20 September 2008

A Few Good Men

My good friend Jesse Long, Jr, worked with me at the Prattville congregation for several years. One Sunday night, before he began his sermon, he mentioned that some of the fellows had asked him to play ball with them. Then he looked at me with a grin on his face and asked if they had asked me, inferring that I was too old to do so. That brought a laugh from the congregation. Well, not being one to accept such jest graciously, even from a friend, I took advantage of replying to him the following Sunday morning prior to my sermon. I mentioned that “no, the brethren had not asked me to play ball with them.” I then said that there were some ‘real men’ in the congregation and they were deer hunters. I related this hunting experience with some latitude of understanding and in fun.

I was hunting on Pearson property alongside Bear Creek Swamp. I had to drag a 10-point 200 pound buck about a quarter of a mile up the ridge to my truck and then had to load him! It was then that I shot him. I appreciate my good friend, Chris Mayeux, who followed every step up that ridge in his imagination and watched me load that deer, but it tore him up when I announced it was only at that time that I "shot the deer".

It is good to have friends who trust you when you are telling a hunting tale. But I did get my point across that the ‘real men’ were deer hunters and not the fellows who play a child’s game.

My par excellent deer hunter and friend James and I had seen turkeys in the area where we had been hunting deer during the fall and winter season. Later, James asked me to take him turkey hunting come spring season and that I did. Would you believe that the first time James went he had a big Tom come walking off a small field within shooting range? And without any trouble whatsoever he shot and killed that turkey. Would you also believe that the Tom weighed 22 pounds and had an 11 inch beard? That ruined James. He wanted to go turkey hunting just about every morning. I could hardly sleep enough for 2 months. The second time I took him hunting at the same acreage, we spilt up just like before and he went one way and I another one. I had not walked very far that beautiful spring morning before I heard him shoot twice. I groaned within myself and muttered something like “that James has already killed him another turkey.” I finally killed an average sized Tom later in the morning and then I walked back to the truck which was about a half mile away. By the time I reached the truck, I was tired and hot, having carried a heavy shotgun and a turkey that far. Well, there stood James looking dignified with his wavy gray hair and him in camouflage hunting gear.

He looked at the turkey I was carrying and then he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I wished you had not done that.” I said, “Done what James?” He said, “Kill that turkey.” I inquired, “Why?” He then replied, “Because I have killed you one.” I looked and sure enough laying on the ground next to the truck were two dead gobblers. I said to him, “No, James, this is my turkey.” It was then he said in a troubling tone, “What are we going to do?” I told him we would drive back into Fort Deposit and go to the small store operated by John Arthur Moore and I would go in and tell him that we had an extra gobbler and would he like to have it. I started to load the turkeys into the covered bed of James’ truck and when I reached for the third one he said not to load it. He did not want to have three turkeys in the same truck with two preachers. So he covered the third one with some leaves and we drove into town and I gave one turkey to brother Moore and then we drove the five miles back to our hunting ground and it was only then that I could put that dead Tom in the back of the truck.

That episode remained a secret until I revealed it to an audience of a few hundred brethren at the church building where they were honoring him and his wife before they moved to another state. And when I related this story the building was filled with laughter and applause. Those brothers and sisters who loved this good man came to realize he was only human like the rest of us.

Did you hear the story about the two deer hunters who went deep into an area that was completely new to them? Before they separated, the agreement was made that if one should become lost and needed help, he was to shoot three times and wait 30 minutes, then shoot three more times. It was mid-afternoon when one of the hunters realized that he was completely lost so he shot three times and waited 30 minutes, but his buddy did not come to find him. So he shot three more times and waited 30 minutes. Still, no one came. He then became panicky and shouted, “I have shot all my arrows and no one has come to help me!”

It was a perfect morning for spring turkey hunting. I took my Lynch box and began to play such a sweet tune that a Tom some 20 miles away heard my magical sound and here he came over hill and dale. I could just see that magnificent bird traveling as fast as he could through the forest to get to where I was. Finally, he cut off and didn’t make another sound. Down below where I was sitting was a stream of water that had some dense foliage around it. I laid that calling box down and got my trusty Remington 1100 12 gage shotgun and I was just waiting for that ole' Tom to come across that stream and show himself. Well would you believe, that at that time in the annals of man’s history a tree decided to fall, and fall it did. It seemed that it took 30 minutes to completely fall to the earth. I couldn’t believe it. In matters of theology I had studied the doctrine of predestination. Also in the matter of science I heard that if a tree fell in the woods and there was no one near by there would not be any sound.

