25 September 2008

Careless From Carbon Hill

Now my ole hunting buddy is a bright, intelligent gentleman from the backwoods of Walker County . He can explain in detail Einstein’s Theory of Relativity but sometimes he just plumb forgets. Take for example the time the two of us went hunting on a cold dreary day alongside Pea River in Coffee County, Alabama . Of course we didn’t kill anything, and when we got back to his car we took off our heavy coats and put them in the trunk of his car. About that time my good friend said with sadness in heart that the car keys were in the big coat he had just locked in the trunk. Well, he stood there in a moment of silence and a long way from anywhere with thoughts of “I wish I had not done that.” So we had to walk a country mile or two to find someone who had a telephone so my friend could call his Georgia Peach wife to bring him a key for the car. Now that isn’t the end of this here story about my careless friend from Carbon Hill. Here is the rest of the story~

Somewhere, and at sometime, he had a rock to hit his car’s windshield while driving down the highway and caused a crack in it. Soon after this incident my friend went to a deer hunt down at the Blue Springs Management Area south of Andalusia. He left his car at the Ranger’s Station and rode with others to be placed as a standard during the deer drive when the dogs were turned loosed. It was nearly noon when the group arrived back at the station and my hunting friend wanted to get into his car for his lunch. Well, you guessed it. The car was locked as tight as a small girdle on a large woman. He had left the keys in the ignition. Being a person of ingenuity, my friend borrowed a tire tool to use on that broken windshield. He got on the hood of the car and began swinging that tool in a professional manner. The only problem was that the game warden who saw him breaking the windshield did not know that my friend was going to have that windshield replaced that very afternoon. Now you talk about a fellow who had some tall explaining to do when that officer demanded an explanation, my friend did. The sad ending of this story is that my friend passed this carelessness on to the author of this tale but that will be left ~ for another day.

I was born in the beautiful town of Trion, Georgia when my family lived in the community of ‘Hot Town’. We later moved to ‘Frog Town’ which was next to the Chattooga River that ran through the middle of town. While we never lived in ‘Happy Top’ we did in fact move up to 'Welcome Hill' which was out in the country. It was there that I began to attend school next to the Welcome Hill Baptist Church. This was about one mile from where we lived in a big roaming house. I walked to school every day. The winters in Northwest Georgia could be very cold. In fact, we would often have freezing weather and we were privileged to have snow just about every winter. I remember well that there was a small pond on the way to school. Some mornings me and my friends would find the pond frozen over and we would run and skate on the pond. This simply meant that we landed on the lower part of our anatomy more than we were able to keep our balance very long when ‘skating’.

Late one evening I noticed that a flock of geese had landed on that pond for the night. Well that night we had a hard freeze and it is my understanding that the pond froze over so quickly that the geese couldn’t move. The next morning on the way to school I looked and that whole pond was gone. I couldn’t believe my young and innocent eyes. What had happened to that pond? Later that day word was received from kinsfolk on Sand Mountain, near the town of Henagar that the flock of geese had taken flight with that frozen pond and had landed in a pasture nearby. Now you might think this story is for the birds but how do explain that new pond in Uncle Sam’s pasture?

Willard, my older brother, was a game warden in the state of Georgia for many years. He became an officer in the Game and Fish Department and had six counties in northwest Georgia under his oversight. In the section of Chattooga County, our home county that included Lookout Mountain, he discovered a real problem of some unethical deer hunters who were killing deer out of season. They were hard to catch in their dastardly deeds. My brother knew about where the men were killing the deer but had failed to catch them in the act. This was before you could use a decoy legally in the state of Georgia in order to catch the persons. He got permission from the Attorney General’s office and borrowed a ‘deer’ from a friend that was made of material similar to plaster of Paris. My brother put some artificial eyes that would reflect light on the deer and then he carried it to a pasture near the edge of the woods in a beautiful valley at the foot of Lookout Mountain, a spot where he thought the illegal deer hunters were killing the game. He and his buddy staked out the place late one evening and it was not long until they heard a truck coming down the dirt road. It was soon afterwards that they heard three shots being fired by the hunter. They drove fast to the place and arrested the man. Willard put the man in his car and drove to Summerville, the county seat, to make a case against the man. While they were on their way, the man in the back seat kept on mumbling to himself, “I know I hit that deer but it would not fall.” Later my brother returned to pick up the ‘deer’ and sure enough the man had hit it three times with his 30-06 and had really damaged the ‘deer’. My brother had finally caught the rascal and with a big smile on his face he loaded the ‘deer’ and took it back home for repairs.

