Doc’s Gone Hunting

Don “Doc” Childress left this planet on January 19. If you knew Doc, you may or may not learn something new about him in the time it takes you to read this. If you didn’t know him, you missed one of the best men who ever shared life with those of us in Paradise. If it is true that a person is only as big as the number of things to which he or she attends with interest, Doc was a very big man.

He was part of so many lives and activities, over so many years, that when I decades ago asked a friend if he knew this chiropractor – this Doc Childress guy – he just looked at me. “Really?” He said, “Everybody knows Doc!” It wasn’t long before I began to see his point. Doc was in plays and musicals from Yakima to Leavenworth, he was active in his church, he focused a lot of his life around Labor Day Weekend with the Fair Board and the Rodeo Posse. If the Noon Kiwanis was doing any activity he’d be leading or helping up to his elbows. He seemed to have a warm greeting for most anyone, and when he laughed you pretty much had to join in – even if you had no idea what was so funny.

My earlier-departed friend Jim Groseclose once observed that you could take the measure of a man by listening to how he talked about his wife and family. Over the years, we spoke often of our families. He showed me that no matter the joy, quiet, or sheer weirdness of my own family life, there was always love and respect to be spoken and celebrated.

More than anything, I suppose, I came to know the man who loved the outdoors and hunting. He loved anything and everything outdoors – and was up for pretty much anything he could do to make sure everyone else had outdoor opportunities of their own. He and wife Geraldine worked diligently to ensure that their family had outdoor roots. Listen to his laughter-filled tales, and you would quickly realize that his hunting with son Dana and huckleberry chasing with daughter Anneliese were the stuff of high family legend. He once noted that a life not largely lived outdoors was not a life. This is probably why he was so determined that the Kittitas County Field and Stream Club (and its mission to make certain that future generations would always have an outdoors to share) would stay alive and relevant.

On any number of occasions during the fifth to eighth decades of the Club’s existence, after its 1919 founding, Doc stepped up to serve as club president or fill any other role which might help keep it growing and moving. He seemed to know most everybody in the Kittitas Valley, and was never afraid to light a fire under anyone on behalf of our outdoor future. He was a driving force behind the first Chukar Run Banquet, the primary source of funding for club work with kids and public lands. With his joy, laughter and ability to talk to anyone, he was Master of Ceremonies for those banquets into the start of this 21st Century.

Wilma Dlouhy became the first woman officer – and the first female member – of the Club in 1989. A couple years before that, she will tell you, she accompanied husband Bob to a club meeting. (Indeed, she may have been the first woman to ever attend such a meeting.) Only one man in that room of 40 or more club members even acknowledged her presence; Don Childress walked over and warmly welcomed her. It was Doc who soon fought for her membership and her election to office. From that time forward, women have been critical to the continuing success of the oldest “sportsman’s” club in the state of Washington. Maybe that’s all we need to know about Doc’s vision and courage.

Certainly, he had a more personal and private side, too. Doc grew up hunting deer up in the hills of his youth in the northeast corner of our state. After he settled in Ellensburg, he and fellow chiropractor Maynard Linder became best friends and formed the “chiropractic royalty” of this part of Washington. They were also diehard hunting partners, enjoying many years afield. When Myron Linder (the next generation of that chiropractic royal family) was a youngster, he would get to go with the two docs, and maybe even hunt along. He will tell you that Doc’s enthusiasm for life and the hunt was ever present as they alertly poked through woods and thickets after those whitetails. Over time, Doc’s son Dana grew into that sacred family experience.

In recent years, with our youngsters grown, busy taking care of their own, and less available to come play, Doc and I talked about partnering up for a journey to chase deer in his beloved hills. Our schedules, and then his faltering health, never let that happen – one of only a handful of regrets I carry. Still, we wasted several fine moments sharing our hunting stories. I asked him once where deer hunting fit in his life. He laughed through recollections of friends and activities, soberly praised God for his amazing family, then smiled and said, “Hunting was in all of that, wasn’t it? …I sure would like to get out there again!”

In January, Doc passed on to his reward surrounded by family – those he often said gave him the strength to carry on in this life. Shortly after his passing, Dana picked up his phone and called his life-long friend Myron Linder.

He started the conversation with “Dad’s gone hunting.”


Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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