FAYETTEVILLE — After more than three and a half decades in law enforcement, Larry Case went over to what he calls “the dark side.”
No, he didn’t turn outlaw; he did something even more unexpected. He became an outdoors writer.
“When you work as a game warden for 36 years, you pick up a lot of stories,” he said, “stories like the time you were chasing after this guy and he hid in a hollow log, or the time you went to this house down on Williams River and found out they were keeping a bear inside. I’ve found out that people love that stuff.”
Apparently they do. In the seven years since Case retired from the state Natural Resources Police, his writings have appeared in prominent national magazines, eight Southeastern newspapers, and on his own website, Guns and Cornbread.
Case’s journey to the dark side began in the latter years of his law-enforcement career.
“I was a captain, heading up the Beckley detachment, when the editor of the Beckley Register-Herald came to me and asked if I’d be interested in doing a little outdoors column for them,” Case recalled. “I’d been exposed to outdoor writers as part of my DNR duties — hosting writer’s events, serving as a guide, things like that. And I had a couple of friends in the industry. The offer to do some writing appealed to me, so I went ahead and did it.”
The writing bug bit hard, especially after Case’s retirement in 2014. Not only did he self-syndicate his column to newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee, he also began writing for outdoors- and gun-themed magazines and websites.
Calling editors to pitch his column turned out to be one of the most difficult parts of Case’s new gig.
“It’s really hard to call newspaper editors cold,” he said in his distinctly southern-Appalachian accent. “It’s especially hard when you sound like Jethro. It’s not for the thin-skinned, but I’ve gotten a few newspapers like that.”
His experience and expertise with firearms helped him sell articles to magazines and websites.
“I’ve been in a couple of the [National Rifle Association] magazines, including American Hunter and NRA Family,” he said. “And I’ve had several pieces in Outdoor Life.”
Having articles published in Outdoor Life, one of the nation’s “Big Three” hunting- and fishing-themed magazines, was especially gratifying.
“Early on, I wanted to be in Outdoor Life because I was the kid who laid on the floor hour after hour, reading Outdoor Life and Fur-Fish-Game,” he said.
Three years ago, largely to help promote his writing, Case opened his Guns and Cornbread website. He said the name perfectly describes the site’s central themes.
“I write a lot about guns, so it was natural to have that in the title,” he explained. “And everyone thinks of cornbread as an Appalachian thing. We West Virginians have our own unique culture. We have an extremely rich hunting heritage, a heritage of living close to the land. It’s who I am and it’s who we are.”
Read one of Case’s articles, and chances are you’ll find a little bit of everything, from homespun humor and folksy sayings to quotes from famous historians and philosophers.
“If something comes to mind, I just let it fly,” he said. “People seem to like it, so I keep doing it.”
What started out as a part-time retirement enterprise has turned into a full-time job.
“I still get to hunt and fish, but I’ve found that every hunting trip — every expedition — turns into something for work,” Case said. “And there are times when having to finish a column or an article keeps me from going hunting or fishing. I’m like a kid with homework every day.”
To keep up with his ever-burgeoning to-do list, Case sometimes heads for his hunting camp in Monroe County.
“It’s got wi-fi, so I can hole up there and get a lot of work done,” he said.
The most difficult facet of outdoor writing, he said, is being unable to say no.
“My wife keeps asking me, ‘When are you going to learn to say no?’” he said with a laugh. “I don’t seem to have acquired that skill yet. I try to stay on good terms with the editors who publish my stuff.
“Please understand, this is not whining. I’ve brought all this on myself. I could quit tomorrow and go catfishing … but I’m not going to.”
The reward comes, Case said, when his readers tell him they’ve enjoyed what he’s written.
“Sometimes people say, ‘I didn’t know you could write,’” he added. “Well, Larry didn’t know Larry could write, either.”