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BY HANNAH J. RYAN
A trail-builder for Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, an aviation gunnery instructor for the Navy, a ploughboy and a mailman. Bill Horine has tried his hand at an extensive array of careers and he will tell you something good about each of them.
In 1934, fresh out of high school, Horine joined the CCC. For $30 a month, most of which went home to his family, Horine swung a shovel and hauled gravel to build trails, and established erosion prevention projects across his home state of Iowa.
Throughout his life Horine continued to try his hand at many trades. He worked in a restaurant, built roads in Alaska and was Master of a Masonic Lodge.
Yet it was in the 1950s that Horine’s career as an outdoor journalist began. It started with a 15-minute spot on hunting and fishing for a local radio station and developed into weekly spots on KCCI TV-8, Iowa’s largest TV station.
Once, TV-8 did a survey of its viewers, and Horine said the results “really floored” him.
“When I learned half of my viewers were female and wanted more on the other outdoor things people did, it really opened me up,” Horine said.
At this point Horine said he expanded beyond hunting and fishing stories and reported on camping, cross-country skiing, national and state parks, outdoor cooking, trails, outdoor family vacations, canoeing and bird watching.
Mark Ackelson met Horine when working at the Story County Iowa Conservation Board, which Horine was active in establishing.
As an intern for the Board, Ackelson said Horine was his first boss out of college. Ackelson worked with Horine in the creation of the Skunk River Green Belt and Hickory Grove Park, among other projects.
“Bill has an especially keen sense of the outdoors,” Ackelson said. “Outdoor education, water quality and recreation were all is- sues Bill was especially interested in.”
Ackelson went on to become the president of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, an organization for which Horine has contributed stories and photography.
Phil Larson has travelled with Horine on numerous fishing trips and reporting projects. One memorable trip took them to Churchill, Manitoba, to see the beluga whales. Both were working on stories for different publications and went out onto the Churchill River to get their shots as the whales gave birth at the river’s mouth.
Larson often attended OWAA Conferences with Horine and the 1992 conference in Bismark, N.D., stands out in Larson’s mind. Larson said Horine always has a trick up his sleeve, or in one instance, a goldfish.
In Bismark, Horine stopped into a nearby dime store before a conference cocktail party. There he purchased a goldfish with the intent to place it in a friend’s drink. But the target of his prank left the party early that evening and Horine was stuck walking around the party with a fish in his pocket.
“Someone was holding my drink for me,” Larson said, “and when I walked back to retrieve it, Bill had gotten rid of his goldfish.”
“This typifies his personality.”
Beyond his fame as a prankster, Horine is often asked to speak about an animal whose golden-eyed stare first captured his attention when doing road construction in Alaska.
“I fell in love with bald eagles on my first time to Alaska,” Horine said. “I have been there six times, as a writer and as a summer volunteer naturalist. Eagles are the greatest of all raptors as far as I am concerned.”
Reaching his 96th year, Horine is still active outdoors and in his assisted-living community, and is working on various Iowa history projects.
From nearly a century of experience, Horine said he likes to focus on the basics of the outdoors and advises those working in this industry to see beyond its commercial aspects.
“Outdoor writers need a full knowledge of all aspects of the out of doors,” Horine said. “It just isn’t a fishing and hunting thing anymore.”♦
— Brought up wandering in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming, Hannah J. Ryan continues to feed her curiosities by pursuing bachelor degrees in journalism and Spanish. She is the spring semester intern at OWAA headquarters. Contact her at email@example.com.