Paying The Ultimate Compliment

During my outdoors career I count many blessings.   One such blessing happened 20+ years back, but I still consider it a wonderful opportunity to this day.   Quite often I got to rub shoulders, so to speak, with late renowned wildlife artist, Les Kouba.   Quickly in my mind, Les proved to be a character almost bigger than life.   His talents as an artist were only overshadowed at times by his vibrant, outgoing personality that was equally as colorful as the those brushstrokes he put to canvas.

On one particular occasion I was at the Fur, Fin and Feather Club in downtown Minneapolis for a luncheon meeting when I sat next to Les at the table.   I vividly recall a gentleman coming up to Les and shaking his hand with this comment, “Les, you are able to paint the wind better than any artist I know.”

At first I thought that is a rather odd comment…but upon further reflection then it hit me.   WOW!   This gentleman just paid the Godfather of Wildlife Art one of the most extreme compliments he could ever hear.

I mean, let’s face it.   If you’re an artist who can accurately depict the wind blowing in your art scenes this is the mark of a rare talent.   And Les was a rare talent, indeed.

But today this post is not about Les Kouba or his fabulous life as a wildlife artist.   Nope.   It’s about paying someone a compliment.

This little encounter decades ago got me thinking about what would you say to pay a compliment to another sportsman.   And not just a routine compliment, but what words would the ultimate compliment to another sportsman contain?

Now, I suppose this could differ from person to person, but for me the ultimate compliment would not reflect some insane ability to kill critters or fish.   Truly, the mark of a great sportsman does not necessarily involve a demonstrated hunting or fishing prowess.

For that matter, the ultimate compliment paid to a sportsman might evolve depending upon what stage in life they are currently at.   Maybe telling a younger sportsman they are “woodswise beyond their years” would be taken as a flattering compliment earlier on in life.   Later, an elder sportsman might be more complimented by stating they have the “keen eyesight and physical endurance of a person 40 years their youth.”   Everything is relative.

But in this blog post I’m on a quest to find an all-encompassing verbal compliment that should matter to every sportsman.   It’s a compliment that needs to exemplify who I think we all should strive to be.   It needs to express a commitment to the natural world.   It needs to embody a high level of ethical standards.   It also should acknowledge certain acquired skills of the outdoors craft.   But above all, I think it needs to emphasize a deep level of caring.

So, what would I tell some deserving sportsman if I wanted to pay them the ultimate compliment?   Simply this:  “They possess the innate awareness how pulling the trigger or setting the hook is not a necessary element to being an outdoors success.”

Now it’s your turn.   Tell me…what words would best express your sentiments for paying another sportsman the ultimate compliment?   I look forward to hearing them in the comments below.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.