27 April 2009

It was a cold wintry day when I decided to go deer hunting northwest of the town of Brantley , Alabama , a trip of only about 25 miles from my home in Opp. I did not leave the house until early afternoon. This was my first time to hunt on this particular plot of land. I parked my car not from the person’s house and began to walk slowly down the hill to a creek that flowed through the property. There were plenty of hardwood trees in the area where I was hunting which made the scenery very beautiful. There is something special about the leaves from the trees being on the floor of the forest during the winter months that causes a melancholy feeling to enter one’s mind but there is a certain beautiful about it also.

I was busy looking for deer tracks (they make wonderful soup in case you don’t kill a deer) when all of a sudden there was a strange sound I was hearing like something falling. All of a sudden I noticed that there was an overcast sky and I was surprised because I had not heard anything about rain being in the forecast. Then there it was – snow falling right in front of my eyes. I couldn’t believe it. But it began to fall hard and fast and I was enjoying every minute of it. I stood very still for a lengthy period of time looking for deer, then remembered a peanut field some distance from where I was and decided to walk in that direction to see if I could locate some deer. Before I got too close to the field, which was surrounded by woods, I got down on all fours and crawled quite a way to the edge of the field. What I saw in the snow was indeed a beautiful sight.

There were maybe a dozen wild turkeys feeding, and seemingly enjoying the white stuff that was falling. The turkeys looked so black in the snow. Several gobblers had beards that looked a foot long. Some of the turkeys were flapping their wings. I looked at them for awhile through my rifle scope and wished I could have taken a picture of something rarely seen in south Alabama ~ that being snow, with turkeys to boot.

I looked to my right and down at the other end of the field stood three or four deer but because of the snow I couldn’t make out whether there were any bucks in the small herd. I tried to slip down their way but they caught my movement and slipped away. I sat beside the field until late in the afternoon. The snow was beginning to accumulate on the fallen leaves and trees and I thought I had better leave and go home before it really made it hazardous to drive on the highway. I got back to my car and had to get the snow off the windshield so I could see to drive. I drove as fast as weather would permit back to Brantley and then headed south on U.S. 331 toward the great city of Opp.

Something strange began to occur. The snow stopped falling and the further I drove the less snow I saw, until I got to the point that there was no evidence whatsoever that snow had fallen anywhere in Crenshaw or Covington Counties . When I arrived home and told my beloved wife and children what I had seen and as to why I had gotten home early from deer hunting, there was look of amazement and unbelief in their eyes. I am still pondering the meaning of such expressions that my own family members were saying, like “He has only one oar in the water”; “He is one brick short of a load”; “His elevator doesn’t reach the top floor”; “His front porch light is out” and other such expressions. They even made an appointment for me with a dermatologist to see if my dandruff had gotten worse.

Epitaph On a Grave Marker: “Beneath this grassy mound now rest one Joseph Randolph Greer – who to another hunter looked exactly like a deer!”

Upon reading the previous epitaph, which I found in the Sunday morning comic strip Gasoline Alley, I thought about a friend of mine who worked as a detective in Covington County and lived in Opp. As I recall, his last name was Smith. This gentleman was not always a gentle giant. I suppose he must have weighed nearly 300 pounds. He related to me an incident that occurred while hunting deer in the Barber County management area. He said that he was standing on the side of a ridge and looking down in the deep hollow when all of a sudden a bullet came crashing into a tree next to him. He looked across the hollow and there stood a man with a rifle in his hands. Now, mind you, as required, my friend was wearing a blaze orange vest and it must have been an extra large size one to have fit over his humongous chest. My friend walked down the side of the hollow and then up the other side and he came face to face with the man holding the rifle. (Why the man did not run like blazes is a mystery to me!) Without a word, this giant took a 30-06 rifle from the shooter and wrapped it around a tree and then gave it back to the man and said, “Now you better leave” and leave he did!

Now my friend did not favor a whitetail deer in the least; maybe a buffalo but not a smaller deer. As to why a hunter (?) would mistake a human as a deer when the man was in clear view I cannot understand. I have often pondered what I would have done if I had seen this burly looking fellow who was perhaps foaming out his mouth coming toward me after I had shot at him. My friend, Superman would have appeared to be flying slowly when I passed him in warp speed.

14 April 2009

The Squirrel Nest Restaurant
The rumor is that some poor lost starving deer hunter treed this place and found food and lodging, but I am not sure that this tale is really true. While spending a few days in the Guntersville, Alabama area and preaching nightly at the Grant congregation my wife and I were invited by good friends to have breakfast with them at The Squirrel Nest Restaurant. This ‘out of the way’ eating and lodging place is located about half way between Guntersville and Scottsboro just off of highway 79 which runs along side the beautiful Tennessee River . You take a left off of the main highway when heading north and began to ascend Gunters Mountain . When you are about one-third up the mountain you come to this sign: THE SQUIRREL NEST RESTAURANT. It is then that you turn sharply to the right.All you can see momentarily is the hood of your car and you begin to wonder what is below and ahead of you. Of course you hope that there is road in front of your vehicle. My wife who is from the flat country of central Florida was about to stand up while we were sitting in the back seat of our friend’s automobile so she could prayerfully see a road. The descent was rather steep and then you made a sharp turn to the right and there you were in the parking area of the restaurant. This establishment is well hidden like unto the moonshine stills that one might find in the mountains of north Georgia where I was reared. But it is amazing that so many ‘townies’ invade this mountainous area seeking some delicious vittles.
That Tuesday morning, Martin and Tootie Anderson, Jack and Olivia Andrews, along with my lovely wife Virginia, we sat down to a breakfast that was fit for a king. I purposely mention a king because I don’t believe a delicate queen could have eaten this mountain size breakfast. I ordered the breakfast platter that consisted of tenderloin, eggs, gravy, biscuit and jelly. The coffee was hot and the fellowship was wonderful. The d├ęcor was fitting for the location of the building that was built on the side of the mountain and surrounded by beautiful and tall hardwood trees. I could almost hear a tom turkey gobbling and a-drumming. This was my first time to eat in a squirrel nest but you can bet the next time that I am in that neck of the woods I will make my way upside Gunters Mountain looking for a breakfast that will make you feel glad that you are alive. I gave up squirrel hunting over 35 years ago when I became addicted to deer and turkey hunting but this is one squirrel nest that I will go looking for and I will even pay to eat there.

