Sam was the man

There's not much I can add to the fine obituary written by Fred Rasmussen about Sam Poole, Carroll County's venison czar, who died last week afterheart surgery.

The Finksburg deer processor had the keen eye of Ted Williams, the steady hand of Dr. Christiaan Barnard and the affability of a Rotary Club president. He had to muster all three qualities each fall when hunters dropped off thousands of deer at Sam's Deer Processing to be turned into steaks, sausage and pastrami venison.

He gave generously to the statewide program, Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry, turning donated deer into heart-healthy helpings of ground meat for food pantries and charitable institutions. He helped arrange hunts for the disabled and fussed over kids who brought in their first deer.

Funny thing: Sam wasn't a hunter.

Sam was always quick with a wave when I'd pull up the long driveway, weave my way between waiting cars and into the backyard on my fall rounds. "Can't talk long," he'd say. "The herd will take over."

But there is one story I can add. A bunch of years ago, a young photographer pestered to come with me on the opening day of deer season. It was the first year of the state's testing of deer brain stems to check for chronic wasting disease, a fatal illness that has spread across the country.

Sam's driveway looked like a deer junkyard as state biologists moved among the does being checked in to take their samples. Not even Ansel Adams could gussy it up.

The young photographer's reaction to the M*A*S*H-like setting was predictable, debilitating and assignment-ending. Sam saw it first. He dropped his paperwork and made a beeline in her direction. He told a self-deprecating story to ease her embarrassment, got her a ginger ale and walked her to her car.

"She's OK," he reported and paused as a smile grew on his face. "And she's promised to visit again."

Like thousands of others, she did, too, drawn by the kindness of the big, gentle man.