Thursday, March 22, 2012

20 Questions: Andy Wayment, author, 'Heaven on Earth'

Andy Wayment
Andy Wayment and I have tromped the same ground for quite a while now, although we've only recently gotten to know one another. You might know of Andy from his blog, "Upland Equations," which focuses largely on upland bird hunting, but is seasoned with a bit of fly fishing now and then, as well as some pretty impressive historical information on how our Founding Fathers fished and hunted around the birth of a nation. 

Andy's and my own journeys here in Idaho have managed to cross paths a few times. When I was working in the newspaper business in Pocatello, Andy was in college at Idaho State University. Together--yet separately--we ventured into the southeast Idaho hinterlands uncovering the secrets of the little trout streams that meander through the mountains. 

Andy went on to law school at the University of Idaho, and lived in Moscow for a time, before ending up here, where we both now live, in Idaho Falls. Last fall, Andy sent me a note, asking if I'd be OK with him reviewing my book, "Shin Deep: A Fly Fisher's Love for Living Water." Of course the answer was yes--us starving writers will take all the publicity we can get.

We met for lunch at the local Mexican joint here in Idaho Falls (Andy has an unhealthy--borderline inappropriate--relationship with Mexican food, as you'll read about in a bit). I gave Andy a copy of the book, and he devoured it in a matter of days. Not long after that, he published one of the most flattering reviews I received on the book.

During our lunch meeting, Andy mentioned that he was finishing a book, as well. A few months later, he gave me a signed copy of "Heaven on Earth: Stories of Fly Fishing, Fun & Faith." I promised to write a review once I read the book.

I figured the best way to do that was to first, do my best to introduce Andy to the sporting world the best I could--not that he isn't already well-known. Consider the 20 Questions below that introduction. 

Now, here's what I think of the book:

"Heaven on Earth" isn't just a fishing book. It's a book that weaves the relationship Andy has with God into his outdoor endeavors, along with the way he interacts with this wife, his kids and his family. It's a thoughtful piece of prose, and, as such, it got me thinking. A lot.

And he approaches fly fishing much the same way I do--he values the journey, almost as much as he treasures the destination. On this, I found myself reading along, cracking a smile here and there as the story of venturing up a hidden creek near his rented home near Moscow brought back the images of wandering along new water, never sure what, if anything, would hit the flies I cast. 

Living here in Idaho Falls, I've grown accustomed to the dominant religious denomination--the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints--and the folks who follow this unique brand of Christianity faithfully. And let me say this, unrelated to Andy or the book: Mormons are wonderful people. They make the very best neighbors. They give and give and give... they are generous, thoughtful and, contrary to popular opinion, quite non-judgmental. It's a joy to live in a community like this one (we "gentiles" call it "in the bubble"), where we know, on the whole, we're safe, we're secure and we're among people who genuinely care about each other. Having lived elsewhere, I can say that locating our family here was one of the best decisions we've ever made.

But (there had to be a "but," right?), there's always a bit of mystery surrounding the Church, and that mystery, naturally, leads to misinformation. I've found, though, that if you take the time to get to know people based not on their faith, but on their character, a lot of that mystery can be dispelled. Such as it is with Andy. Reading "Heaven on Earth," at least for me, gave great insight into a faithful man who honestly believes in the scriptures he references and applies them daily to his life. I respect that greatly, and that's coming from a guy who's not very "churchy."

Andy and his daughter Nessy fishing Moose Creek in Idaho.
As it turns out, Andy, the devout Mormon, and I, the on-again-off-again Episcopalian, both see God when we fish in the places our fishing takes us. We're not all that different, honestly. 

But Andy's religion is but a part of the book. Even if you don't bother to question your own faith or delve into a few pages of the Bible as you read "Heaven on Earth" (and I challenge you to do that), you'll find the stories of fishing contained within Andy's book to be wonderfully well-written and very conversational. It's an easy read ... simple, straightforward language mixed with humor, love and insight. I truly enjoyed it--just ask the guy who sat next to me on the flight home from the Bahamas recently. After about the third time I laughed out loud, he leaned over and said, "What is it you're reading?" 

I showed him the book, and let him read a couple chapters (Andy, I think I got you a customer!). He loved it, and regretfully handed it back to me.

