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Meet the Commenters: Hunter S. Royal

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A conversation with the chainsaw wielding lumberjack, Hunter S. Royal

Hunter in front of the Peace Fountain at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City
Hunter in front of the Peace Fountain at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City

Welcome to Meet the Commenters Hunter S Royal. You have been with the site since almost the very beginning. How did you originally find the place?

I started over at Royals Review in the summer of '08 and enjoyed that site a lot, so after a while (I may not be that quick on the uptake) I thought to search SBNation for the KU site and started commenting over here too. Owen and the other site manager at the time did a nice job despite the lack of traffic and I got hooked on game threads. Better than heroin and they go great with alcohol!

Backing up a bit, let's get into the early Hunter years. What did you folks do? Where did you grow up? How big was your family?

Born and grew up in medieval Olathe, Kansas when it probably had no more than 10,000 residents. After spending the first 5 years or so in town on Oak Street (Poor Street was literally the next block over) my parents bought 6 acres outside of town by Olathe Lake and most of my childhood memories are from there.

Pretty cool to grow up where we could always blast off fireworks, play in the lake during thunderstorms, shoot any varmints we felt like, and wander the woods in the area at any time. My father worked for KPL and started the tree service to make extra money on the side. (And because he's workaholic as hell.) My mom tried to keep my two brothers and my sister from bumping each other off while she fended the wildlife away. We lived on a spot that was literally named Copperhead Hill and there were plenty of them around. They're not fun to step on when you're wearing flip flops.

What made you pick KU? How has Lawrence and the school changed from when you attended to now?


I'm basically the only member of my family that liked sports so I started following KU early on and since it was so close and a lot of my class mates at OHS went there I followed along. That was probably a bit fateful since my two older brothers went out of state to St. Louis and Wyoming to college so since I stayed so close to home I wound up commuting back on weekends to help my father in the tree service. Went two years, discovered I hated chemistry (Pharmacy was my original major), then spent a hazy drunken semester in Aggieville with a couple of high school friends before wandering away to Wyoming to work for a year.

I have one wonderful, accomplished, decent brother who is a professor of geology in Casper, Wyoming besides being a fairly renowned fossil hunter. I was living with my other black sheep brother at the time, unfortunately, and he relieved me of all my savings in a scam.

Wound up moving back to Olathe to rejoin the family business and spent a number of years commuting to KU after changing my major to Literature. I'd take four classes and schedule them for Tuesdays/Thursday so I'd have time to murder plenty of trees besides going to school. (Books are made of trees aren't they! A natural fit!) Lawrence has obviously gotten considerably larger, but the magic of college is that the students really don't change much. 


Did you always want to be in the tree trimming business? When did that happen?

Besides my soon-to-be college grad daughter, I have a son who went to the University of Central Missouri (I feel shame) who is in his late twenties and is in South Korea teaching ESL to impressionable young children and playing Ultimate Frisbee on weekends. His teaching contracts run for a year so he usually leaves a decent amount of time between them and travels about Europe between jobs.

Hunter taking a much deserved break on the job

Hunter taking a much deserved break from the job


I know you have a daughter, do you have any other kids? How old are they?

I mentioned earlier that my father was a workaholic. My brothers and I didn't escape that since we were helping out in the tree service at very early ages. Brownback's dream society! Child labor, almost no pay, and if our dad dropped a log on our heads you just shook the concussion off and got back to work! There was no choice about it.

Once I was older I figured out how to handle my father's compulsiveness. If he got too obnoxious for too long I'd stay quiet and finish the day's work. Then I'd inform him that my back was feeling a bit rough and I needed to take a break. I'd tell him that a week of playing golf and drinking beer would probably take care of it. When I came back he would mellow out for 6 months or so until I needed some more "rehab".

What is your biggest success and biggest regret?

Biggest success? My kids are both great. So, apparently I didn't completely eff up parenting and I've spent decades in the tree service and still have all my limbs! And my life force, obviously.

The only time I was hurt was rather comical, if a bit painful. After a big storm a long time client needed some damaged limbs picked up while it was still kind of wet and breezy, which was no problem. They did want one tree climbed and a limb taken down that was overhanging their driveway also. Instead of waiting for a drier day I decided I could do it then and not have to make another trip.

I had a friend on the ground holding a rope while we let the limb down slowly, but it hung up and I tried to lean out and grab it so it would release, which caused my ladder to slip and kick out from underneath me. I had my safety belt on, but since it was a small tree the limb I was supported by broke, and I slid down the trunk of the tree about 20 feet I hit the ground rather hard. But, since it was so wet the ground was soft and it just knocked the wind out of me and I was fine.

Temporarily. My friend asked if I was OK and I said sure. I was actually kinda pumped that I'd fallen from a tree and was fine until I looked up and saw the ladder, which had kicked out from under me and then hung up on another limb, decided to let go and was heading directly for me. I tried to jump out of the way but my safety belt was still around the tree trunk so when I moved it stopped me and I just had a chance to get my forearm up to slightly break the blow as the ladder whacked my face.

Once I shoved it away and unbelted myself I wandered about for a bit doing all drunken sailors credit with my language as the pain was extraordinary. After about 60 seconds my endorphins apparently kicked in and I felt OK again. I thought I'd escaped unscathed but then I put my hand to the side of my face and it had an indentation that didn't used to be there. Facial surgery followed; fortunately it was long enough ago it wasn't very expensive and my insurance covered most of it.

Definitely a Wile E. Coyote moment though when I thought I was fine after the fall just before the ladder smacked me.

If I came and visited you, where would we go and what would we do?

If you came to visit I'd let you weed my pumpkin/squash/cantaloupe patch to work up an honest appetite and then head for Lawrence. Get something at the Burger Stand or Terrebone to fortify ourselves then head to Free State and get a spot at the patio outside and begin the beer sampling and people watching.


Lightning round
Age-58
Height-6'
Where do you live-Olathe
Facial hair-none
Any pets-One cat that I inherited from my daughter when she went off to school, a calico Manx.
What kind of car do you drive-GMC Canyon pickup
Corrective lenses-Glasses
Hair style-Kinda long before it all falls out.
Favorite movie-Blade Runner/The Man Who Would Be King
Favorite tv show-WKRP/Cheers/Mash Oh, maybe from this century? Sorry, mostly sports now
Favorite beer-Oatmeal Stout from Free State
Favorite band-Neil Young
Favorite food-Cajun
Favorite non KU team-Sporting KC
All time favorite KU player-Danny Manning
First concert-Jethro Tull
First w-2 job-Uranium solution mine in the red desert of Wyoming
Best athlete seen play live-Bo Jackson