IN EVERY PERSON’S life there is a time to say goodbye. For me, that time was last Friday.

Don’t get your hopes up. You’re not getting rid of me that easy. I have most definitely not said goodbye to this gig, but Friday, I did pull the plug on working a full-time job as I joined the fixed income gang. You bet. Social Security, IRAs, a little bit of odd cash here and there, that’s all there will be. After seeing my 69th birthday slide by in the rearview mirror earlier this month, I was definitely ready to say the words Friday “As of today, I am retired!”

I’ve been threatening to retire for a few years now, but each year on my birthday, my boss, Paul Lofy, who was the best boss I’ve ever worked for would ask “Well, ‘whaddya’ think? One more year?” Each year, I would reply that OK, one more year would be it. 

It never was. I came close to retiring last year. I was indeed dead serious about it, but a few days before Paul died after a short battle with leukemia, I told him during our last conversation together that I would not leave for at least a year. Now, going on a year and a half later, with his family, new employees and an invaluable holdover on board and ready for anything, it was really time to retire. 

What finally made up my mind for sure was a note I got on Facebook in August from a good friend and classmate of mine from the Class of ’67, Eagle River High School. It was short and to the point “Well, it’s been one helluva good ride. My only regret is that I worked for 40 years.” Candi was one of the nicest and most beautiful girls I had known in high school, always fun to see and talk to at class reunions, and even though I had known it was coming, it was still a hard blow when she died three days after sending that message. Her words resonated with me and now, with no regret, I have become a retiree.

People ask me what I plan to do now that I am retired. I tell them “Whatever my lovely wife tells me to do.” After they finish guffawing and chortling, I admit that along with my wife’s 212-page to-do list, single-spaced at that, there will be time for skiing the Birkebeiner again, a little — probably make that a lot?— of fishing, some tramping the woods with my dogs and sundry other tasks like hunting, napping and sipping Crown Royal that I figure someone has to do. 

Before I get to all that work, there is the matter of a 12-day trip to North Dakota that began Monday. The hard work ahead of me for the rest of this trip includes relieving some lakes in the Turtle Mountains of some of their walleyes, northern pike and perch, after which there will be the matter of presiding over the annual gathering of my gang of duck and goose hunters at the little white house on the prairie.

Believe me, keeping those assorted scoundrels and scallywags in line is a tough, tough job, but one someone must do. I have been doing it for 27 years and with any luck this one, like all those before it, will be better than the one before.

Once home, it will be on to that little task list of my wife’s. It also will be a time to do some remembering about all the jobs I have had. Some jobs were good, some not so good, I made passable money at some, worked for peanuts at others. All of them involved being in, writing about or talking about the outdoors.

On my first job, I was my own boss. I was an entrepreneur at the tender age of 10 when my uncle opened a seasonal sport shop 2 miles west of Sayner. Among other things, he sold cartons of worms. Back in the ’50s and ’60s, I was able to find worms in a large bed created by my dad at the edge of the woods by our house. An old logging railroad grade cut through a bank at that point and filled in for a decade with leaves, bark and other yard cleaning stuff it was a fertile breeding ground for worms all summer.

I would dig them and sell them to Uncle Hank at the rate of 25 cents for 50 worms. He would sell those 50 worms for 50 cents. Over the summer I could count on making about $3 each week. Some went into my first-ever savings account, the rest into 5-cent ice cream bars, 10-cent bottles of soda pop and 10-cent comic books, along with assorted hooks, sinkers and bobbers, the latter meaning much of my earnings returned to Uncle Hank.

My next job, at the age of 12, was raking leaves at several summer homes on Plum Lake. Bert Warner was the caretaker for those homes and though he enjoyed being a good caretaker, he did not like to rake leaves. So, for 75 cents per hour I raked leaves all during the month of May the year I graduated from eighth grade.

Again, a small amount went into savings while the rest went into a new rod and reel, several spoons, plugs and fresh monofilament line which was well-used and tested in early June when my dad and Millard Long took my cousin, Buckshot, and me on our first Canadian fishing trip. By the way, without having to first fork it over to me, Uncle Hank was again the recipient of much of my income. It was a good deal for him.

Over the years, my jobs included summer gigs during my college years driving truck; bulldozing and cutting trees for my Uncle Dick; working in the sporting goods section of a large store in Eau Claire and later, part-time guiding fishermen; writing about sports, news and the outdoors as a reporter for this newspaper and as an editor for another weekly; as a sales manager for a sporting goods distributor; midlife part-time jobs at Minocqua Winter Park and a flower shop/nursery; finishing with selling pellet stoves, minnows, fishing tackle and other sporting goods for Lofy.

The only job that did not physically take me into the outdoors was that of bartending, which I did for two years in college before moving on to managing a couple of bars and running my own. At that job, however, you can bet there was plenty talk of the outdoors going on, which brings us to the here and now. Working days behind me, retirement is here. I like it.