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Remembering William Barbee

In Kevin Costner’s movie Dances with Wolves, there is a scene in which the mule-team driver pokes around at an old skeleton found along the trail. It has an arrow sticking out of it. The mule-team driver says in jest, “Now, why don’t he
write?”

I thought of that scene often this past year-or-so whenever I’d try to contact OWAA member and graduate student of the North American School of Outdoor Writing William H. Barbee.

Bill joined NASOW in 2008. He was 88 years old. A retired anathesiologist, he lived in Surpise, Arizona.

His main writing was about fly-fishing the rugged rivers of the american west — many of his trips invloved hikes and overnight camps, sometimes on horseback.

He also published articles on Olympic-level shooting, including what it took to reach that level of expertise. He liked to pass on tips from the experts that the average shooter could benefit from by incorporating them into their own shooting.

When he began the writing course, he sent me a snapshot of himself when he won a gold medal in 2007 for shooting at the Arizona Senior Olympics. “There were only two of us in my age bracket” he wrote on the back with his usual wry sense of humor.

Bill also wrote about the history of the outdoor sports, including one particularly fine article about some of the old gunsmiths who had relocated to the USA — craftsmen who had worked for the likes of Purdy in England.

Bill Barbee was a fine man. Polite, professional, interested in many things, sharp as a ten-penny nail. It was a pleasure to work with him and he had good success, published in the outdoor press many times, which was one of his goals. He  still holds the record as the oldest student in the school — he was certainly as succcesssful as many other students a quarter his age.

I’ll miss you, Bill. I can picture you wading out into the Yellowstone with clouds of mayflies glowing in the morning light. Your horses graze, and raise their heads to nicker and watch, as you play a big one.

Way to go, Bill. Way to go!

Roger Brunt, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada

Writers Need To Use Best Science

As a scientist and a writer, I take exception to Mary Nickum’s assessment of peer review in “Covering science like an expert” (August-September 2014). Ms. Nickum states that “The burden of proof rests with researchers seeking to change scientific conclusions. Science is never accepted until confirmed by additional studies. Science writers should look for consensus among studies.” First, these statements have little to do with peer review and are ambiguous. The peer review is done prior to the publication of the scientists’ papers. The second sentence is ambiguous at best and not true at worst. What does she mean by “[s]cience”? Not all studies require additional studies for confirmation. If done properly, peer review can be all that is needed for readers to accept a study’s results (such as a study conducted by multi-institutional scientific teams and peer-reviewed by many highly qualified experts). And finally, science writers should look for the best conducted and best peer-reviewed studies, not necessarily for consensus (consensus among whom?).

Susan Jewell, Springfield, Virginia

Standing Up For Self-Publishing

I second Dave Carlson’s admonition not to look down on self-publishing. Doing so can only diminish our appeal to potential new members, not to mention OWAA’s relevance in the evolving marketplace of ideas.

Jim Low, Jefferson City, Missouri


Feedback guidelines

Members are encouraged to write about issues and topics. The executive director and editor will decide whether opinions are appropriate for debate or if the comments promote a personal cause; if the “cause” is unrelated to OWAA’s mission and potentially damaging to the membership, the letter might not be printed. Word limit: 400. Longer letters will be returned for revision. Send letters to editor@owaa.org.


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