Cader IV asked me to write this blog to update everyone on how we are looking and doing as we approach the midpoint of our hunting season. I have always believed that to be successful in life that we must accept all of the challenges that come our way rather than just the ones we want to accept. I also believe that perseverance is the doctrine that wins the victory.
I have never been prouder of my son or our employees as they faced the task of recovering from Hurricane Michael in such good shape. We did have to forego the first two weeks of hunting season in order to have time to clean up and repair. However, since we had no power and water during that time, I sincerely doubt that any of our guests would have wanted to be here during that time anyway. Once we got the Lodge grounds and buildings in shape, we branched out into our hunting courses.
Thanks to the generosity of some great guests, we were able to secure some heavy logging equipment to go along with the equipment that we already own. Jerry prioritized the courses that would be the easiest to clean up and make safe for hunting. We have about six employees who can operate any piece of heavy equipment (I am NOT one of those six, but Cader IV is). Even after we opened up, we were able to keep that equipment running for another two weeks until we began to need all of our men as guides.
Thanks to the Herculean effort of a dedicated group of employees, we were able to re-establish enough safe hunting courses to have a hunting season. I made it a point in the first two weeks that we were open to ask each host to be honest with me as to how the hunting compared to prior years. While all of them sympathized with us over the loss of so many trees, all of them recognized that there were a few more pine tops scattered around and the hunting had to go at just a bit slower pace, all agreed that the quality of the hunts was as good as ever.
As I told Cader IV, it probably helps that guests riding in from the airport view devastated pine plantations and pecan groves, and are probably wondering, “Oh, Holy Hell, what is Riverview going to look like?” Then when they turn on the Lodge road, our drivers say that you can feel the vehicle get lighter as a huge collective sigh of relief comes from all of the guests in the van. Our bookings remain strong, and almost everyone is reserving their dates for next season, which is my primary barometer of whether we are doing a good job. The hunting, dog work, guides, and birds are all performing superbly. Well, maybe the birds are doing a little too good. Our English Cocker program continues to be a huge success, and we now have enough of them that we are beginning to sell a few as either puppies, started, or fully trained dogs. Of course, we are also having to check guest’s duffel bags who are trying to smuggle an occasional Cocker.
We have already laid out our plans for next hunting season. If the weather will cooperate, you will never be able to tell that we suffered such a catastrophic loss of trees. Speaking of trees, I am reminded of a line in a book that said, “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.” Well, I have truly measured out my life by the age of the trees that my grandfather, father, and I planted. So many of these behemoths are gone, and it grieves me to know that I will never see them again in my lifetime. But, as I look around, I realize that we still have more timber standing than most hunting plantations have. I believe that a tree growing out of the ground is as wonderful today as it ever was, and we will have some new ones coming along next winter.
In closing, please allow me to quote a line from someone who I would rarely ever quote. Bob Marley said, “ You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” We had no choice, and we rose to the occasion. We could not have done it without the loyalty and trust of the greatest guests and friends in the world, and I thank y’all for that from the bottom of my heart. We do still have a few dates available if you want to come see for yourselves what has been accomplished at Riverview. May God bless y’all richly in 2019!