In my prime I was a fanatic. I fished 16 hours
a day. I just couldn't stand to miss the action.
I was bad but my dad was worse. He
fished more than most, but his thing was hunting. If it walked,
flushed, ran, sat, grunted or snorted we ate it. Dinner was an
adventure. Since dinner was the end result of the hobby, we
ate the hobby. "Chicken" might be turtle, squirrel, rabbit, or
grouse. It was a smart kid that knew his meal. He and I were
never really close even though he always took me if I wanted
to go. He just had a different vision.
He had fishing friends, quail hunting friends,
deer hunting friends, duck and snipe friends, bear and antelope
friends, grouse and rabbit friends. His life was a hunting trip.
These friends were in addition to his peers.
Walter was a police officer who worked
nights and hunted with dad seven days a week during the "season".
The season was deer, grouse, quail, duck, snipe, rabbit, and
pheasant. We always accused him of sleeping all night and
hunting all day. He just had to.
Gerald "Juggie" was the first millionaire I
ever knew. He owned the land adjacent to us, and hunted 7 days
a week during "season". While mom taught school five days a
week Jug, Walter, and my father hunted. It was sort of like the
"catch of the day". This month it was quail, next it was grouse,
deer, and rabbits were always a target of opportunity. Jug ran a
couple of scab mines and bought up mineral rights to half the
county. When he died his wife sold it to the strip miners for
millions. Walter, Jug and Dad ate dinner every day in the house,
resting the dogs and getting ready for the afternoon effort. I was
a sophomore in college before I found out that Jug was black.
So much for racial tension in our area. If you could drop 4 quail
on a flush you were accepted.
Walter and my dad ran a small kennel
of 8-10 dogs. If you hunt 4-5 dogs seven days a week the
dogs will get sore feet so bad they just couldn't hunt. Each
day I would listen to discussions on what dogs would be able
to hunt that day. A marriage of medical condition with necessity.
It was like listening to the NFL or the NBA on a daily basis. This
one was on injured reserve or this one could play. The day could
be ruined if a wrong decision was made. Dad and Jug cooked
lunch each day. It might be too salty but, "that's just the way I
like it". Complainers just didn't eat.
They left the guns on the screened in porch
each day because if they took them inside the condensation would
cause them to rust. No warm home for those guns. Dad shot the
barrel out on his browning 12 and the end was so sharp that the cut
he sustained was visible to the day he died. He later had to smooth
the ends every week or so it didn't happen again. His buddies laughed
and called it "old corn sheller". You could drop a nickel down
Dad and his friends would hunt all day long
in the freezing rain and when he returned home too tired to eat I
remember him collapsing into his favorite chair too tired to
remove the wet clothes, steam rising from him long afer he
had fallen asleep, retreating to his bed at 3-4 in the morning
only to commence again at 8 or so the next day.
I learned to hunt with people that would
routinely "pick" four to 5 quail on the flush. If you didn't shoot
quick you did without. Even though I no longer hunt it was a
great time. I got to hunt with dads friends even though I was
just a kid. There was Jack who owned the Crescent H ranch
out of Moose Wyoming. A deadly shot and a serious sportsman,
Curtis who was into medical supplies, a top gun who was as much
a gentleman as he was a great shot, and Sam whose Parker 410 was
always a contender among larger gauges. It was like the 4 horsemen
when they arrived. Quail hovered in fear and dogs cried about their
sore feet. I never heard one of them complain about the day. It
was always great.
One day when Dandy, then an old dog,
found eight coveys Sam lifted him through every fence, an
effort on both their parts. Both were old. Sam said," I guess
Dandy and I have grown old together. We just have to work
together in our old age".
The small point I glossed over was
there was no open season on quail in Ohio at that time. Those
hunters were slick. They would store their quail in women's nylons,
to be dropped at the first sign of trouble. Truthfully I don't think
old Dan, the game warden, really wanted to catch any of them. They
were all friends. The hunters took great pains not to embarrass Dan
and to keep their quail hunting low key.
Dad and his friends, to their credit, fed
and nurtured those quail through hard winters, planted feed
patches on land they controlled and even when they couldn't
hunt there they would try to talk others into doing those simple
things to promote good game management. They knew how
much of a hit each covey could take. They scouted those birds
like a pro would scout the minor leagues. It was not a casual thing,
it was a way of life. A badly trained dog was a reflection on the
owner as it should be.
Later when they could make it legal
they not only signed up the 10,000 acres in their area
necessary for legal quail hunting they also helped other
areas they would never hunt. The sport owed much to them.
Outlaws I guess, but with good hearts and gentlemen to the core.
Dad and the regulars would always
shoot last when taking guests out. As a joke one day in
South Dakota Dad and Walter hunted on either side of a
noted wing shot and pheasant expert. They shut him out.
Eight hours and not a bird. Bragging in front of that group
was not a wise thing.
My mother was a special individual.
She would discover 10 to 15 hunters entering the house,
expecting to be fed in 20 minutes. She always came through
with flying colors. Her mother ran several hotels and inns back
when women just didn't do things like that. Having that
background for the first 20 years of your life prepared you
for Dads hunting act.
One hunting meal stands out like a
naked girl at church. The four horsemen and their friends
had just gotten in from the morning hunt and mom and I
had fixed a grand dinner of quail, mashed potatoes and
assorted vegetables. We heard a knock on the door and
there was Dan the game warden.
After chatting with all his friends it
became obvious he wasn't about to leave so Dad, taking
the bit in his teeth, said to Dan,"We are having pullets for
dinner would you like to join us?" It just wouldn't be
civilized not to invite a friend to dinner for any reason.
Dan replied "I just love pullets" and commenced to eat 5
or 6. The meal was quieter than usual and at its end old Dan
complimented mom on the fact that "These pullets are some
of the finest I've ever eaten". Saying good-bye to all after
dinner Dan left. The group waited a respectful 45 minutes
and commenced the afternoon hunt.
All were gentlemen. A person wasn't
invited to hunt with the group on the basis of his shooting
abilities alone. He could have a drink but never be obnoxious.
He should never disgrace himself or the group. He didn't have
to be rich, but he should pay his way. All economic levels were
present. Even the most affluent took great pains not to flaunt
money or position. The enjoyment of the hunt was the thing.
I always remember Curtis as the supreme
gentleman. Cultured and suave to the core. Some time in his past
boardrooms must have quaked at his every nuance. I never heard
him raise his voice. He didn't have to. Having been in Nam for 2
tours I can understand leadership. A whisper from Curtis was the
equivalent of a baseball bat to the head.
These were people that evaluated you for
what you were and either accepted or rejected you, not on the basis
of your wealth and position, but on the basis of you as an individual.
What a concept. Having known them I can understand the concept
of royalty. People whose choice of friends and life style were
determined by their own values rather than the position and the
heft of the individuals pocket book. People so sure of themselves
that they didn't need others to tell them the path. A grand time.
Never soon to be revisited.
A time reminiscent of the nineteenth century
fishing clubs. What a fortunate person I am to have been there ~ "Old Rupe"