An Interview With An Outdoor Humorist–written by Elizabeth Doyle
I am an outdoorsman. Or I suppose it’s better to say an outdoorswoman. Anyway, I am a tomboy. I have always been and probably will always be.
With that in mind, a couple months back I was in my doctor’s office waiting for a scheduled appointment. To pass the time I picked up a magazine. Because I love fishing, it was a Salmon, Trout,
and Steelheader magazine. While fanning the pages, looking for an interesting article, I stopped on a title that caught my eye. “The Art of Falling In A River.” Mmmm, interesting.
I began reading. Half way through the article, God’s honest truth, I had others in the waiting rooming giving me strange stares. I was laughing out loud. I really was. Being a person who has waded many a river, everything this author said was the truth…but written in a way that literally had me burying my face in the magazine to muffle my laughter. Once finished, I craved more. Who was this guy? I decided to go on a search. Believe me, he was not easy to find.
Through many days of frustrating research, I learned several things. One, he wasn’t touting himself on the internet. Two, he didn’t have any published books. And, three, I could see he obviously didn’t write for a source of livelihood. If he did his name would have been more….well, out there. Or, at least, it appeared that way to me. Finally I contacted Salmon, Trout, and Steelheader Magazine, a publication out of Portland Oregon. After verifying my credentials, they gave me his list of past published articles, his e-mail address and phone number. Surprisingly I found that because of his area code he lived in my home state of Washington.
Before contacting him I continued to delve into his published works. I learned that he was published in The Fly Fisherman, Travel Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Spray, Hunter’s Digest, and several others. One article here, another there. But some of his articles were more than just that of the outdoors, such as one he wrote for Reader’s Digest of his hatred of going out on New Years Eve, Limping In The New Year, And there were others. Everything I read brought at least a chuckle, if not laugh-out-loud entertainment. I always found his humor to be crisp and sometimes surprising. When I say surprising I mean it is as if he lays a trap made of words, drawing the reader in. And then suddenly the trap snaps shut, surprising the reader in the claws of laughter. I remember one such trap. “One weekend I made a trip down the coast with a girl I was dating at the time. She talked continually. While rattling on about some boring subject I couldn’t have cared less about, I nodded off to sleep. And she screamed at me for falling asleep. And I said, honey, if you’re going to make a big deal about me taking a simple nap, you don’t have to scream at me. Just politely bring it to my attention…I’ll pull off to the side of the road and you can drive.” Using the art of words, whereas the reader cannot actually see the scene, the fact that he was driving when he nodded off to sleep, not to mention even in a moving vehicle, totally caught me off guard, and the laughter was spontaneous. I noticed the use of this tool in many of his writings, and they were always laugh-out-loud effective.
What makes his humor so delightful is that he writes as though he is dead serious in whatever he has to say, which makes his humor all the more effective. And in his tales he purposely makes his personality out as almost always self-centered, but then attempts to hide this personal flaw behind an aura of being the innocent victim that no one understands. A perfect example of this was in his article in The Fly Fisherman magazine, Fly Fishing-Rising To The Challenge, which I might add had me absolutely in tears! But most of all, he writes of living in a rural country town during simpler times; when kids could be kids, and everybody knew everybody. Yes, they had their troubles, but not near the seriousness of today. So with this introduction, I am proud to say I found and was given an interview with this man.
His name is Rick Nickolaus. He and his wife, Maxine, live in a two story home in a quiet neighborhood. And, as I thought, though a published writer for many years, writing had never been his main source of livelihood. He is a forklift operator and his wife a secretary.
Upon meeting Rick and Maxine, they seemed a normal middle-aged couple. Maxine was warm and more than happy to bow to our time alone for the interview. But I couldn’t help but look at her and remember all the articles where she was made the “so-called” unwilling participant. True or not, she effectively filled out several of his stories. Rick, though cordial, seemed somewhat nervous being put in, what he perceived as a spot light. When interviewing past comedic people, I have always somehow expected everything that comes out of their mouth to be quick witted and funny. Rarely is that the case, and this was no exception. While talking with Rick, he sometimes stammered as if struggling to find the right answers to my questions, And, as happened before, I found it difficult to believe this was the same man who wrote words that had me laughing until my sides hurt.
But what I do believe is the humor articles he writes are funny. I mean, really funny. Yes, they may be a mix of fiction with reality, which he reluctantly admitted to, but who cares. They are meant to be stories that are entertaining, and, yes, laugh out loud funny! And what I love about his writings is he has no problem making fun of himself. He does it time after time.
I asked him why he hasn’t ever publicly touted his works. His answer was probably the most cohesive setting of words he put together during the entire interview. He simply shrugged. “I love to write, and in the beginning I needed the extra paycheck to support my family. Being published took care of both needs. I somehow never thought beyond that.” Well, I hope one day he does think beyond that, and puts all his stories into a book so they can be enjoyed by all. And, Rick, if that happens, I hope you have a book signing. I’ll be the first in line.