Al Sloat and my father Noble Ledson grew up together. They were best friends all the way back to their high school days in the beginning of the 1930’s. As a young man growing up, I got to spend a lot of weekends with Al and his family which was a big part of my life, filled with great memories and lots of fun. Al Sloat was an incredible man, one of the greatest men who ever lived. If I was asked to give you a list of men who really represented the true meaning of a real man, Al Sloat would be at the top of my list, with great men like my father and my cousin Clifford Rich. I visualize Al as most people would visualize John Wayne.
Al really knew how to live his life to the fullest. He was always in the greatest shape. In fact, I don’t believe he ever had a belly! He always had a smile on his face and never had anything to say unless it was positive. Al was a great role model for me and for many others. He always looked at least 10 to 15 years younger than he really was. One day I asked him, “How do you keep yourself looking so young and in such great shape?” And Al said, “Everything in moderation, Steve. Think about it. Any time you overdo anything, something else is going to suffer. You want to live a balanced life.”
Al lived his life in moderation. You know, it’s easy to talk about doing things in moderation, isn’t it? But actually doing it is a whole other story. If you think about it, Al proved his theory of moderation to all of us. How many people live to be 98 years old? Not many.
Al was a very handsome, charismatic and well-spoken man. He was a real true gentleman; honesty and integrity were at the top of Al’s list. You could not find anyone who was better kept than Al, it wouldn’t make any difference if he was fishing, hunting, at work, or just at a party; Al Sloat was always dressed impeccably and as neat as a pin. His hair was always in place and he looked like he had not worked a minute. His truck was always clean and very well organized. He had every tool a man could want and could do any job there was. Al could do anything with his hands and he was an incredible carpenter. He could build anything – boats, cabinets, furniture, houses. You name it, Al could build it.
One day he said to me, “I was thinking of building a jewelry box for your wife, is that ok, Steve?” And I said, “Of course, Al.” About a month or so later he showed up at the ranch with this beautiful little jewelry box, it now sits on the nightstand at the ranch by my wife’s side of the bed and she puts her jewelry in it every night as she gets ready for bed. Amy loves that little jewelry box and will cherish it for ever. Al had his ways of charming the ladies. I remember how my Mom just loved Al; she thought he was the most charming man and she loved to hear his stories. Al was also a great family man, one could only dream of having three boys, all very successful and each in his own profession. Al raised them well and their life as a family was full of fun and excitement. They were taught to work hard but at the same time learned how to enjoy life to the point that is only a dream for many.
As a kid growing up with the Sloat’s, I couldn’t wait ’til the weekend rolled around and I could spend time with Al and his boys – there was never a dull moment, We were always hunting or fishing or just hiking the mountains and at night telling old stories or the latest jokes; those times played a big part in my life. I will never forget them and will probably never stop talking about them.
Al taught me a lot of lessons in life. One time we were up at the cabin at Bald Hills Ranch with our wives and I had gotten into an argument with my wife Amy about something. I forget what it was about, probably something insignificant. Pretty soon here comes Al with two highballs in his hands. He said, “Hey Steve, its highball time.” I can still see him standing there with those two highballs and that smile he always had. So we sat down on the deck and had a couple of highballs. We were talking about things we would like to do with the ranch, and of all of sudden Al says, “Steve, can I give you a little advice?” I said, “Sure, what’s that, Al?” And he says to me, “Once you let the balloon go, there’s no getting it back. I learned a long time ago, sometimes it is better to just keep your mouth shut – they’ll get over it in about 30 minutes or so and there is a good chance it’ll probably never come up again. But once you start arguing with them it just gets worse, you can’t take anything back you said and they’ll remember it forever.” I said, “Yeah, that’s a pretty good idea Al.” We both laughed. And you know, I’ve followed his advice and it works pretty damn well, as most of Al’s advice has.
I learned a lot from Al throughout the years and it wasn’t just his advice, I also learned a lot by just watching him. The way he carried himself, his walk, the tone of his voice and the sincerity in it really made me listen.
Al really knew how to make the best use of his time and money. He could look at anything and know exactly how to build it to be the most efficient space for the least amount of time and money, and always with that little Al Sloat charm. For example, he took the little barn at the ranch and turned it into this cool little country cabin with incredible charm. In fact, I would rather live in the cabin than my 7500-square-foot Victorian home. I love the floor plan so much I have built it twice and I am building it again as I write. There is not one wasted square inch anywhere and it is the most livable and sensible home you could imagine.
Al made life fun; he just had a way about him that made the day or the evening feel special. Sitting around the camp fire having a highball with Al- it just doesn’t get any better. I remember one night in the trinity Alps we were hunting all day around Boulder lake and when we came back to camp that evening we had a few highballs and told some great old stories. Right after dinner and I got up to do the dishes and Al says, “I got it, Steve, I’ll do those dishes.” I said, “No Al, I got it, go ahead and relax by the fire with Dad.” And Al says to me, “I always do the dishes.” I asked him why and he said, “I want to make sure there’s no soap left on them. I’ve had a few bad experiences with that on hunting trips.”
So now, everytime someone offers to do the dishes I say, “No thanks, I always do the dishes,” and as I am doing them I think of Al.
They broke the mold after Al Sloat was born, didn’t they? There have been very few men on this earth who could walk in the shoes of Al Sloat; he was truly a real man. He touched the lives of many, was well-respected, and will be missed by all.