Len Harris/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
As a kid I remember my mother telling me, "When you grow up you need to pick a profession that you love." She preached it through my young adulthood and, in the end, I was basically forced into entering the Refrigeration and Heating Servicing Technical School to work with my uncle the plumber.
I had zero aptitude in this field and was even afraid of electricity. I remember being an average student at best and not trying hard and fearing college.
Warping forward two years out of high school I enlisted in the Army to be a military policeman. I actually wanted to be a game warden and being a military policeman was as close as I could get.
My first real assignment was to Fort Lewis Washington. It was a giant post and I was intimidated by it. There was a posting on the company bulletin board asking for volunteers to do temporary duty in Yakima Firing Center. One of the positions available was Military Game Warden.
I jumped at the possibility.
I hunted and fished during my off hours like nuts. I truly love the outdoors.
The post was tiny and quite slow during the winter. I was not high enough rank to get the game warden job but I helped the SGT in the position. He transferred out and I was given his position on a temporary basis. Fourteen months later I was still in the position. I really loved the assignment. I got real satisfaction from the job and it made me feel important and I was doing something that really mattered.
September of 1978 I received orders to go Germany. There were no military game wardens there. I researched Germany and found out the best hunting and fishing there was in the south. The only post that had military police down there was Augsburg, Germany. I asked to be assigned there and got it.
Hunting and fishing in Germany is a rich man's sport and I spent my six years there yearning to go into the outdoors there.
My only relief was going back to the states on leave to deer hunt every year and to go trout fishing on leave for each May opener. I might have stayed in the military as a MP except for the orders to go to Drill Sergeant School.
I couldn't get them changed so I got out.
I took a few college courses during the time I was in the Army and thought I still wanted to be a warden when I got out in 1984. I spoke to a a military out-processing person at Fort Dix, New Jersey about being a civilian game warden.
He dissuaded me from trying to be a game warden and to go in to law enforcement. He explained that there are ten times as many cops as wardens in the civilian world and I could be a cop with a two year degree and I needed a four year degree at minimum to be a warden.
Halfway through my first year of going to school for an associate degree in Criminal Justice I took a full-time night shift job at a small police department. I worked full-time midnights and went to school full time for the remaining year of college.
I graduated first in my class in my Associate Degree and first in my Police Academy. I still went hunting and fishing every chance I could.
I finally got what I thought was my dream job at a huge Sheriff's Department. I worked there for fourteen years. The only constant during all these years of working as a cop was me going in to the outdoors every chance I got to cleanse.
Law Enforcement is a stressful job and in 2003 I decided I really wasn't fit to do the job. I didn't have the tools to do the job properly. I got out of law enforcement with almost 24 years in. I cashed out my retirement fund and paid all of my bills off.
I tried guiding for five years. Making your passion your work is a bad job choice. I had some good times with clients and made many friends as a guide. There was something about guiding that really rubbed me the wrong way.
Being a guide you don't fish. You watch people fish. It was like going to a gold mine without a shovel.
I was a case manager at two halfway houses here in town for five years. I supervised folks directly out of prison for various offenses. It also was not my calling.
However, I could set my own hours and fishing took center stage every chance I had.
I am retired now. My advice to young folks would be to chase your dreams and to not be deterred by relatives and the fear of four years of college. If you want to be a warden or a fisheries person do it for the love of the outdoors and don't lose your way.
Read more from Len Harris.
Len Harris blogs from the "Heart" of Wisconsin's Driftless Area. Len's passion is small stream trout fishing with every legal means possible. When trout season is closed he writes and takes photos. He even dabbles in a little cooking. Read more of Lenís writing on his blog at http://lenharris.blogspot.com/.