When Associate Editor Robert Jones joined SPORTS ILLUSTRATED recently, he was itching to get out of the office and back to nature. He had just completed five highly productive but somewhat sedentary years behind a desk writing for TIME, including cover stories on such wide-ranging subjects as the Onassises, hippies and Negro soldiers in Vietnam. His first assignment for us, on snowmobiles (Feb. 17), threw Bob to the wolves and the foxes, while his second took him fishing off Mazatl√†n (page 42).
Jones is hardly a newcomer to the outdoors. Raised in Wauwatosa, Wis., he spent the winters of his youth trudging about the countryside in snowshoes. Since then he has kept in touch with nature as a somewhat reluctant hunter. "I don't really enjoy shooting animals," he says, "but I do like the outdoors and I feel a little ridiculous tramping around with a bird book and binoculars, so I carry a gun." He used to carry a bow and arrow on partridge hunts, a hit (rarely) or miss (often) proposition. In 12 years his total bag was three birds. Now he employs a costlier but more effective 20 gauge over-and-under to take grouse, woodcock, pheasant and quail in the wilds behind his Somers, N.Y. home.
On his third assignment for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Bob covered the Daytona 500, and last week he was in Sebring for the story that appears on page 24. He found that watery neck of the central Florida woods to be oddly fascinating and frustrating. "The place is an anachronism," Jones says. "The people are charming but pokey." Jones did manage to get in some fishing on nearby Lake Okeechobee. "It was frustrating, though," he says. "I fished precisely the way my partner, a creaky old local, was fishing, with exactly the same lure—but he caught 20, including two big bass, to my single speckled perch."
In another throwback to his younger years, Jones spends many of his off-hours on and under water. As a high school All-America he set the Wisconsin interscholastic record for the 75-yard individual medley. Although his time was good and the record still stands, its longevity was considerably enhanced when the 75-yard medley was replaced by a longer event shortly after he graduated. He swam briefly for the University of Michigan but quit to concentrate on reporting for the Michigan Daily, where he met his wife Louise. "She was the senior editor responsible for making assignments," Bob says. "She was a tough taskmaster and kept giving me beats which were challenging but interfered with my social life. After I started going out with her, the assignments got better—all around."
As you can see, Jones is one of those men who is helping the mustache make a strong comeback. He grew it on a recent deer hunt, with the intention of shaving it off as soon as he surprised his family. But the family, particularly his two children, insisted that it stay, and they even gave him a mustache trimmer for Christmas. "I guess it will become a fixture," he says.
JONES AND MUSTACHE IN FLORIDA