Norm Elliott and The Happy Hunting Grounds

Norm Elliott went home two weeks ago – just about the time we were packing the last of our deer and antelope meat into coolers for the drive from Sheridan, Wyoming, back to Paradise.

You probably never met Norm. Too bad, really, because he was a fascinating guy with a huge warm smile and a heart as big as the outdoors. Norm could keep you hanging onto each part of whatever tale he was spinning. Hanging on is what you did – until he said something so off-the-cuff funny that you would lose your grip.

I met Norm through his wife Jane. Jane was one of my meditation students back in the ‘80s around Castle Rock, Colorado. Spiritual, smart, sassy and funny, she was on me all the time about my firearms and my love of hunting and eating wild animals, and how on earth I could be teaching meditation. The very mention of the killing of an elk or deer or antelope to feed my family raised the hackles on her neck. Somehow, through all that, we remained good friends; her daughters, along with a teen who lived with them, Amy Adams (yes – that Amy Adams), would look after the Hucklings when needed.

At any rate, by the late 1990s, Jane was on her own, working as a massage therapist in Castle Rock. One day, this guy Norm traveled the 60-some miles from his home in the mountains west of Denver to get help with a back carrying too many years of heavy construction. Two months later, summer of 1998, they were married.

This was all happening while I was building a new career at Central. We never lost touch, and talked now and again. One fall day, she mentioned that they had gotten a big elk and had a heck of a time getting it out of the woods. What? Jane?!

Turned out that she and Norm were quite the muzzleloader and rifle hunters. She hunted, she shot and she cooked and ate game meat. She was happier than she had been in a long time, living with this man of the mountains. The guy knew pretty much everything there was to know about construction and wild things and true West history, laughed all the time, and lived largely in harmony with the earth.

In 2002, Norm and my sons Tim and Edward drove up from Denver to join my annual Wyoming antelope safari. Edward and I had done this trip several times, and this was his second year of actually hunting. Tim hadn’t hunted with me for years. They were both ready to go. Norm was in more than a little pain at times, but he never stopped smiling. He could carry out a stalk in almost any ground we hunted, and when the time came, he could shoot.

Over a couple days and a number of stalks we gradually filled our tags. At the end, it all added up to two days, four shots, four antelope, and the finest of meats for our families.

On one of our last evenings, we had an old-West history lesson. Norm wanted to go see the movie “Open Range” which was playing in Sheridan. Norm knew the history of those days well, and he knew the country in which the movie’s story took place. His ability to weave the story of those final open range grazers and the establishment of in-place ranches and towns mesmerized us. I had always considered myself a fine teacher and storyteller; that night I sat with a master.

The following September, Norm and Edward joined me again for the Wyoming hunt. Norm’s too-many years in construction were catching up with him, and he was having trouble getting around in the antelope-stalking country in which we were playing. We headed for the Sheridan office of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Wyoming had just overhauled its disabled hunter permit program, and Norm had his Colorado Division of Wildlife paperwork handy. We left the office with his permit to shoot from a vehicle under certain circumstances, and my Disabled Hunter’s Companion Permit. Our permit numbers were 0001. Cool.

As we climbed back into Norm’s rig, he laughed. “Look at this. You just signed up to find us antelope and clean, skin and haul mine back to the truck! Thanks…”

Through some terrific stalks and goofy screw-ups, we had a great hunt.

We never hunted together again but we met up with Norm and Jane from time to time. He volunteered at Cherry Creek State Park for years, and taught western history to a full classroom. As his big heart struggled, that huge open smile rarely left his face. He was always ready to talk hunting and the “true” West.

I keep remembering his off-the-cuff view of the world, and how he summed up our 2003 hunt. As the three of us prepared to head home, he grinned, “This is good male bonding stuff, you know? …Kinda like when women all walk to the bathroom together.”

Rest in peace in those Happy Hunting Grounds, Norm.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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Comments (1)

  • October 5, 2015 at 11:01 pm |

    What a nice eulogy for an old friend! Very nicely done, and I’m sure his loved ones appreciate this very much.

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