For more than 31 years, Mabry Anderson's “Outdoor Observations” column has appeared in Delta Farm Press. The ardent sportsman and long-time aviator, whose writings about the great outdoors and ag aviation won him a legion of readers throughout the Mid-South and the nation, died Thanksgiving day. He was 85 years old.
Though he had been in failing health and was at Delta Medical Center in Memphis when he died, he had continued, as his situation allowed, to write his weekly column.
His beloved wife and favorite fishing companion (he always said she was far better at fishing than he), J'Nelle Moody Anderson, died in June this year. “We knew when Mother died, he wouldn't be far behind,” said his daughter, Vicki Anderson of Bartlett, Tenn.
“Fifty-six years with her was too long for him to go on living without her.”
Funeral services for Mr. Anderson were held Nov. 26 at Clarksdale Baptist Church, where he was a member. In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his son, Mabry Anderson Jr., Southaven, Miss., and four grandchildren.
“Mabry was a unique individual,” said Farm Press Editorial Director Hembree Brandon. “He exemplified the ideals of sportsmanship, chivalry, and gentlemanliness, and his writings about his wide-ranging adventures struck a responsive chord with our readers. He had a huge following, and he will be missed very much.”
Forrest Laws, Farm Press executive editor, said Anderson's popularity with readers was impressive. “Our editors travel all over five Mid-South states, and wherever we go people ask about Mabry and tell us how much they enjoy his columns.
“He was a jewel to work with. He wrote 51 columns a year and they were all unique. We'll miss him here, but people all over the Delta will miss him when his column doesn't appear.”
Typical of reader tributes following his death was this comment from Ted O'Brien of Memphis, Tenn.: “For the past 20 years, I have looked forward to every issue, eagerly anticipating the next entry into his journal of ‘Outdoor Observations.’ His ability to convey the mystique of the Delta, past and present, was a rare gift, shared by very few writers.”
Mr. Anderson's last column, “Gun owners are either hunters or collectors,” appeared in the Nov. 23 issue of Delta Farm Press. In addition to his columns, he had written extensively for national outdoors publications and had published two books, “Outdoor Observations,” a collection of his columns and articles, and “Low and Slow,” chronicling the history of ag aviation.
Mabry Irby Anderson was born Oct. 4, 1916, at Sardis, Miss. He served in the Marine Corps in World War II and afterwards began a long, distinguished career in agricultural aviation.
He owned Mississippi Valley Aircraft Service from 1945 until 1971, served a number of years as executive director of the Mississippi Agricultural Aviation Association, and was active in the National Agricultural Aviation Association. For his dedication to agricultural aviation and his work on issues at both the state and national level, he was named to the Agricultural Aviation Hall of Fame.
He credited his father and a family of outdoorsmen for instilling in him, as a lad, his love for hunting, fishing, and wildlife conservation — “principles that stuck with me all my life.”
His death on Thanksgiving Day he might have thought entirely appropriate; he had several times written of his fondness for the season and its hunting camps, and in one years-ago column he recounted a milestone Thanksgiving day experience several months after the death of his father. Returning from the day's quail hunt, he wrote:
“Slogging along through the sticky buckshot soil, I realized suddenly that I was mentally rehearsing exactly what I would say to my dad in describing the hunt. But then the crushing realization came that never again, in this world at least, would I be permitted to share with him my triumphs and failures. For a long moment, I was literally overwhelmed by a sense of absolute loneliness.”
Stumbling to a fallen log, he sat for a long while, “feeling absolutely nothing at all.” But, as the winter sun began sliding behind the brooding cypress trees, “I sat there, absorbing the somber beauty of the Delta at dusk, and a very strange thing began happening. Very slowly, an almost euphoric feeling of peace came over me and, after a bit, I found that I could smile again and be thankful that the memories I had of our times together were all of the kind that I could cherish.
“Finally, I realized that it was getting late and that I had best move on. A tired, middle-aged man, I got up off the log, called in my dogs, and walked back to the Jeep whistling. Looking back on it, it occurs to me now that this was the day when I finally grew up. And every Thanksgiving I am grateful for another good season and all those memories.”
In an article about Mr. Anderson that was scheduled for publication later this month, Farm Press editor Ben Pryor wrote: “His life has been a chronicle of adventure, the romantic's timeless passions, and like Hemingway and other good tellers of tales, he is the legend of his own writing.
“He has fished for albacore tuna off Baja, California, for rainbow trout in the white waters of raised elevations; hunted mule deer in the arid Southwest, pheasant and grouse in their country. But for all the occasional treks to far places, he is the outdoorsman of his youth and childhood, favors still the game of the Delta woods, lakes, and lazy streams — many-pointed bucks, boastful turkey gobblers, quick-flighted doves, and the nervous, wary fowl of the Mississippi Flyway.
“He counts the outdoor life an honest man's birthright, and now and then he expresses sympathy for those tied to time clocks and office routines, who too often must put aside a dawn before the hunt is through.
“His style is conversational, like a campfire narrator's, as if for listening to, and his sentences ramble on like languid Southern bayous through cane brakes and cypress swamps.”
The family requests that memorials be sent to the National Agricultural Aviation Museum, 1150 Lakeland Dr., Jackson MS 39216, or the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, 855 Pear Orchard Rd., Suite 500, Ridgeland MS 39157.