Man out of Time
have turned what started as an amiable hobby into a career.
It's a long way in time and circumstance from a small 55-acre farm in Jefferson County to the lecture circuit. Give credit to a family which, itself, is out of time gone by.
Duren's father, Robert, always trapped, hunted and fished. "He took me on the trap line from the time I was a little guy," Duren says. "And he got a turkey in the first modern season in 1960. I didn't." (There were only 94 turkeys taken statewide that first season - Ralph didn't kill his first turkey until he was nine years old, three years later.)
"Dad retired after 30 years at the Crystal City Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company," Duren says. "He does something - fishing or hunting - every day. He's been important to me, not only teaching me woods lore, but about conservation, too."
Duren is the oldest of five children (he has a brother and three sisters). "My brother is a hunter education instructor and so are two of my sisters," he says.
"We had a lot of birds - turkeys, peacocks, ducks, show chickens," Duren says. But that was only one facet of the family's life. Robert Duren trapped pest animals for local landowners. Not only did that solve a problem, it also created a debt of gratitude that resulted in hunting and fur trapping access. "There were three different farms that had over 200 turkeys. We'd see the flocks every day," Duren says. "We had lots of places to hunt."
With livestock, furs, a garden, wild edible bounty and fees from pest animal control, the Durens lived off the land as efficiently as Jed Smith himself (Duren often appears before audiences garbed as a mountain man, with fur trim clothing and furs to show).
Food was where you found it. Barbecued young groundhog was no stranger to the Duren table. "All the kids hunted. We always had a 'coon dog and a couple of beagles and my uncle kept bird dogs. Mom didn't hunt, but she fished.
"My dad taught me a lot about reading sign," Duren says. "When you trap, you're out there every day and you learn much about nature. You know what's new. You're there in every kind of weather."
Vacation, if you could call it that, was a trip to Big River for several days each summer. The