23 May 2011

In Memory of a Dear Friend & An Avid Hunter

Thomas Daniel Conway was one of the finest Christian gentlemen I have ever known. He lived in the small town of Fort Deposit, Alabama. He and Marguerite had been married for some 68 years. He was a plumber and an electrician by trade. He was well known and respected by scores of citizens in Lowndes and Butler counties where he lived and worked. He finally succumbed to death on Thursday morning, May 19, 2011, having fought valiantly for some time the awful disease of cancer. I drove from my home in Prattville on Monday, May 3 to Fort Deposit for the express purpose of telling my old friend goodbye, knowing that his days were soon coming to an end on this earth.
In his latter years he suffered greatly with pain that dealt harshly with his shoulders and back. I used to kid him that the ghosts of all those deer he killed with that Remington semi-auto rifle (caliber 30-06) and its recoil were getting their revenge on him. However, I believed his hard labor as a plumber contributed much to his health problems. I will call my dear friend ‘brother Tom’ because of our relationship in Christ in this memorial. Brother Tom told me that he hated to see the state build Interstate 65 near Fort Deposit several years ago because that was some of the best turkey hunting area in the county. He would relate how he would get the most stubborn Toms to come to him when they would not move as he called them on his Lynch box. Sometimes he would remove his cap and beat on some bushes and other times he would run his hands through the leaves or just about any other noise that might fool that ole Tom to get it to come to him.

Brother Tom would tell me that a good friend of his, John Arthur Moorer, who had a farm a few miles west of Fort Deposit, would call him and tell him that there was a Tom turkey down in his pasture ‘gobbling up a storm’ so brother Tom would go out take care of the problem. I don’t know how many gobblers brother Tom killed in his life but it would be in the dozens. I will tell you that he killed 100 deer in his lifetime. And that is not a bad record to have if you are true deer hunter and hunting according to the state’s laws and regulations. He lost the use of his left eye back in the 1970s and his right eye had a cataract on it and thus he eventually became unable to hunt deer and turkey as once he did. And because of the arthritis in his shoulders he was unable to shoot his favorite 30-06. I personally believe that brother Tom would have hunted all of his life had it not been for his health hindering from doing so.

While living in Opp in the 1970’s, I become addicted to hunting deer and wild turkey. To simply state the matter, I was a novice and I had much to learn. Brother Tom called me one spring day and asked me to come up to Fort Deposit and we would go out to John Arthur Moorer’s farm and go turkey hunting. Now, it didn’t matter that it was 70 miles one way to Brother Tom’s house and so I replied immediately that I would be at his home early the next morning. I think I got up about 3:30 a.m. for the trip. I believe that was the only time I knocked on the front door of his house. The following years I always went to the back door where family and friends would enter.

He was awake and ready for me to arrive so we got in his truck and drove out to the Moorer’s farm. Brother Tom instructed me to go ahead of him some distance and sit down and wait until the break of day. I did and I heard gobblers gobbling and hens yelping. I tried my best to get a gobbler to come my way but due to my inexperience in calling, I failed to do so. Later in the morning I heard the blast of shotgun. A few minutes later I walked to where brother Tom was and I immediately saw a dead gobbler at his feet. With a smile on his face he said, “Raymond, I was afraid you might not kill one so I shot this one for you.” I looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Brother Tom, I don’t want a dead turkey.” Well, we drove back to the house and I sat down in the ‘living room’ for a spell. Soon Marguerite told me that breakfast was ready and I moved hurriedly to the dinning table to enjoy a delicious meal prepared by an excellent cook. About that time brother Tom came walking in the room with ‘my turkey’. That gentleman had cleaned that bird for me and it was all ready for my wife to bake it when I returned home. Now, I am going to tell you that was true friendship; because if you have ever cleaned an ole Tom turkey you know why they are called ‘fowls’.

I often told that story of him killing ‘my turkey’ in his presence and he would grin from ear to ear. In fact, my last visit with him, he related that he had gone over to the Grady church of Christ to hear me preach and that I told that story about him killing ‘my turkey’. He always enjoyed hearing me tell it. Well, during the funeral service for brother Tom on Sunday, May 22, when I was mentioning many of my memories of him, I related that story and it brought laughter from those present, especially from his wife and family since they had heard the story before from brother Tom himself. The hunting of deer and turkey was an integrated part of this good man’s life and the many hunting stories he often told delighted all those who heard them. But the 30-06 rifle and the 12 gauge shotgun of his will remain silent now since the owner has departed to the place where the Tree of Life now exists in that beautiful Paradise of God.