Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The Hawg Man introduced himself to me in the predawn darkness at the river’s edge. At first, I didn’t know he was a TV star. But it didn’t take long.

“Don’t you know who I am?” he asked. A trace of smirk was illumed by his boat and trailer lights.

We had just exchanged stories from our fishing two days prior, when he had beaten me to the boat ramp, and I had worried he was headed for my favorite spot up-river. As they had pushed into the river, he told his fishing guests, “On this boat, we never get skunked.” Turned out, he roared right past my spot, fishing farther upstream than I had ever ventured due to formidable rapids and rocks.
Now, two days later, this time my boat already launched, I could take my time. I looked at him more closely. Handsome face. Trim. Really good teeth. Salt-and-pepper goatee and mustache, with same colored hair under a black cap featuring a red, white, and blue salmon.

“No, I don’t know who you are,” I smiled.

“I’m Glenn Hall. Got a TV fishing show: Hawg Quest.” (“Hawgs” are huge chinook salmon.)

Sure enough, his boat said “Hawg Quest” on its sides, along with paintings of fish in a panorama reminiscent of air-brushed nature scenes that you see on the back of RVs going down the freeway. Big white letters proclaimed the boat’s brand, “Wooldridge,” which I learned was one of his TV show’s sponsors. He proudly described his custom boat’s luxuries: a fancy electrical system for his stereo, lines of blue LEDs lighting a floor area that seemed twice as big as my boat, four downriggers on chrome rails, built-in hoses to flush away fish slime, boat headlights – all driven by a 150 horsepower white Evinrude outboard with a jet drive for skimming over shallow water. The supreme Northwest rivers salmon fishing rig.

“Most all the guys who fish here much know who I am,” he said, not-so-subtly implying that I must not fish here much. I didn’t tell him that I had been fishing this stretch of river twice a week for six years and, no, I really had no idea who the fuck he was. Instead, I asked him about his TV show and whether he had filmed his prior fishing day. I learned he already had 174 shows finished so didn’t need any more footage. He told me the cable channel of his show, “the same one that airs the Mariners’ games.” I was pretty certain that is a baseball team, but I wasn’t positive so didn’t reply. I’ll be sure to search for his show and DVR it, though.

Okay, he didn’t call himself Hawg Man. But, really? Glenn? It was hard to picture this larger-than-life macho self-promoter as a Glenn. I think Hawg Man is a much better fit.

The Hawg Man was plenty full of himself, but here’s the thing. On our prior day’s fishing, just one more day when the salmon had skunked me and my boat, he and his buddies caught six chinooks. On this day, they would catch only two small ones, if I read correctly Hawg Man’s hand signals as he flew past me heading home for the day. He flashed his TV star smile and waved, happy as you can be piloting your jet boat full-speed down a deserted river in Oregon’s fall sunshine.

I was anchored for lunch in the shoreline shade, and had been thinking about my early-morning encounter with TV guy. He reminded me of another human bombast I knew years ago in Michigan, TV star outdoor show guy Fred Trost. Fred is dead now, but he and his big mouth cut a wide path in life.

Fred took over the then-iconic outdoor show, Michigan Outdoors, and turned himself (from hustling Bowling for Dollars on a Flint TV station) into a plaid-shirted, mustached caricature of a hunting-fishing guru for Michigan’s outdoorsmen.

I didn’t know Fred all that well, but well enough that he was always comfortable insulting me – usually about my balding. His jibes reflected his insecurities about his own thinning pate. Sometimes, we would cross paths in country-western bars with Fred and his latest paramour – a friend of mine had branded them “horse-faced dogs” for their predictably rough looks. Fred prided himself on being a good-ol-boy.

Shameless self-promotion is essential to be a successful TV outdoor guy. Fred tried everything to make his show successful – printing a magazine, hawking outdoor whatnots, opening a “Fred Trost Museum of Outdoor Collectibles,” even staging TV debates on outdoor sports or environmental controversies (which is where I had fit in to his show). What ruined his life was his attempt at investigative reporting.

His big scoop was deer pee. Fred charged on his TV show that a Michigan company was selling fake deer urine. When hunters bought their little bottles of expensive deer pee, they were promised it came from does in heat. Deer hunters sprinkle the juice around to mask their human odor and, presumably, attract horny bucks. Fred said it was all a bunch of hooey.

I found his pee-damning video online ( Living forever in virtual reality, Fred seemed so comfortable, naïve really, when smiling into the camera and calling the deer-pee-peddlers liars and cheats.

But either Fred was wrong about the fake pee, or he just wasn’t able to prove his libelous claims in court. In any event, he lost everything when the Michigan company sued him and won a $4 million judgment. Ever the wronged, camo-clad knight in his own mind, Fred vowed revenge on the legal system. He went back to school and got a law degree from a little college in Lansing. To the best of my recollection, however, this had no impact on the deer pee lawsuit or on Fred’s life, in general. To me, he just seemed even more bitter and unhappy.

Then one day, years later, someone sent me an email with Fred’s obituary. It said he had died of a rare lung disease at 61. Fred’s friends called him “the first outdoor media star” and “a giant in the outdoors.”

My encounter with the Hawg Man, his TV-persona starlight glowing even in the morning darkness, reminded me of Fred. Though a flawed character, Fred really did love nature, hunting, and fishing. I wished he could experience just one more moment like mine on the river: Ravens talking their talk high in a dirty blue sky, hazy from wilderness fires off in the mountains. Does and fawns grazing the river’s banks defined by round clumps of sedges that bristle like soft, green porcupines.

Turkeys gobbling in the hills; wrentits trilling, reminding me of the sound made by a bouncing ping-pong ball accelerated, then stilled by a lowered paddle – but echoing through a piccolo. Overhead, “whoosh-a-whoosh-a-whoosh,” from wings of a vulture spooked from its dead fish luncheon. Flat greens and yellows dominating the landscape, wearing none of the riotous colors of Michigan’s forests in autumn, except riverside, among the scrubby trees and shrubs growing at the limits of winter’s raging floods, patches of poison oak flaming red.

In one of my former lives (as newspaper reporter), I wrote a profile of Fred. He told me then, “Here’s a way I can make a living, have an absolute ball, and get my message on TV about why hunting and fishing are honorable.” But that was before his great deer pee exposé. Maybe there’s a lesson in there.

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