I tried my best to logically understand why this tree, rotten I suppose, fell for so long just at this time between the eternities when this trophy Tom Turkey would appear in the sights of my shotgun. For two days I sat there with legs crossed searching for the truth. I finally went to the house where the person lived that so graciously allowed me to hunt turkeys on his land. I related to him what had happened and my quest for the answer as to why the tree at that appointed time fell when that turkey would have crossed the stream of water. It was then that I found the answer to my question. The farmer said, “Well, preacher, it just wasn’t meant for you to kill that turkey.” Now that I had the answer I went home with peace in my heart and slept for a week.

I took an excursion to that deer plantation in Florida where, during the off-season, the people grow tobacco and looked for me a trophy buck. Question: What weighs about 180 pounds and has two sets of antlers? Don’t know, do you? That just baffles the mind. Think about it for a while. Well, I will just have to share with you the answer – two spikes weighing 90 pounds apiece. But, on to my story about the great safari I took to the land of sunshine. Only, those two days, the sun froze and refused to give out any heat. It was so cold that, well you won’t believe this but I’m going to tell you anyway. On that Tuesday morning when I got into my tree stand about 30 minutes before sunrise, the temperature hung somewhere between 55 degrees below zero and 15 degrees above zero. My problem was that I sweated (rich deer hunters perspire) so much on the way to the tree that when I sat down to wait for the breaking of day that I came up with a unique problem. You see, I had forgotten to load my gun and furthermore, the only ammunition that I brought along was one empty shell with some powder and a primer in it. The sweat froze on my forehead and rolled down my face as icy beads. Thus, I thought of a plan. I used this frozen sweat and put it into the shell and when that buck came strolling by, I pulled the trigger. The only thing was that such hot action melted the frozen sweat and left the barrel of my gun as water. However, because it was so cold that Tuesday morning, the sweat turned back into frozen beads and when they reached the deer which was standing some 300 yards away, the force was so terrific that the frozen beads of sweat killed that deer dead in its tracks. Now I know that is hard to believe but you know that I am an honest guy, right?

I made a mistake by taking my good friend Melvin with me to new hunting grounds where the turkeys were in abundance. He was expert on calling and I was a novice. He was the one who killed the turkeys and I came home empty handed. Melvin is about 6’ 7’’ tall and me, well, just say that my legs reach the ground and that is good enough. We looked like Mutt and Jeff as we would walk into the woods together. I told him that one day he would get his hair caught in the limbs of a tree one day like Absalom of old. Or, that some hunter would mistake him for a long neck turkey and shoot him.

One spring morning after MM had killed a nice Tom and he had placed him in the trunk of his weird car (the trunk was in the front of his Bug) and we were traveling down U. S. 331 I was startled by what I saw on the side of the highway. You see we had gotten up about 3:30 A. M. and had traveled 53 miles one way to where we hunted that morning and on the way home I was about asleep when out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a man lying on the side of the road. We got on down the road and I say to MM, “Melvin I think I saw a man lying on the side of the road back there.” You see, I didn’t know whether I was having a dream or if I actually saw a body.

Well, ole MM turned that Bug around and we high tailed it back up the road. Sure enough, there was a man lying face up on the ground. I saw a trickle of blood in the corner of his mouth so we did not know if this person was dead or alive. We drove to the nearest house and called for the state troopers to come and investigate and then we drove back to stand guard over this person. A trooper soon appeared and when he arrived the lifeless body began to move and sit up. The trooper knew him and he let out a few choice words. Undoubtedly, the man had been drunk and someone had thrown him out of a car during the night and he lay there until the middle of day. By then I was wide awake and I was glad that we did not have a dead turkey and a dead man to bring home to show our friends what we had harvested on that spring morning when turkeys were in season.

My hunting buddy and I were well on our way to our hunting grounds in Crenshaw County when I noticed that Melvin’s coat was bulging on one side. I inquired, "MM, what have you got inside your coat?" He replied “It’s my 44 Magnum pistol.” I asked why are you bringing that cannon on a turkey hunt? You see it was legal to shoot a turkey with a pistol back then as well as a shotgun. He informed me that he had seen the largest turkey ever but he couldn’t get it within shotgun range so he had brought this powerful handgun to kill this giant wild turkey. I began to imagine just how big this fowl might be that would require a load from a 44 Magnum to kill it. I then decided that a turkey must have bred with a Ostrich some time or the other and what MM was looking at was a TURKRICH. But we will never know. MM never saw that bird again.

Have you ever considered what would happen to you if you were scared half to death twice?

"I'll be right back ~ after I drag a 10 point buck out of the woods on opening day."

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