A hero among us

The first thing I ever heard about my great-uncle Al was that he never gave up.

When I started hunting, my mentor—my mother’s brother, Uncle Mark—wanted to impress upon me the vital importance of persistence. So he told me stories about hunting with his uncles in Pennsylvania’s Moshannon State Forest back in the 1960s and 70s.

Uncle Al, me, and Al’s son Jim in Vermont in 2007. The sign behind us, which Cath and I had never noticed before, indicates that access to one of our favorite hiking and fishing areas was funded by the Land & Water Conservation Fund, a program Uncle Al helped establish in the 1960s. Photo credit: Catherine J. Cerulli

When pouring rain or biting cold or just plain hopelessness drove everyone else back to the cabin, Uncle Al would stay put, his back to a big oak, fallen logs and branches stacked up on either side as windbreaks, his .35 Remington pump in hand. Hours later, the cabin door would swing open and Uncle Al would step inside, grinning, and set a plastic bag on the table. In it would be the liver of a whitetail, still warm. While other hunters often went home empty-handed, he dragged a buck off that rough Allegheny terrain three years out of four.

I started corresponding with Uncle Al in 2006. The next year, I met him and his son Jim for the first time. As I’ve gotten to know Al and learned about his life, one thing has become abundantly clear: his dogged perseverance has led to far greater accomplishments than success in the deer woods.

Now, at the age of 93, Uncle Al (Alfred Buck) has been named a Hero of Conservation by Field & Stream.

On my essays page, I’ve posted a piece about him—Country of Rivers: A Life’s Work—along with a number of photos. I hope you enjoy it.

© 2010 Tovar Cerulli


  1. Cork Graham says:

    Tovar —

    What a great story–and wonderful that Uncle Al has been recognized while he’s still around to enjoy it!

    Uncle Al sure knows his rounds, too, for that type of environment. A .35 Remington was, and is, a perfect round for that deep forest. The Benoit family up in Maine loved that round for their still-hunting in deep New England woods.


  2. Arthur says:

    Tovar —

    Great, great story. Uncle Al sounds like an awesome guy, and one heck of a mentor.

    I loved the blog post, and the essay. They were great reads.

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