I think you'll enjoy it, too. And I think you'll enjoy getting to know Andy Wayment. On with the questions:

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 
My perfect idea of happiness is a few days off work when the hunting or fishing season is open. Before me is a stream full of hungry trout or a brushy field full of birds. I am surrounded by my bird dogs, friends and family. Oh, and the old shooting eye comes through for once. I live for days like that! I love to hunt and fish with my kids which is good because I have four daughters and two sons . . . lots of outdoor partners. 

What is your greatest fear? I am not a big fan of horror movies. There’s enough evil in this world without glorifying it onscreen. When I was a kid the two movies that scared the pure-tee crap out of me were Poltergeist and It. I freakin’ hate clowns! And what is the deal with the current popular obsession with zombies? (I agree--clowns are creepy, and, to this day, I cross the street to avoid getting too close. And the zombies? These movies are just to help us prepare for the zombie apocolypse ... -ed)

In all seriousness, I have a fear of failure. With age and maturity, this fear has been tempered some. As an attorney, I know that it’s a crapshoot every time you step foot into the courtroom. I just try to do my best and let the legal process run its course.

Thomas Jefferson
Which historical figure do you most identify with? As a Christian, I would have to answer Jesus Christ. I try to live my life in accordance with his teachings, his life and example. Also, in my undergrad, I was a history major with an emphasis on American history. I came to love the Founding Fathers: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, etc. They were the best men of their time. I honor them for their ideology and sacrifices to create this great nation. I named my sons after two of these men: Thomas and Benjamin.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I wrote about this in my book, Heaven on Earth. My family, the Wayments, sometimes exhibit tempers. I am no exception. On occasion I have lost my temper and said things that I regret. As an attorney, I have come to realize that a temper is counterproductive most of the time. After all, Aristotle said that “the law is reason free from passion.” I try now to keep my emotions in check and not allow my hot head to become part of the problem.

What is the trait you most deplore in others? I don’t like liars, cheaters, or bullies. Some who read this may argue that most attorneys fall within one of those three categories, but there are some truly honorable men in my profession. I try to be one of them.

What is your favorite journey? As an outdoorsman, there is nothing better than the anticipation and excitement you feel as you head out on a new adventure, whether it be fishing or hunting. The feeling is not unlike a kid waiting for Christmas morning. Those are my favorite journeys.

Which living person do you most despise? “Despise” is such a strong word. I try not to hate or despise anyone. There are a few attorneys, however, that I strongly dislike who deserve all of the negative press attorneys get. I also do not particularly like or trust politicians on either side of the political aisle.

What is your greatest regret? Like everyone, I’ve made my share of mistakes. That’s part of life and our mistakes help to shape us into who we are. So I don’t regret all the multitude of mistakes that I’ve made. That’s the great thing about repentance! However, I often regret the things that I say in anger. As James wrote in the Bible, “the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” He also wrote: “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” Thus, as the good book says, I try to bridle my tongue as I strive to better myself.

What or who is the greatest love of your life? I have to answer this question with a list in order:
  • My Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ; 
  • My wife, Kristin; 
  • My kids; 
  • My three bird dogs; 
  • Fly Fishing and Bird Hunting; and 
  • Mexican Food. 
These are the greatest loves of my life.

Which talent would you most like to have? You know, I wish I was a better shot with a shotgun. I did not start bird hunting in earnest until my first year of law school. So I’m not the greatest shot in the world. I’m what some may call a duffer. There are days when I could not hit the backside of an elephant. Fortunately there are days when I shoot well. At least I can say I have improved over the years. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement? I could say, graduating from law school, passing the bar exam, my two clerkships with great judges, the publishing of my book, but my answer would have to be my wife and my kids. None of that other stuff would mean anything without them. 

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? I would want to come back as a French Brittany, like my Sunny Girl, with a master that could hunt continually. This breed has a passion and love for the hunt that is amazing. They are all heart. Through them, I’ve learned that a dog truly can smile.

Where would you like to live? I moved to Idaho Falls to be closer to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for all of the outdoor opportunities this awesome area affords. So I already am where I want to be. If I didn’t live here, I wouldn’t mind living in the Madison River Valley somewhere between Quake Lake and Ennis, my own “Heaven on Earth.” I recently went hunting in the prairie state, Kansas, and I was smitten by the simple beauty of that state, a veritable bird hunter’s heaven. One of my favorite things about hunting and fishing is the beautiful, haunting places they take you.

