I never met Charleston Gazette outdoor writer "Skip" Johnson, but I did enjoy reading his "Woods and Waters" column in the Sunday morning newspaper. Today, John McCoy has this column and it covers an entire page of the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Sunday mornings.
C. O. "Skip" Johnson passed away this past Sunday at the age of 81. Death was attributed to prostate cancer.
I did not always agree with Johnson's opinion on some subjects like how the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources should schedule some of the hunting and fishing seasons. I have to openly admit that he was able to express an opinion on outdoor subjects and not be offensive.
From all of the reports that I have been reading about "Skip," those who knew him say he was simply a "gentleman." He could express an idea and not cause a lot of friction. I cannot help but admire any person who can do this.
Skip Johnson, a native of Braxton County, started writing for the Charleston Gazette in about 1951. This was during the Korean conflict. He was soon drafted into the United State Army and saw combat in that bloody tragedy.
In 1953, he returned to the Gazette and spent the next 40 years with his outdoors column featuring fishing and hunting. Other outdoor activities, as well as backpacking, boating and camping, were featured.
In addition to his column, Johnson also wrote five books: "The Braxton Connection," "Woods & Waters," "The Quicker The Sooner," "River on the Rocks" and "Upper River." He was working on his sixth book, "The Long-Tailed Cat" at the time of his death. This last book was going to be about the mountain lion sightings in West Virginia.
I was living in Kanawha County before going into the Navy in 1967. The Sunday before the squirrel season opened in October, Johnson would give a county-by-county rundown on the game and mast conditions in his "Woods and Waters" column. Each fall, I would always look forward to reading this annual report.
I remember a fishing story in his column in the late 60s. Johnson was bass fishing by boat on a certain lake. He claimed that he saw a large bass jump out of the water and grab a small bird flying a few inches above the lake's surface.
I think it was about 1990 he made a statement that I was in full agreement with, when he said that WVDNR black bear biologist, "Joe Rieffenberger knows more about bears than bears know about themselves."
I ran into Joe not long after reading this and told him that I agreed with the statement that Skip Johnson made about him. Joe just chuckled and replied, "That's because I can read the books".
I have talked with a few people this week who knew Skip and how much he will be missed. He also leaves behind many pleasant memories from those of us who enjoyed reading his column.
Skip Johnson has indeed made his mark with his outdoors column and with the books he has written. This is the time for the DNR to consider naming something after him as a matter of respect for what he has contributed to outdoor activities in this state. A public fishing lake, public hunting area, or even a public shooting range would be ideal to honor this person who devoted his life and career to promote outdoor sports in West Virginia.