As we stumble down the sporting road, we never know what hidden doors we may be opening, what unimagined connections and confluences our pursuits with rod and gun are making possible.
It’s a small world, as they say, and by probing the hinterlands we only make it smaller.
This was brought home to me recently when, at a dinner party in honor of a friend’s birthday, I found myself seated across from an attractive woman I hadn’t met before. She appeared to be 60-ish—my age. As usual at these affairs there were a number of conversations going on at once, and at some point I overheard her tell another guest that she’d grown up in South Dakota.
My antennae went up at that—most years I make one and sometimes two trips to South Dakota to chase pheasants and prairie grouse—and when I had an opportunity to engage her directly I said, “I heard you say that you’re from South Dakota. Whereabouts?”
“Huron?” she said, inflecting it more like a question than an answer.
“Oh, sure,” I said. “I’ve been there.”
“You have?” she said, clearly incredulous. “What on earth for?”
“A number of reasons,” I said, “but mostly pheasant hunting.”
“Oh, that makes sense,” she said, nodding. “If you’re a pheasant hunter you’d know Huron.”
“Yeah, I’ve hunted all around there,” I continued. “Wolsey, Woonsocket, Carthage, Desmet …”
She laughed at that. “Wow, do those names bring back memories. All those little farm towns …”
She paused thoughtfully before adding, “A lot of corn, a lot of pheasants, and not much else.”
“Hey,” I said, “don’t sell your hometown short. Cheryl Ladd’s from Huron, isn’t she?”
A sly, bemused smile crossed her face. “Yes, she is,” she said. “My claim to fame, as a matter of fact, is that when Cheryl Ladd graduated from high school I was the next girl to wear her cheerleading uniform.”
“What?!?” I sputtered, nearly choking on my Zinfandel. “Did you just say what I think you said?”
“I did,” she acknowledged, laughing again. “Whenever a cheerleader graduated, her uniform was passed down to a new member of the squad. I got Cheryl Ladd’s.”
Cheryl Ladd! The quintessentially wholesome, natural, minty-fresh girl-next-door—if the girl-next-door happened to be a ravishing blonde whose appearance in a bikini was grounds for arrest on a charge of disturbing the peace. The star of dozens of made-for-TV movies, she’s still best-known as Farrah Fawcett’s replacement on Charlie’s Angels, the iconic (if supremely silly) television series about a trio of sexy private eyes.
And now I’d met a woman who’d worn the same cheerleading uniform in which Cheryl Ladd had once shaken her pom-poms. Without putting too fine a point on it, I found this a lot more interesting than I probably should have. But then, I’ve always said that I’m really just a teenager in the body of a middle-aged man …