Andy Starr

Columnist Dale Valade and friend Andy Starr pose with a spike elk circa 2009. Starr passed away in February 2014.

Grab some tissues. This one is going to be a tear-jerker. Five years ago, I lost a childhood friend and hunting partner, Andy Starr. We had known each other for 20 years. Having grown up in the same small town, we attended school together, participated in athletics and spent a lot of our free time in the outdoors together.

In his family, there were four boys. Andy was the oldest, and he and I were the same age. The summer I turned 9, we moved to Spray, a small community in Wheeler County. From my first day of fourth grade on, Andy and I were best friends. The memories I could share here could go on and on, but due to space constraints I shall share but a few.

It was an experience shooting a coyote with his favorite .30-06 rifle that ultimately led me to search for and buy my own. Each spring, we would hunt turkeys together. In the summer, we would hunt varmints, go fishing and, in the fall, join up for a deer, bear or elk hunting. Andy liked to save the fall hunts, as did I, to be with his family. We often talked politics, football, reloading, shooting, hunting and fishing. Andy was very knowledgeable on these subjects and many others besides.

It was early in 2013 when he got married to his lovely wife, Trinity. They were to start their greatest adventure together. Only a few months later, he called to tell me that he had been sick and that doctors had found a mass in his gastrointestinal area. Optimistic as always, he began treatments forthwith. All that year as his health began to deteriorate, his attitude remained positive. He was scared, and who wouldn’t be with the thought of cashing in your chips hanging constantly overhead. Still, he never gave up hope.

I went to see him only once, as I was living several hours away in Idaho at the time. If I had known it was the last time I would see him, I would’ve spent more time with him that day, and many more days besides. Isn’t that the misery of it, though: You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Then it’s too late. His hair was thin from the treatments, and he had lost weight from not being able to keep much down. Stalwart to the end, it was February of 2014, one day short of their first anniversary, when Andy passed away. He was 29 years old. He never got to meet his daughter, and she never will get to meet him.

The heavens wept the day we planted his mortal tabernacle. Many spoke at his funeral, myself included. What do you say on behalf of someone that meant so much, and how do you sum up a lifetime of memories in a few minutes? Andy told me once that “none of us is promised tomorrow.” I’ve thought about that sagacious oration many times. All I can say is do the things that count. Make those memories. They’re all we have of each other once we are called to glory. So to paraphrase the words of Green Day, “Wake me up when February ends.”

I will never forget you, Andy.

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Dale Valade is a local country gent with a deep love for handloading, hunting and shooting.


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