremely rewarding.
Looking forward, the break from column writing will give me the time and opportunity to finish my books — collections of short stories — favorite columns from the past three decades (and a few you haven’t read yet). When published, they’ll be available on my website, OpenSeasonSpecialties.com.
During my stay here, positive comments and support from sportsmen and women always were appreciated and motivating. It was also heartwarming for me to know that I struck a chord with non-sportsmen when someone would say, “I don’t hunt or fish but I love to read your stories.”
In the photography division, Folco took first place in the Scenic category for a photo of his fiancé, Jackie, glassing for bears on a mountain in Alaska, He also took second in the People category with a photo of Al Robichaud and his grandson, Charlie Bellefeuille with Charlie’s first turkey, and he took third in Fauna with a close-up of a baby milk snake, entitled, “Got Milk?”
Folco has earned 135 national and regional writing and photo awards. He serves on the NEOWA’s board of directors and has served as vice president and treasurer. He received the association’s Richard Cronin Award in 2005 for his dedication to the field of outdoor communication, and he was awarded an honorary life membership last weekend.
Other readers however, have envisioned me as a heartless hard-ass who goes around shooting animals and gutting fish, and that’s OK. They were faithful readers nonetheless, many hanging on my every word, like someone dying of thirst holding out their tongue to catch raindrops, which means I did my job. They can think what they want about me, but seeing as this is my last column I reckon it’s time to set the record straight.
Not to boast, but God instilled in me a deep love of hunting, fishing, nature and the outdoors, along with a strong desire to fight the good fight and stick up for the good guys and gals. I also was blessed with a sense of humor, thick skin, strong stomach, arms of steel and the eyes and skill to shoot a flea off the tip of a deer’s ear at 100 yards. Why let all those graces go to waste? So I may be a little crusty on the outside but admittedly, I’m really just an old softie on the inside. So now you know. Those who think I’m heartless are wrong. Plain and simple. Just wanted to clear that up before I go.
If there’s one piece of advice I can offer you in closing, it’s this: Life is short, and hunting and fishing seasons are shorter. Enjoy them while you can — nobody gets out alive.
A heartfelt “thank you” for sharing a cup of coffee or tea with me every Sunday morning while we talked, argued a little maybe, remembered, laughed and maybe shed a tear or two on occasion. It’s been fun. I’ll miss our weekly visit. So long, for now.
Marc Folco was the short, furry and funny outdoor writer for The Standard-Times for more than 31 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or through OpenSeasonSpecialties.com
Editor’s Note: The sports staff here at the Standard-Times would like to thank Marc Folco for his invaluable contributions to our pages over the past 32 years. He has, without fail, provided his unique, informative, thought-provoking and honest columns to the local conversation. His prose, conviction in his ideals and passion for fishing and hunting are unparalleled. We wish Marc the best in all his future endeavors and look forward to hearing about his future outdoor adventures.