The 68th annual Kern County Sportsman's Night Dinner was held a couple of weeks ago at Hodel's banquet room with over 300 attendees. The honoree this year was my friend, Jim Roberts.
I first met Jim last year just before this same event took place. I said the following remarks about him in the column I did at that time:
"Jim is the 'behind the scenes guy who does a lot of work for the dinner, but does not get the credit he well deserves. One of a kind."
Boy, was that an understatement. These next remarks were given by his daughter when she introduced him on this night.
"In addition to being a 32nd degree Master Mason, a member in the Kern Petroleum Shrine Club and Scottish Rite, dad has proudly served on the boards of many local organizations such as R.M. Pyles Boys Camp, Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, California Quail, and the Kern County Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute
"In his lifetime, dad has raised millions of dollars of donations contributing to local scholarships, youth programs, habitat conservation and ethical harvesting of our resources, as well as preservation of the American right to do so. His work for the last 36 years on the annual Sportsman's Dinner is some of the most fun he's had bringing the community together for good drinks, great food, and amazing prizes in support of the outdoors."
I had lunch with Jim a few days before the dinner and sat completely mesmerized by some of the things he said to me. He first went duck hunting at 7 with his dad, and it has been nothing but go, go, go ever since that time. He received his first hunting license at age 10, and used it all over the state on outings with his family. He told me about how his grandfather and father were instrumental in founding a vast number of duck clubs here in the south end of the valley during the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Most of these were south and west of Bakersfield and drew waterfowl from the the old Buena Vista Lake.
The most prominent was the Beverly Hills Gun Club which had a big following of Hollywood stars as members such as Clark Gable, Robert Stack, Gary Cooper, and others. I can't tell you how many times we were "fist bumping" each other during our conversation because of the all the names of people that we both knew from years ago kept coming up.
His family shopped at Kerr's Sports Shop in Beverly Hills, owned by my old skeet shooting partner, Alex Kerr. They knew Alex's gun shop manager Jerry Knight, just as I did. They also knew his son-in-law Russ Long who they bought ammo from at Olympic Wholesale. Jim just kept mentioning family names that we both were acquainted with like Lemucchi, Fanucchi and Garone.
Then it was places we had both hunted during our lives. Sheepy Ridge at Tule Lake was one example.
Next, it was a small "Guide To North American Waterfowl" pamphlet we both used as kids. It was all just amazing. Jim first started attending the Sportsman's dinners in 1980, and soon got involved in fundraising. He said he once went out looking for five donors, and ended up getting 35. At one time, the dinner was the "Stag Party of the Year," and was for men only. This did not go over well with Jim because sportsmanship was about family traditions, and that included women.
After 50 years of the event, he made it available to all sexes, and encouraged women and children to attend. California Waterfowl Association supported Jim's vision by sponsoring a free Sprig Membership, a CWA hat, and one entry into the youth raffle for everyone 15 and younger in attendance. At the present time, Jim's main focus is trying to get more and more young people into waterfowl hunting and programs.
In closing, I can just say . . Well done Jim. You are very special, and there is no one more deserving of the CWA "Service Volunteer Award of Excellence."