While scouting for a place to hunt deer near Pea River in Coffee County , I found a small stream of water where deer undoubtedly loved to drink water and cross over to their bedding down area. I found a holly tree nearby and it was then that I made the decision to get up in this lovely tree early the next morning. It was before I had a climbing tree stand but I did have a lock-on seat. Well, early the next morning before daylight, I climbed that holly tree to the height I thought would be high enough and then I pulled up the seat and attached it to the tree. When daylight came you could find me sitting high above the ground with a panoramic view of the area. I was just waiting for that 200 pound 8 point buck to come get him a drink of water on his way to his favorite bedding down place. But what I have not told you was the weather was freezing cold, especially for south Alabama. And I mean cold! After sitting perched up in that holly tree for a couple of hours I was so cold I was getting numb. But the tough deer hunter that I am, I was determined to stay long enough to bag me a trophy deer. After such a long time in that freezing weather I began to shake uncontrollably. I didn’t realize that I was freezing to death. I shook and I shook for the longest time. In fact I was shaking the whole tree so violently that the beautiful red berries on that tree began to fall to the ground. I shook so long and hard that every berry fell off of that holly tree. It was then that I looked down to the ground beneath me and there were so many red berries on the ground that you would have thought the earth had the measles!!! I considered writing a song with lyrics like “Have a holly, jolly Christmas, etc” but I never did. Neither did I kill a deer that morning. Furthermore, it took the rest of the day for this ham to thaw out.

22 September 2008

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."

19 September 2008

Dogs That Point

When my family and I lived in Opp , Alabama, I would go to Zeb’s Cake House to have donuts and coffee with the fellows in the mornings after I had delivered children to their various schools. Usually there were about 10 or 12 men who would enjoy engaging in stories relating to hunting and fishing. While some of the details might be true, you know it is the tendency for hunters and fishermen to embellish the truth and color the stories with exaggerations of the events.
One fellow was bragging on his bird dog. He said that the other day he was driving through downtown Opp in his pickup truck and had his dog in the cab with him. He declared that, all of a sudden, his dog began to point. He said that he looked everywhere but he could not see a quail. Then he noticed that his dog had pointed a fly on the windshield of his truck. Well, for sure, that brought a hearty laugh from the crowd. I then related that when I was a boy we had a good dog that knew his business. I told them that one day while sitting on our porch~which went from the front of the house all the way back to our cistern on the back porch~our dog ran around to the side porch and began to point. I looked everywhere and could not see one quail in the yard and then I saw my good friend walking by on the road to his home up the ridge. His name was Bob White.

Having lived in Opp , Alabama for many years, I knew all the doctors in town. Many of them were friends of mine. A local druggist informed me that he gave a wild turkey that he had killed to Dr. Grinnell. I was visiting a patient in the local hospital one day and I saw the doctor and our family physician, Dr. Dunn, at the nurses’ station filling out papers. I said to Dr. Grinnell, “I heard that someone gave you a wild turkey. They are really hard to clean, aren’t they?” He replied, “Yes, they are. However I have found a way to singe them but it turns the breast a little dark.” I asked, “How do you do it?” He answered, “I use a blow torch.” I laughed and then he asked if I had killed a turkey. I answered “yes" and that it was the biggest Tom I had ever killed. I then said the sad thing about it was I had to kill two hens along with the Tom. The doctors looked puzzled and asked why I had to do that. I replied, “They were carrying his beard so he would not trip over it.” With that I turned and began walking down the hall to the room where I would be visiting a patient. When I got about half way down the hall I heard one of them say, “And he is a preacher too?”

My sweet wife of fifty-two years, come August, has never been hunting with me. One of the reasons, well two reasons, being she could not sit still for three hours in a tree stand and bless her heart she would have to talk to me about where she would like to go shopping the next day. Well, one day while looking at a picture of a beautiful bird dog in its pointing position she asked with all sincerity, “Does he point with his tail?” Well, come to think about it, that is a profound question.

Our youngest son Matt was invited to a ‘spend the night' birthday party at a friend’s house on the Andalusia highway leading out of Opp. I carried him over to the home of his playmate that afternoon and met the mother of the child having the birthday. She invited me in and immediately I observed that her husband was a deer hunter, by seeing antlers and guns on the wall. I said something to the effect that I knew her husband hunted deer, and then I asked a simple question, “Does he hunt with a club?” She hesitated for a few moments with a puzzled look on her face and then she said, “Oh no, he hunts with a gun.” Now you talk about having a time with your emotions and not laughing aloud and at the same time wondering how stupid this kind lady thought I was. I was in a dither. Finally she got us both out of this dilemma by saying, after she looked dumbfounded for awhile, “Oh, yes! He hunts with a group of men.” Come to think about it, this incident might have been prophetic in nature. Spears are now legal in Alabama and maybe clubs will be next, that is, for the swiftest runners.

My good Cajun friend Chris tried bow hunting for deer with his powerful compound bow. One morning while hunting near Bear Creek Swamp and the Alabama River he was highly disappointed that he did not get to shoot his bow at a buck. So when he got back to his truck he decided that he would indeed get a shot off anyway. He pointed his arrow toward the sky and pulled the string of that compound bow back and let it go. Up, up, the arrow went at break neck speed. It was then that my good friend from Lafayette, Louisiana began to contemplate the law of gravity. All the brains from thousands of crayfish he had eaten over the years began to work in high gear. It was at that time Chris made an important and fast decision to run like blazes and hightailed it to his truck where he crawled underneath it for cover. You know, wisdom demands that you do not stand still in the same place where you shot an arrow into the air because where it lands you may not know where.

Remember that wherever you go, there you are.
"I'll be right back ~ after I drag a 10 point buck out of the woods on opening day."