By DAN WHITTLE
Bill Crowder was a life-caster.
A devout God's man, he was also an awesome family man, a good neighbor, and an appreciator of tall tale telling at Fate Sander Marina & Restaurant.
After Edna, his wife of 64 years, and daughters Cathy and Cheryl, two of his biggest loves was church singings and fishing.
"In Bill's quiet way, he was an effective fisherman of men," testified his longtime pastor, the Rev. Milton Hicks of Living Springs Baptist Church.
"Bill Crowder could catch fish where and when no one else could," toasted frequent angler Billy King. "Unlike a lot of fishermen, Bill didn't brag about his fishing. He let his rod and reel do his talking."
His "favorite fishing hole" was J. Percy Priest Lake that covers parts of three Middle Tennessee counties.
His recent obituary began thusly: "William Evyn "Bill" Crowder, age 84, left this earth from hospice to go fishing with our Lord in Heaven."
Bill cast his last breath on earth on Feb. 9, 2013.
He leaves in his life's wake, waves and waves of good will…
"Bill Crowder will give you the shirt off his back," noted longtime friend and fellow fisherman Bob Preuett.
I list Bill Crowder as a life-caster, in that he cast his life in service to others, whether it was as a husband, a father, a church member, or a neighbor, to name a few areas of his broad network of life.
"He loved to sing gospel songs, and helped organize our quarterly Sunday night singings here at Living Springs," noted daughters Cathy Crowder and Cheryl Browning, who often accompanied their father at gospel singings.
It took a smelly old wild goat and a rookery of great blue herons to bring me into Bill's wide cast of friendships.
In searching for interesting people stories, my trail eventually led to Fate Sander's Marina where Bill generously offered to take me to photograph this goat that grew up wild on an island in the middle of Priest Lake back in the 1990s.
"How does the goat stay alive?" I asked angler Bill as he slowed his boat motor in order for me to get a close-up view of the goat.
"We all feed him as we go in and out of Priest Lake," Bill noted. "The goat came from a herd of former domesticated goats a farmer had in the region before Priest Lake was formed in the 1960s…"
When the old goat died, Bill and his boat were among a funeral fleet of fishing vessels loaded with goat-mourners.
My most remarkable, truly exciting journey out on the water came the morning Bill and I headed to a special island in Priest.
"There's a rookery of great blue herons, and they're nesting now," Bill noted in casting his love of the outdoors in my direction.
I didn't hesitate in taking Bill up on his offer to go photograph these big beautiful birds with their spectacular-wide wing span.
After skimming over the water for 20 minutes from Fate Sanders, we arrived at this tiny island that was filled with hundreds of huge nests being built by the mating male and female great blues.
It wasn't until I got to the picture printing machine, did I note that some of those great blues were toting huge sticks as they flew to their mates and nest. The pictures still rank as some of best and unique outdoor pictures I've ever taken.
"The great blues come to this island each year to have their babies," Bill shared patiently as I clicked away with my then new Nikon D-50 camera and 55-300 zoom lens.
That fateful trip to photograph the great blues hooked me into a most-pleasurable lifetime of amateur outdoor photographer, thanks largely to Bill Crowder, a life-caster who reeled me into his appreciation of all things beautiful in Mother Nature's bosom.
His limitless "cast of fishermen" friends rightly served as honorary pallbearers at his recent funeral.
Bill was the original inspiration for friends John Stewart and I to start "Fishing for Kids," an annual September event when we host 50 low-income children and teach them to fish on nearby pristine Couchville Lake in Long Hunter State Park.
Appropriately, his wife advises, Bill's ashes will be cast over Priest Lake when the weather warms in the spring, his favorite fishing time of the year.