Writer changes how we view the outdoors

The landscape will look different after reading this book.

An everyday sky will suddenly glow with colour and dance for joy.

A frozen slough will have you noticing its snow-covered cattails and imagining the thriving ecosystem embedded beneath its surface.

A bush will have you straining to see a moose, a deer or even a vole running through it.

Nature enthusiast and journalist Bruce Masterman takes you so far inside of his outdoor reality that after you’ve read his latest book, it is difficult to find your way back to where you came from. You will emerge from the final chapter of One Last Cast with a greater appreciation for nature, wonder at its offerings and care and concern for its wellbeing.

In stories that are touching and sentimental, Masterman takes readers into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. He places you firmly beside him in the hull of his boat with a faithful hunting dog on high alert. He tells of the shots fired, the kills collected and the fish caught. But more importantly, he tells of what he has passed through to get his bounty.

If you are hunting averse, as I am, you will come away with a deeper appreciation for the hunt and the reasons for its acceptance. You will see a gentler side of hunting and great care for the environment that supports it.

Masterman’s short stories, some of which appeared in his Calgary Herald column during his 21-year career at the daily newspaper, are heartfelt and humble. Those that speak lovingly of his wife and two daughters ring with a sweetness so palpable that he becomes just Dad in most of his scenes, versus author and journalism professor.

The highlight of the book is a lengthy story entitled, “A Special Time and Place.” In it, Masterman stands on a dock with his teenaged daughter, Sarah, headed to a magical place where the writer spent a wondrous summer more than three decades earlier.

Flying into Elbow Lake in northern Manitoba, Masterman recounts his first fishing camp job, the one he embraced in 1970 at the age of 17. We meet the camp’s fatherly statesman, a bachelor farmer named Henry Bradley from Manitoba’s Swan River area, who served as a guide to hunters and fishers when he wasn’t seeding or harvesting his crops.

Henry takes on a larger-than-life role in Masterman’s early outdoor education, being the mentor that brought nature into clearer focus for the would-be writer.

“The education didn’t end at fishing. Henry had a passion for the place, for the forest and the wildlife that lived there. He would point out and identify passing waterfowl and reverently describe the moose, caribou and wolves that lived in the region. Carefully rolling a cigarette with one hand, he spoke of the need to look after wildlife to ensure its future. I absorbed every word.”

Once Masterman recounts his disciple days with Bradley, the rest of the book makes sense as you see how he acquired his reverence for the wilderness.

“Into the Light” is another story that stays with the reader long after One Last Cast has been closed. Its honest look into the author’s struggle with depression is comforting. While the writing is about days of darkness, it is not dark.

“I prescribe myself generous regular doses of the outdoors whenever I’m feeling down. Being in nature helps level out my emotional peaks and valleys,” he writes.

You’ll want to have this book on your shelf. It has the ability to take the foggy mist off of any given day and put a shiny veneer on all you see, do and experience in the outdoors.

One Last Cast: Reflections of An Outdoor Life is written by Bruce Masterman and published by Rocky Mountain Books Ltd. (2017). It is available at rmbooks.com and in bookstores.

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