Half a century ago, in mid-May 1972, I got a call from Jack Samson, the newly appointed editor of Field & Stream. Would you like to get on board as a Managing Editor, Jack asked. Then he added “Work is paid…”
“I do not care what the job pays for,” I said. “I will cut the salary to work there.”
I was not joking.
I was on the staff of Sporti Afield, where I was having a good time. But I had been an F&S reader since high school and the people who wrote about him were my heroes, and the magazine was, in the world of outdoor publishing, what the 1950s New York Yankees were for baseball.
Field & Stream there was a young publisher named Mike O’Neill, and he was the least open man you could imagine, but he was a shrewd judge of the people and the people who worked for him, loved him. Whatever other publishers could get from a staff, he would get back half the amount again. It was his mandate to bring Field & Stream, which had a distinct 1950s atmosphere, 20 years ago. And fast.
Mike O’Neill and Jack Samson agreed on this Field & Flow would be based on the written word, and if there was a talented writer who was not at the mast, we would take it. We already had Al McClane and Ed Zern and Ted Trueblood. Over the next few years we would add Bob Brister and George Reiger and Bill Tarrant and Phil Bourjaily and Gene Hill and Keith McCafferty and John Merwin and Norm Strung. And after that there is a whole new generation of heavy attackers.
A competent editor can recognize talent instantly. Often, the first paragraph suffices and very often the first line does the job. In the 1980s, our then-Executive Editor, Peter Barrett, made a note in a very small article about the magazine’s regional section.
“This guy is very, very good,” Peter Bill Heavey said. “We have to use it a lot more.”
We did. His name was Bill Heavey.
Some writers were so skilled that you could do nothing about their copy except leave it alone. Ted Trueblood jumps to mind. All you could do was put the specifics of the type in his manuscripts and go out to eat lunch. Gene Hill, on the other hand, needed a lot of cutting. Editing Gen was like searching for gold. The clumps were there, but first I had to sift through the sand and gravel.
The work of dreams
When I started in 1972, there were no computers anywhere in magazine publishing. It was all typewriters and paper and pencils. It is now all electronic, including the magazine itself. When the last letter of the letter Field & Stream it turned out, I got a lot, but change was inevitable. The cost of the Three P’s – paper, print and mail – has been devastating and has been so since the 1980s. since the development of the alphabet. And the words mean the same thing whether they appear on paper or on an electronic screen.
I would like to thank all the hunters, fishermen, writers and editors who taught me and on whose shoulders I stand. Maybe someone will stand on my shoulders. If so, wipe your boots first.
And: Over the years, some of you have written to say that I often make sense. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
As a friend of mine once wrote about cars, “They pay me to do it. They pay me to do it. My God, I would do it for free. “
To celebrate Petzal’s 50th anniversary, throughout the week, we will share some of our favorite stories of him. – Editors