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'The old man and the tree'

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Clyde Roberts, 98, still bags deer from his tree stand

By Mike Forster

    Some of our senior citizens while away the hours engaged in vigorous rounds of mahjong.

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    Others from the silver-haired set are known to play bridge.  Still others may engage in bowling or golf.
    Then there's Clyde Roberts.
    This gentleman gets up in the wee hours, drives his tractor into the woods, then scrambles up a 24-foot ladder to a stand perched in a tree 22 feet in the air.
    From that lofty height, Roberts has been proficient in hunting deer.  In fact, he's taken three this season, including a beautiful eight-point buck.
    After bagging his prey, Roberts loads the deer onto his tractor and hauls it home, where he cleans his prize.  He provides meat for his own table and those of family and friends.
    Clyde Roberts is 98 years old.
    Here's the punch line:  Roberts didn't take up hunting until he was 65.
    He's made up a lot of ground over the past 33 years.  But that's only been part of the ride.
    Born in 1913, Roberts went to the Orrix School, which was a one-room facility located in the Evington area.  Roberts recalls that both of his teachers rode horses to school.  "We had to walk, though," he remembers.
    After seventh grade, Roberts went to work skinning pulpwood trees with a poleaxe.  After making as much as one dollar a day, he went to work for his father-in-law at a sawmill, making the princely wage of five bucks per day.
    He spent his entire working career, seemingly, around wood.  He ran a sawmill in Forest; he cut wood to build the Radford Armory for the Army; he spent 17 years applying veneer to cedar chests for the Lane Company.
    His final pre-retirement stint was with Rubatex, where he worked as a helper, until he was 65 years old.
    But retirement held no allure for the ramblin' Roberts.  "Rubatex gave me a rocking chair (when I retired)," said Roberts.  "I've got no use for it.  Not yet, anyway."
    About the same time, Roberts's son, Mike, and Ernie Davis, a friend, gave the new retiree a dozen traps.  Raccoons, bobcats, beaver, foxes, otter muskrat:  They all fell prey to Roberts's traps. 
    He estimates that he snagged about 350 animals over a dozen years.  "Every morning was like Christmas," he recalled.  "You didn't know what you'd find."
    Trapping seemed to spring Roberts into a greater appreciation for all things outdoors.  It was only logical that he take By Mike Forster
sports@bedfordbulletin.com

    Some of our senior citizens while away the hours engaged in vigorous rounds of mahjong.
    Others from the silver-haired set are known to play bridge.  Still others may engage in bowling or golf.
    Then there's Clyde Roberts.
    This gentleman gets up in the wee hours, drives his tractor into the woods, then scrambles up a 24-foot ladder to a stand perched in a tree 22 feet in the air.
    From that lofty height, Roberts has been proficient in hunting deer.  In fact, he's taken three this season, including a beautiful eight-point buck.
    After bagging his prey, Roberts loads the deer onto his tractor and hauls it home, where he cleans his prize.  He provides meat for his own table and those of family and friends.
    Clyde Roberts is 98 years old.
    Here's the punch line:  Roberts didn't take up hunting until he was 65.
    He's made up a lot of ground over the past 33 years.  But that's only been part of the ride.
    Born in 1913, Roberts went to the Orrix School, which was a one-room facility located in the Evington area.  Roberts recalls that both of his teachers rode horses to school.  "We had to walk, though," he remembers.
    After seventh grade, Roberts went to work skinning pulpwood trees with a poleaxe.  After making as much as one dollar a day, he went to work for his father-in-law at a sawmill, making the princely wage of five bucks per day.
    He spent his entire working career, seemingly, around wood.  He ran a sawmill in Forest; he cut wood to build the Radford Armory for the Army; he spent 17 years applying veneer to cedar chests for the Lane Company.
    His final pre-retirement stint was with Rubatex, where he worked as a helper, until he was 65 years old.
    But retirement held no allure for the ramblin' Roberts.  "Rubatex gave me a rocking chair (when I retired)," said Roberts.  "I've got no use for it.  Not yet, anyway."
    About the same time, Roberts's son, Mike, and Ernie Davis, a friend, gave the new retiree a dozen traps.  Raccoons, bobcats, beaver, foxes, otter muskrat:  They all fell prey to Roberts's traps. 
    He estimates that he snagged about 350 animals over a dozen years.  "Every morning was like Christmas," he recalled.  "You didn't know what you'd find."
    Trapping seemed to spring Roberts into a greater appreciation for all things outdoors.  It was only logical that he take up hunting, as well.
    "We suggested that he hunt, to give him something to do," said Mike Roberts.
    Nadine, his wife of 65 years, gave Roberts his first rifle, in 1977.  She also carefully catalogued each animal he either trapped or shot in lovingly preserved albums before she passed away, in 2005.
    Roberts stated that he averages two deer per year.  The biggest was a 10-pointer.  He also bagged that 8-pointer earlier in this, his 99th year (see photo at right).
    The only year he hasn't hunted was in the mid-1980s, when a bull that he was unloading from a truck broke free, charged him, tossed him in the air and gored him.
    With four broken ribs, Roberts found the climb up the tree stand to be just a bit much.
    Other than that, Roberts has been a faithful hunter.  To what, then, does he attribute his longevity and his ability to execute tasks like a man half his age?
    "Hard work and living for the Lord," said Roberts who beamed when he told this reporter, "I'm the oldest deacon in my church."  We'll hazard a guess here that Roberts is not only the oldest deacon at Bethlehem Baptist, but is likely the oldest deacon in the County.
    He will hold out a hand to show it is still steady.  He's got good vision and moves with a steady grace that belies his years.  His only health issue is a loss of hearing in his left ear, the after-effects of a brain tumor that he dealt with a few decades ago.
    He still drives his car a lot (as well as that trusty tractor).  He gardens and visits people in nursing homes.  "I enjoy visiting the old people," he said, without betraying the slightest sense of irony.
    Roberts seems to be as feisty as a man half his age, and he still has a mischievous streak.  He recalled that his physician recently advised him to give up the tree stand during his annual physical.  "He had me close my eyes, hold my arms out and walk," said Roberts.
    Apparently, his performance at the task was less than satisfactory.  "Now do you see why I don't want you climbing a tree stand?" the doctor asked.
    Roberts replied, "But I don't close my eyes when I climb the ladder."
    The doctor's advice discarded, Roberts made sure he included a picture of himself in his tree stand with his Christmas card to the good doctor.
    His wit is sharp, but he obviously takes his hunting seriously.  You can often find him way up an old poplar, in his tree stand with Mike or with Phil Davis, another of his hunting buddies.
    By the way,  Roberts's daughter, Iris Krantz, and Mike maintain tabs on their pop.  "They keep a close eye on me," said Roberts.
    That's likely so that their father can keep a close eye on what he's hunting these days.