MARSHFIELD, WI (OnFocus)- I use a tagline with Thankful Outdoors, “Celebrate the Experience!” This week a long-time friend of the Hopperdietzel family had passed away. Jim Nehlrich left us on August 30th, 2021. He was a guy who celebrated the experience by sharing great stories.
My earliest hunting memory with Jim goes back to when I wasn’t old enough to drive a vehicle. He went rabbit hunting with Dad and me one afternoon; I don’t know why that hunt sticks in my memory, but it’s one of those that does.
After coming home from Vietnam, my Dad and Jim had a bond; they spent the fall chasing partridge in Taylor county. Many times Dad said he probably hadn’t seen a guy who could shoot a shotgun better than Jim.
This past fall, Dad and Jim relived those younger days as they got together to spend the afternoon in pursuit of partridge. It’s one of those moments that you regret missing out on in life. It would have been a fantastic day to share those few hours with these old-time friends.
There are two things that I will never forget of Jim. The first is that he made the best darn sauerkraut this side of the Mississippi, and secondly, that guy could tell a story. My brother Corey recently experienced the latter. He had stopped to get some ice and had seen Jim at the gas station; they sat and talked while the ice kept melting. He was such a darn nice guy, though, and had neat stuff to talk about that one just had a hard time walking away from him.
Days are missed when the Hopperdietzel, Thalacker, and Nehlrich gang would meet up at the cabin on Hulls Lake during the nine-day gun season to share stories and a few cold drinks. It was about the only time of the year that these three families saw each other simultaneously.
Everyone gets so busy with their own families and life that it gets hard to find time to keep connections. The bond between these families is unbelievable, though, even though it was a once-a-year event of seeing each other, one would think that it was just last weekend that we had been together. The power of a deer camp can create a lot of positive things.
My mother recently asked me, “how did you and Mark get to hanging out?” I don’t recall how that all started. Mark is Jim’s third child, and if he is not the spitting image of his father! Mark is a good loyal friend who often keeps in touch with me. We talk about the kids, how the outdoor activities are going, and we will spend some time together hunting or fishing on rare occasions.
When we do, I think it’s pretty neat that the two of us carry on the traditions of a friendship that our fathers had started many years before us. Jim, you will always be in our hearts, and for the rest of our time on this rock, Mark and I will continue to be friends just like you and Dad had been all of these years.
Reach out to an old friend, share a campfire, or have a good long talk on the phone. You never know when that friend will no longer be there for you. I’m always glad that Mark did that for me, and he put us all back in touch with each other.
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