Who are your favorite writers? As a kid, I loved J.R.R. Tolkien and I still do. I can’t wait to see the movie, The Hobbit, this year. That was the very book that started my love of reading. Today, I collect sporting books and I love so many good writers, but some of my favorites are: Burton Spiller, Corey Ford, Havilah Babcock, Robert Ruark, Robert Traver, Charley Waterman, Ted Nelson Lundrigan, E. Donnall Thomas, Jr., William G. Tapply, etc. Some new books that I’ve enjoyed are George King’s, That’s Ruff! and Paul F. Vang’s, Sweeter than Candy: A Hunter’s Journal.

Who are your heroes? If I’m honest, I have to say first, Jesus Christ, and—while this may raise a few brows—second, Joseph Smith, the Prophet. I love and honor that man! With that said, I also appreciate and admire my father, Keith Wayment, who shared with me his love of the outdoors, and my father-in-law, Douglas Empey, who taught me how to fly fish.

What’s on your iPod? I have a broad taste in music. As a skateboarding teenager, I loved punk rock and alternative. So my iPod has some 80s bands like The Smiths and The Ocean Blue. Also, I’ve downloaded some of my favorite bands, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Glen Phillips, Nickel Creek, Switchfoot, Jon Foreman, and Fiction Family. Over the last year, I’ve come to love Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers. Good stuff!

If you were a pet, what would your name be? Today, I saw a billboard sign that stated: “Chuck Norris went into a Burger King and ordered a Big Mac and got one.” I would have to answer that being a bird dog named “Chuck Norris” would kick butt (pun intended).

If there is a Heaven, and you go to Heaven, what would God say to you upon your arrival? I have to answer this one with a scripture. If I get to heaven, I hope that God will say: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” I can think of no better thing He could say. This would mean that I had learned the things, and lived the way, I was supposed to while here on earth.

Pretty good price on Baby Blue these days...
What’s the favorite of all the cars you’ve ever driven? Hands down, the answer would have to be a 1999 Ford Escort Station Wagon that I purchased during law school that we lovingly called, “Baby Blue.” This was the car that I drove as my love of hunting and fishing turned to sheer addiction. Don’t let the name fool you! I drove that car all over kingdom come and it was tough. If you want to read more about Baby Blue, you’ll have to buy my book. I loved that car! 

What’s your favorite guilty pleasure? I must confess that I love Mexican food so much that I could eat it every day for every meal. Chips and salsa is the food of the gods.

BONUS QUESTION: If you could go back in time, what year would you visit first? I love that book by David McCullough, 1776. That would be a year to revisit for sure. Along with the preparation and signing of the Declaration of Independence (which is one of the greatest documents ever written), there were some truly miraculous occurrences that preserved the Continental Army and the cause of freedom. I get goose bumps reading about this grand history. Now just imagine seeing that in real time!


  1. Brilliant! I love the questions and... the answers! I feel like I know Andy much better now for having read this.

    Thank you!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Bob... Andy's a great guy. I hope he and I will get the chance to fish and/or hunt together this year. I really enjoyed his book.

  3. Thanks again Chris for this review and opportunity. You deserve a trip to the Mini-Madison. Bring the big ugly streamers for huge brown trout. When we going?

  4. Let's try and fish before runoff gets going ... sometime in mid-April?

  5. Let's do it. Hey, something in your review just made me laugh. You use the word "churchy.". Are you a Nacho Libre fan? The only other time I can remember someone using that term is in that movie when Nacho tells Incarnacion "I had a lot of churchy opportunities.". Good stuff man...:)

  6. Like Bob, this interview helped me get know know Andy a little bit better. My copy of his book should be arriving any day, and I cant wait to curl up with it.

  7. An old lawyer joke makes the claim that "99% of all lawyers give the other 1% a bad name!" From this interview, I get the distinct impression that Andy is in the 1%.

    I also appreciate Andy's, and Chris's, discussion about religion. It pleases me that Jesus himself was known to hang out with fishermen and other "sinners." I have to include fishermen in that collective group since most fishermen have not only broken a Commandment or two, but shattered the one about "not bearing false witness." Thankfully, we can be forgiven through God's grace.

    Andy, Chris...I'm looking forward to the day our paths cross. We have a lot in common to talk about, not the least being dogs, bird hunting and maybe a little flyfishing. I know a spot...

    Ken in
    Logan, Utah