I read Robert Ruark's book Something of Value when I was a kid. It was the first book that I read by him and told a tale of the Mau-Mau uprising and terror in Africa. He included a Basuto Proverb that states:
"If a man does away with his traditional way of living and throws away his good customs, he had better first make certain that he has something of value to replace them."
The Old Man became a solace and source of wisdom for young Robert. Ruark writes of an idyllic time which no doubt he had with his grandfather. But in other writings, Ruark tells of having to fight with other school children on a regular basis because he was "fat" and his middle name was Chester, "and Chester is hilarious in the South". Ruark also speaks of being a "bookish brat (who) didn't give a damn for ordinary sports, possibly because I am clumsy and slow".
As he writes in the book: "When you are as old as the Old Man, you know a lot of things that you forgot you ever knew, because they've been a part of you so long". I think that many of us get to a point where there is so much experience that we just do things, forgetting how we ever knew them.
But the tragedy of Robert Ruark is that he forgot what his Old Man taught him. He became caught up in trying to emulate Ernest Hemingway--hard living and hard drinking. He forgot about North Carolina and the marshes and fishes in his journey. And when he went back to the coast there, not many people cared for the Robert who showed up.
There was a self-destructive flaw in Ruark that seemed to hate success or at least disbelieve that he was successful. His idea of success was to be a two fisted hard drinking "man's man". His drinking became out of control. The Boy despite the Old Man's example, was an alcoholic. Periodically told that his drinking was killing him, Ruark would stop or cut down for a brief time, but he could never make it stick and he could never hold his intemperance to moderation. Both his writing and his personal life suffered.
He died at age 50 most likely as a result of alcoholism. I wish that he could have remembered the words of the Old Man and the Basuto Proverb.