The recent death of General Norman Schwarzkopf made me recall how I almost met him but turned down the opportunity. Several years after the Gulf War ended, I had a call early one September from a resort inviting me to come stay, free of charge and with my meals paid for as well, for a two-day sporting clays shoot with the general the very next week.
The resort's public relations person said that he "hoped" I would do a magazine article on the weekend, touting the resort's features, its excellent sporting clays course, and the resort's connection with the general. From the start, I knew that the resort more than hoped I would do a story, the establishment was expecting a major article in a national magazine.
I explained to the PR person that besides being an outdoor writer, I was also a high school English teacher and that school had just started for the year. I said I would think about the offer and return the call in a few days.
There were all sorts of proverbial "red flags" tormenting me. In the first place, I didn't feel comfortable going at all, knowing full well what the resort really wanted out of me - a profile in a major national magazine. Since the general was coming in less than a week, the resort's PR person had not given me much time to find an assignment.
Also, I had never been to a sporting clays course before, and this is no false modesty, I am a terrible wing shot for grouse and doves - as anyone who has ever bird hunted with me can attest. The thought of standing next to this American hero and missing shot after shot was not a pleasant vision. My school system then had a policy that our two annual personal leave days could not be taken back and back and that was another complication. And what if the resort's food and accommodations were lacking, how would the establishment have felt if I had written that? Furthermore, I didn't know enough about sporting clays to even know if the course would be any good or not.
Finally, I decided to do what I felt was the right thing...to turn down the invitation, telling the PR person about my school's personal leave policy, which was a truthful statement on my part.
And so I didn't go to the event. A few days later I told my principal about the invitation and he said that he would have arranged for the school policy to have been broken. I have always regretted not meeting General Norman Schwarzkopf, but I have never regretted not going to the resort that time.