Coaching Foundations – It was early on we established our joint love for coaching. Fresh out of college I had tested the waters of coaching in baseball but agree to take a head coaching job in hockey. It wasn’t hard to talk OP and Wade into coaching although I think it was their first time. “The Green Machine” was formed, a group of 13-year-old kids with varying levels of talent but great attitudes and willing to learn and three rookie coaches. We cut our teeth, learned a lot, I think the kids did too and we all enjoyed the experiences of winning and losing. We didn’t take it all, but we walked away winners, establishing a foundation for the love of coaching and another bond that would last a lifetime.
Mentoring a future Fisherman – All of my first memories of fly fishing include OP because simply put, OP taught me how to fly fish. I grew up fishing but never using a fly rod. It is usual, selfless act and love for fishing and instruction he mentored me. Another bond we would experience from Alaska to Montana to Florida and anywhere else in the world we happen to be fishing. I was able to return the favor of him introducing me to freshwater fly fishing by introducing him to saltwater fly fishing with our annual trips to the Keys. I will never forget his first tarpon on fly and our pursuit of the grey ghost and the allusive permit. When it came to my nephew Willie Martin taking his first float trip at the age of four, it was only fitting that OP would jump right in and say, “Let’s do it” and selflessly guide us down the upper Kenai. Willie was over the moon with his uncle and OP, catching fish, sleeping out in a tent and sitting around the campfire under the stars. I am not sure what Willie was saying but pretty sure it had to be something like “Mr. OP, Master of the River can you please team me the ways of the Alaskan Sportsman?”. An experience with OP and Willie I will never forget. -Rick Carr
From that first experience until the last months of his life we shared stories about coaching our kids and their success and the special players along the way. Baseball was both our favorites, so we tended to focus on it and often reminisced about our how far we had come since playing together at West in high school. Clearly this was capped with his amazing State Championship victory and Jack’s final hit to capture the first state win in almost 50 years for West. I remember it like yesterday, hanging on every pitch in the comeback win through my radio in Texas just like I was there in the dugout alongside OP. We relived those moments numerous times over the following months. - Rick Carr
Just like Old Times– Over the years I cannot count how many trips we have taken fishing, hunting, and to the Cabin. What I do know is this, whether just two of us or the four of us (Darryl, Wade, OP and Rick) we always had a great time. Our trips usually included packing too much, likely a late start, a lot of laughs, poking, sarcasm, stories and often a bit of competition. They would always include drinks and often a night out. But none of these trips was more memorable than the trip we took on the Kenai in 2019. The combination of OP’s cancer and Wade’s 50th brought Darryl and I back for one more fishing trip.
We spent the day just like it was 30 years earlier laughing and telling stories, even getting in trouble as usual for being a little late back (and maybe a little cocktailed) for Wade’s surprise party. Well worth it given the circumstances. I vividly remember being on the river and just taking it all in, living in the moment looking at OP whether on the bow or the shore and thinking about all our memories. Specifically, our fishing trips, him teaching me to fly fish, taking me and my nephew Willie out, our trips to Montana and Florida and just soaking it all up. Clearly hard for any of us to fathom the loss we were about to experience but for me, and I think for Darryl this trip memorialized our friendships because it brought us back to the foundations of our friendship and even though were thousands of miles away were all still the best of friends. I will always remember this trip as the best trip with OP. -Rick Carr
The Gulkana Jackass & the Purple Hippo – One of the most fun or even funniest trips had to be this trip to the Gulkana. Johnny, Srala, Hal, Billy, me and my buddy Jon Smith from college would make our way on a multi-day flow trip down the Gulkana. Armed with plenty of gear and drink we would start our journey. A comedy of errors would proceed but maybe the most impact would not be realized until we reached the river or camp the first night to find the absence of our meat for dinners, would occur. Of course, we would manage because OP would keep us on the rails (for the most part). Johnny guided a motley crew over the next few days down the river, being responsible as always, looking out for us on the river which was a quite a task with Carr and Srala at the helm of the Crown filled purple hippo. There was not a short of shit being dished out, embellished stories, and memories lived those nights. I am not sure we crushed the fish, but OP would jump off the raft to “show us how it was done” on the river most days. That is until the “Gulkana Jackass” was hatched and Srala proceeded to dominate the action which he has not stopped talking about until this day. Lots of laughs and one of the great memories for all of us. -Rick Carr
Cantwell Chaos - My roommate from college, Jon Smith from Northern California, made a few trips to Alaska over about 10 years after college and OP was a cornerstone in each of them. His virgin voyage to Alaska in the early 90’s we joined OP and Wade on a caribou trip up in Cantwell off the Denali highway. OP typically camped with his aunt, uncle and cousin for about a week looking to fill permits. Since Jon was in town we thought we would crash the part, give Jon a real live Alaskan hunting experience. Of course I had prepped Jon that it may be cold, could snow on us, we may walk quite a bit, glass a lot, at times can be boring, may not see an animal but if we do and shoot it may have to pack it out quite a ways, you know setting the expectations low. Hunting not killing, right? Well, little did I know was that mayhem was about to begin. We were about halfway down the highway on the way to the campsite when Jon spots a small group of caribou and a few bucks busting across horizon a few hundred yards out. We promptly jump out of our rigs with rifles and cameras and proceed to sneak up the group. What happens next is a bit of chaos – a lot of shooting, a lot of excitement with two dead bulls, Keystone Lights, inappropriate animal pictures, an “oh-shit moment” and a helpful aunt. There is a lot more to the story but let’s just say we ended up filling out our tags just a few hours into the trip and then spending the next few nights around the campfire drinking, laughing, telling stories, and introducing Jon to the wild of Alaska. A one of a kind hunt for so many reasons. - Rick Carr
The Cabin - Memories with OP can’t exist without Nancy Lake, better known as “The Cabin”. I can’t count the number of trips to the cabin, didn’t matter if it was summer or winter, what day of the week, or what was going on. The Cabin was a staple in our lives. Unassuming, two stories, unfinished walls, maybe a few 1500 square feet total, word burning stove, 60’s fridge, back deck view of the woods and a walkway to a carpet covered outhouse seat. Whether the fire pit in the summer or the rattle of the word burning stove in the winter there was always a fire going. Nontraditional decor, walls turned into “quote walls” memorializing anything anyone might say in a brain fart moment, drunken moment, printed article or picture that warranted a recurring laugh to share with others at your expense. You could spend hours reading the walls. Memories were abundant at the Cabin and often non-standard - kickball with a party ball, the kick of a 20 gauge by and unassuming guest, squirrel dinner (leave that story to Wade), a trip on the sleds to the Willow Trading Post. We all have funny and fun memories, but we often just went up for no reason at all just two or three us just to hang out. I think one of my fondest memories was our winter trips, firing up the wood burning stove, cooking a nice dinner, watching a game and taking a 12 pack of beer out on the sleds to the middle of the lake and just drinking, talking and staring at the sky for a few hours. The Cabin had a lot of great memories but for me the best memories were just going up to unplug and hang out with OP. - Rick Carr