Nobody lives forever, although at times it seemed like Homer Circle of Ocala might. But "Uncle Homer," like the rest of us, proved mortal. He passed away Friday at 97.
Circle was one of the most famous writers on bass fishing ever, a national TV personality, a former president of the Outdoor Writers of America and a guy who always gave more than he got.
In my closet, I have a pair of 30-year-old L.L. Bean boots, the soles cracked, the uppers turning to powder, that Homer gave me after a fishing trip to Rainbow Springs in about 1980. I wore them out in about five years, then kept them because Homer had given them to me.
Homer was a great teacher, and he left behind a million tips and how-tos that will mark his place in fishing lore for many generations.
On that Rainbow Springs trip, though, Homer taught me one thing he didn't intend to.
It was a chilly winter day, and Homer showed me how to make a hand warmer for the boat; you put a roll of toilet paper inside a steel coffee can, pour in some rubbing alcohol and light it up. The paper acts as a wick, and the warmer burns for a long time. When you're done with the warmer, put the lid back on the can and the fire goes out — great tip.
On this particular day, however, Homer apparently did not get the lid solidly on the can. I helped him load his boat on the trailer and then followed him back toward his home, on five acres of woods outside Ocala. After a few miles, I noticed smoke was pouring from the back of his boat. I managed to flag him down and we checked the rig.
The warmer, flagged back to life by the moving air, had caught a seat cushion on fire. Homer, never at a loss, reached in the ice box and grabbed a couple of sodas, shook them up and squirted the contents on the fire, which promptly went out. He had an answer for everything.
He was author of a half-dozen best-selling books on bass fishing, the long-time bass editor of Sports Afield Magazine and later of Bassmaster, the host of Sports Afield Television and several other national shows, plus the author of thousands of magazine articles.
But more than that, he was one of those rare guys who went through life looking not to help himself, but to help everybody he met.
Homer was originally from the Midwest, and fishing the lakes of Minnesota and Wisconsin he had hundreds of buddies who were of Swedish extraction — so naturally Homer knew every Swedish joke ever told in a boat or an ice-fishing shack. He often began a phone call, not by introducing himself — because anybody who had ever watched fishing TV immediately knew his voice — but by starting one of these jokes. Some of them were mildly ribald, but I never heard the man utter a curse or make an off-color remark.
The Professional Outdoor Media Association named its highest honor after Homer, the Homer Circle Fishing Communicator's Award. I was fortunate enough to win the award last year.
Homer is gone, but his legacy will live on.