I had a number of reasons for starting the “Forda Birds” column 40 years ago. I grew up around fishing and hunting. I was leafing through the pages of the outdoor magazines before I started grammar school, and I frequently listened to stories about the outdoors from old-timers who used to come into our candy store and warm their fannies by a pot-bellied stove we had in the back. It was a good life for a kid. Of course, the Miami-Erie Canal basin was in my backyard. It’s a St. Marys city parking lot now, but it was my outdoor world when I was growing up, and I wasn’t alone.
I got through high school without building a stellar résumé. My mother constantly reminded me that my priorities were misplaced. I disagreed, of course, although she was probably right. My outdoor world did expand, however, as I grew older and got a bit more mobile.
Somehow, I got into college and eventually graduated. I got an education degree, met my wife, and wound up in the military. Those years took me to places where I discovered an entirely different outdoor world. I’m probably one of the few Vietnam veterans who actually went catfishing in country. In 1966, I took a teaching job locally and retired in 1993. Throughout that time, I continued my love of the outdoors and spent many hours outside on the hooks and bullets scene. I still teach, as a matter of fact. I’ve been an adjunct professor at a community college and have another 15 years there. Teaching is what I do for a living. The rest of this stuff is just frosting on the cake of a decent career in communication.
But, let’s get to the “Forda Birds” issue. When I was in college, I had the urge to write for the outdoor magazines I enjoyed reading. I had an obsession with Field & Stream, for some odd reason. I bugged them for information, dropped them story ideas, and even begged to become part of their organization. Eventually, I latched on to a mentor who agreed to read my stuff and tell me all he knew about the outdoor writing business. We corresponded for a number of years, and I learned a great deal from the man. I never met him personally. Come to think of it, he might have been working in circulation for all I know. He did tell me one time that a piece I wrote was so bad he had to do a rewrite before he threw it in the garbage. He was right, and the lesson I learned was try to do my best and not to take myself too seriously.
I wanted to join a premier professional outdoor writing organization. I figured to be a big dog, one had to bark with the big dogs. There was a catch, however. They had membership requirements. A person had to write regularly for pay to qualify. The advice I received was to start writing a column for the local newspaper. So, I wrote a couple of samples, went to see K.C. Geiger, and the rest is history.
I didn’t have enough nerve to use a by-line. Instead, I came up with the head, “Outdoor Corner with Forda Birds.” That’s when I first started hearing the question, “Who the hell is Forda Birds?” When I decided to use my own name as a byline, I continued to hear the question but seldom answered it. To set the record straight, it was a name I took off a mailbox I saw near Traverse City, Michigan. A real person or not? I don’t have a clue. However, the name has been around here now for some 40 years, so I guess that makes it official. There is a Forda Birds.