Uncle Jim’s Newspaper Interview

Dec 2, 2008

My Uncle Jim, along with my brother, have been the most instrumental in making sports a big part of my life.  I remember my Uncle talking to me about the Phillies, the Sixers, and the Eagles.  I also remember him telling me about when he played baseball as a kid and how he was fast as the wind.  Recently he was interviewed for a story in the Kansas City Star.  Here is that article.

Deer hunting: War veteran finding peace of mind
The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jim Leonard got a big dose of his favorite type of therapy one Saturday morning.

Leonard, who lives in the Philadelphia area, was ravaged by the terror of the Vietnam War. As a member of the airborne infantry, he was often one of the first ones to go behind enemy lines. And he witnessed things he says he will never get over.

But all of that seemed far away when he climbed into a tree stand in Cass County on opening day of the Missouri firearms season.

He was getting his first real look at the Show-Me State from his favorite vantage point. And he liked what he saw.

“Really, about the only joy I get in life is in the deer woods,” said Leonard, 59. “I can’t be out in crowds.

“About the only peace I get is when I’m out in a place like this. Just waiting for a big buck to walk out, that’s what gets my adrenaline going.”

Leonard came back from 13 months of active duty in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970 a broken man. Not only does he have hepatitis C, he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

But he eventually discovered the healing power of deer hunting. He accompanied friends on a trip to the Pocono Mountains and got hooked on the sport.

Eventually, he began traveling to Minnesota, Iowa and other states to hunt deer with gun and bow. And he found success, shooting three bucks big enough to mount and hang in his apartment.

But it was much more than that, he said.

The time he spent in the woods was a lifeline, helping him forget his troubles.

“In Vietnam, we would be air-lifted in by helicopter and dropped off to search for the enemy,” he said. “We were the bait.

“We would run into booby traps, all kinds of things.

“Some of that stuff isn’t easy to forget. But when I’m out in the woods hunting, I’m at peace. It’s just me and the deer.”

Today, Leonard is functional, thanks in part to his strong belief in God and the joy he gets from hunting. He operates well in society and feels in control.

He prides himself in being a safe hunter, and says he never lets his past affect his judgment in the woods.

Why deer? That’s easy, Leonard says.

“The whitetail deer is not dumb,” he said. “He’s always thinking.

“He doesn’t just walk around aimlessly. He has a plan.

“He’s a challenge to hunt. That’s why I like deer hunting so much.”

And that’s what brought Leonard to Missouri. After several bad experiences with hunting guides, he was referred to Iron Duck Guide Service in Missouri.

One of the guides for that group, Steve Liles of Peculiar, offered to put Leonard in prime deer country.

The 40 acres he owns in Cass County are loaded with deer — some of them big bucks — and he was happy to give Lenard access to that land.

“I don’t normally let anybody hunt in there,” Liles said. “It’s almost like a deer refuge.

“But this was a special occasion. I really respect what guys like Jim did for our country.

“I wanted to do everything I could to see that he would get a big buck.”

Liles guided Lenard to a tree stand overlooking a spot with a well-used deer trail, a scrape and a big rub on a sapling, and hoped for the best.

By midday that Saturday, it hadn’t happened. Leonard didn’t get a chance to pull the trigger.

But that did little to dampen the enthusiasm of both hunter and guide. Leonard had three more days to hunt, and Liles was confident something good will happen during that time span.

“He is a hard-core hunter,” Liles said of Leonard. “He wants to take his lunch out there with him and just stay all day.

“He goes at it hard. With the deer we have on this land, he should be able to get something by the time he has to leave — hopefully, a big buck.”

Leonard, of course, would like that. But even if it didn’t happen, he said, he will be satisfied.

“I already like Missouri,” Leonard said. “Back in Pennsylvania, we have a million hunters.

“It sounds like Vietnam when the hunting season opens. And the deer are small.

“That’s why I travel to other states to do my hunting.”

Leonard laughed, then added, “If I take a big buck in Missouri, I just might have to buy a house here.”

Sorry that there is nothing fantasy related in this article, or mainstream sports for that matter, but I just wanted to share my Uncle’s fifteen minutes of fame.

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5 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. BDJP
    December 2nd, 2008 at 4:35 pm #

    Tip yer hat to Uncle Buck, baby.

  2. Brad
    December 2nd, 2008 at 4:40 pm #

    Nothing wrong with sharing stories like this…it was a good article and I can tell your uncle is a very interesting person to say the least. Thank you for sharing!

  3. CK0712
    December 2nd, 2008 at 7:30 pm #

    HOW awesome was this? VERY!

  4. Awesome
    December 2nd, 2008 at 8:14 pm #

    Yeah, very cool. It’s nice to see articles like this; it puts some of those whiny millionaire athletes into perspective.

  5. LestersLegends
    December 2nd, 2008 at 8:33 pm #

    Yessir BDJP.
    Brad – that he is
    CK – no kidding
    Awesome – true.

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