02 April 2009

It was back in the 1970s that I was in a gospel meeting with the church in Quincy , Florida when I met a gentleman by the name of Denny who was the overseer of The Hav-A-Tampa Tobacco Plantation that consisted of some 1300 acres. Only 80 acres were used for raising tobacco but at a cost of about $4, 000 per acre to prepare and plant the crop. This acreage was surrounded by woods that were just beautiful without any under brush. Denny told me that he would take me out about three o’clock one afternoon to see the deer that would come out of the woods and into the rye that was planted on the 80 acres in the off season. I couldn’t believe the number of deer that came out to feast on the lush green rye. I began holding my right hand over my heart and acting like Red Fox and saying that I was about to have a big one upon seeing so many deer. I told him that there were too many deer and that they would get a disease and die and many other stories to try to get him to invite me to hunt on this Promised Land loaded with deer and turkey. Denny said that he would call me when the Florida deer hunting season opened in the fall and invite me to come down to hunt. To say that I was delighted and excited would be an understatement.

Of course I obtained a copy of the Florida hunting schedule and when deer season came in I expected to hear from my new friend Denny. But I did not hear a word from him so I wrote him a nice letter. The following is similar to the one I wrote:

Deer Denny, I do hope you and your deer family are well. My deer family is enjoying good health at the present time. It was so good to be with the deer brothers and sisters of the Quincy congregation. And it was a joy to make acquaintances with many others who have become deer friends of mine. It is good that my deer brothers here will permit me to be away from the local congregation. I do look forward to being with you and your deer family sometimes in the future. I wish for you a good day. Your deer friend, Raymond

It was not very long before I received a telephone call from Denny. When I answered, all I could hear was laughter. I asked him why he was laughing and he said that he had just received my letter. The reason he gave as to why I had not heard from him was that he had to have an emergency appendectomy. Needless to say, my good and deer friend asked me to come down and hunt on the land flowing with deer and turkey.
When I arrived at this deer infested plantation I found me a nice tree late in the afternoon and climbed up about 15 feet. Sometimes I do get a feeling like I might have monkeys somewhere back in my ancestry. But, anyway, there I sat and hearing deer a-walking in the woods behind me a-heading for the rye field. Does by the dozen came and began to feed. Then I heard a loud noise like a 200-pound deer breaking a limb. I knew that ole 7-point buck was on his way. So, the waiting game was really going by fast this time. Out came a small doe, then a nice spike and then here came the 7 point buck – within one hour of my arrival – and only 100 yards removed from the end of my trusty rifle. So I laid them crosshairs of my scope behind the shoulder of this big buck wearing my nametag and fired off a shot that should have bagged him. But all he did was to bolt and hightail it for the woods. I nearly lost my footing and plunged to the ground below in unbelief.

Why I had that rile sighted in for 150 yards. You could have shot the eye out of a gnat at that distance (well, maybe). That deer had been reserved for me and I had missed my chance of costing the wife some big money for a shoulder mount. Well I waited and while plenty of lady deer came around and snorted at me, not one other buck showed his antlers. Finally with about 30 minutes of daylight left I got down out of the tree and walked through the beautiful virgin timber (with no underbrush) to another field. And standing out there in the open about 100 yards away was a nice 6-point buck. This time I aimed high on the shoulder and hit the deer in the stomach. Then the most frustrating thing happened – my scope fell off with the recoil of the rifle. You talk about feeling unnecessary and all that – I did. I had my rifle in one hand and my scope in the other. Furthermore the deer had not fallen. Well I had this fancy scope mount that you can see your iron sights through but that was of no avail. I put the iron sight right on that deer and shot and he just stood there. I was about to faint. Finally the deer went wobbling down into the woods where he later expired. What had gone wrong?

I discovered later that my mistake (a stupid one) had caused the whole mess. About two weeks ago before I stood my rifle by the tree where I was getting my stand down and I let the heavy tree stand slip and it hit my rifle. I thought it just hit the forearm but I was wrong. The scope had an indenture on the front of it and had been knocked loose and out of commission and the front iron sight had been damaged. Well, I paid for this mistake in a terrible way. Have you ever field dressed a deer that has been gut shot? I mean to tell you there was green stuff everywhere and I don’t mean the kind that you get when you sell tobacco.

I remember seeing a cartoon in a newspaper that pictured a cave man arriving at his home dragging a dinosaur behind him. His wife came to the opening of the cave and looked at him and the dinosaur and said, “You killed it, you clean it”. This reminds me of a verse of scripture found in Proverbs 12:27: “The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting. But diligence is man’s precious possession.”