Last updated: July 24. 2013 1:43PM - 166 Views

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PDT Outdoors Writer

In Southern Ohio and Northeastern Kentucky, along both banks of the beautiful river that winds down for nearly 1,000 miles from Pittsburgh to Cairo, we have, in my opinion, one of the top five locations in North America for everyday good living.

Oh, to be sure, those who suffer from asthma and allergies might be better off living in dryer Arizona, where recently the temperature climbed to more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Those who enjoy the outdoors living can find it all here – camping, fishing, boating, hiking, star gazing, bird watching….

You can catch more fish in Canada or Florida. But did you ever try to hold a cookout in those locations after eight o’clock in the evening without being inside a screened-in area? Mosquitoes will actually try to chew you up and spit you out. When you come in off the lake late in the evening, you hurriedly tie your boat at the dock and rush to get inside.

Not only are mosquitoes pesky, but they can transmit diseases, such as the West Nile virus that’s been in the news lately, being responsible for killing at least 17 people.

Here, you may have to swat a mosquito from time to time, but not so much as to keep you from enjoying porch-sitting or a campfire and a hot dog roast.

And here we have no traffic jams. Those on the unemployment roles may long to see a little more congestion on the highways here again, like it was in the days during the construction of the A-Plant or when the steel mills in New Boston and Ashland employed about 4,500 workers each.

Back in the 80s I spent two weeks working with the Naval Reserves in the big Navy Base at Norfolk, Va. I had to drive 20 miles each way from where I was staying in Virginia Beach, and it was three lanes of traffic almost bumper-to-bumper. Everybody, it seemed, worked inside that base and everybody was habitually running late for work.

So whatever drawbacks this area may have, they are outweighed by the positive spin that accompanies living here.


Yesterday, Saturday, Aug. 18, I was in Nashville to cover the 2012 Legends of the Outdoor National Hall of Fame dinner and induction ceremony, hosted and coordinated by Gary Mason and held on board the General Jackson showboat, which operates out of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in downtown Nashville.

Mason began the program in 2002 and the first class of Legends included Bill Dance, Roland Martin, Charlie Brewer Sr., David Hale, Earl Knight and several others who have contributed so much to promoting the Great Outdoors.

The 2003 class included Ray Scott, founder of Bass Anglers Sportsman Society; Mike LcLemore, World Champion duck caller; Johnny Morris, who started the now world-famous Bass Pro Shops; Wade Bourne, outdoor writer and broadcaster with a national audience; Billy Westmoreland, legendary smallmouth bass guide on Dale Hollow Lake; and…Soc Clay, freelance outdoor photo-journalist from South Shore whose byline and photo credits have appeared in every major publication in North America that covers outdoor recreation.

I made the trip down Friday with Soc and his wife, Wanda, their son, Tom, and Chris Erwin and his wife, Linda, all members of the Kentucky Outdoor Press Association.

At 8 a.m. yesterday we boarded the General Jackson, a paddlewheeler the length of a football field, and cruised up the Cumberland River while the Legends ceremony was conducted. I didn’t get the names of this year’s honorees in time to meet the deadline for this column.


Soc Clay wasn’t introduced to freshwater fishing until the mid-1950s, when he was 20 years old, buying a home on Dogwood Ridge, and supporting Wanda and their first baby, Randy, with a job at Empire Detroit Steel in New Boston.

One of his neighbors, Dave Turner, who with his dad ran Turner Clay Mine Co. on Ohio 140, invited him to go fishing in the Wheeler’s Mill area of the Little Scioto River.

Turner just mostly wanted to get out onto the creek bank and enjoy a beer and listen to the Cincinnati Reds game coming out of old Crosley Field on his portable radio.

“He told me if I wanted to fish I was welcome to use his old reel and rod, which had an artificial lure attached,” Soc said. “I took it and my first cast went straight up and my second cast straight down. But I didn’t give up, and my third cast made it out into the stream. I started reeling, a fish hit, and I brought it to shore. He identified it as a spotted bass, about 11 inches long. We put it on a stringer and danged if I didn’t catch another one in the same place.”

He was so excited about fishing that Wanda managed to save up $7.77 and bought him a new rod and reel, along with three Japanese baits.

“I went straight out to Pine Creek with it, cast that spinner out, and wham! A fish hit and jumped two or three times. It was all different colors and I thought it must be a rainbow trout. But I took it to Mr. Southworth across the street, who used to fish a lot, and he said it was a horny-head chub.”

Next, George Ramey and later Thadius Parsley, who had a camp on Lake Jackson, taught him how to catch bass on a flyrod.

“Man, that was exciting top-water fishing,” Soc said. “Thadius caught a 7-pound largemouth bass from Lake Jackson on the flyrod and let it loose. I thought he must be crazy.”

Now he began reading everything he could get his hands on about fishing. He discovered at the Portsmouth Library a 10-year stash of Outdoor Life, Sports Afield and Field and Stream magazines, He studied how the writers wrote their stories, especially those written by Homer Circle.

In the mid- to late-1960s, while an active member of the Greenup County Wildlife Club, he approached George Stowell, then editor of The Portsmouth Times, about getting some news of the outdoors published on the sports pages of the paper.

Stowell challenged him to write it, and so he did, for several years.

“I thought the column would be worth about $200. He gave me $5, and I settled for it at first.”

At the same time he was writing an outdoors column for editor Doug Everman at The Greenup News called “Ramblin’ With Soc.”

He continued schooling himself on writing outdoor stories for magazines, bought himself a better camera, learned how to shoot sunsets and silhouettes, and when the mill shut its blast furnace forever in 1980, he was off and running on his freelance career and never looked back.

“There for awhile I figured it up and I was averaging 13 checks a month from the outdoor magazines,” he said.

G. SAM PIATT can be reached at 606-932-3619 or Gsamwriter@aol.com.

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