Chapter 7 - Ol' Tom
The two best fisherman that I know are Chugger and Jimbo. These guys have an uncanny knack for finding and hooking fish, any type of fish, but especially black bass. If the measure of the fisherman is the number of fish put in the boat, Chugger is hands down the winner. But both of these fishing buddies have a different approach to the sport and science of fishing. Chugger is very planned and organized. If he says he’ll pick you up at 5:00 AM, he’ll be there on the button. The night before he'll replacing the line on his reels, sharpening hooks, charging batteries, topping off gas cans and even checking that the outboard motor starts BEFORE it’s in the water. His boat is organized with multiple rods in place, each with a different lure, ready to be picked-up and cast.
Now Jimbo always shows up, but hopefully he wasn’t distracted by a football game or poker game the night before. He usually loads things up in the dark that morning. He WILL forget something, but not the beer. His tackle boxes are unique with one being a cardboard box, one tied closed with an old stringer and one being an open tote he got at a garage sale. During the trip we may spend time bumping up against the bank as he fixes a reel or applies new line. We’ll lose time helping a stranded boater whenever we come across one. We’ve had more than one trip scuttled when a troll motor battery went dead early. We once spent a day hungry on the lake with no lunch onboard. Since then, I bring the eats!
So who would I rather fish with? For sure Jimbo and not just because he is my brother. Fishing with him is always an adventure, good or bad, but mostly good. There is something refreshing about not over planning or over thinking things. I sometimes wonder how people could have taken something as simple as fishing and made it into such a complex, gadget infested competition. I’ve learned that the unexpected, spontaneous outings always seem to be the best and most memorable. Now that doesn’t just apply to fishing. A good example started one evening with a missed phone call.
It was about a half hour after supper and as per usual, Vanna and I were sitting in our easy chairs watching the boob-tube. I was excited because a strong wind the week before had re-directed our TV antenna and the GRIT channel was now coming in really clear. This new to us channel, was showing plenty of old westerns. We were watching a black and white episode of “Have Gun Will Travel”. I say WE were watching, but I was watching and Vanna was half-watching as she paged through a magazine at the same time.
When a commercial came on I spoke up “Do you know what I like about Paladin?”
Vanna lowered her magazine some and with a crinkled brow said “Who? What are you talking about?”
I said “You know. Paladin. Richard Boone. The guy dressed in black on this show!” I could tell she was paying even less attention to the show than I thought.
She lowered the magazine and said “Okay D.R. what do you like about him?” There was a sarcastic, irritated tone in her voice since I had broken her magazine fixation.
“He’s proof that you don’t have to be a handsome, pretty boy like McConaughey to be a good actor and make it big in the movie business. Ol’ Paladin didn’t have to run around naked in the front yard just to get publicity either!” I chuckled because I knew this would get her attention, with Mathew McConaughey being one of her favorite actors.
At first Vanna glared back with an angry look, which then fell away into a smirk, which then fell into a smile and finally we both started to laugh. She replied “Yeah, I wish I’d seen that stunt!”
About that time a cell phone commercial for the elderly was running on the TV. It featured a man bragging about how even though he was not smart enough to set up his own phone, a helpful operator had set it up for him and now he was able to get voicemail from his grandkids. I guess this suddenly jogged Vanna’s memory because she spoke up “Oh, by the way, I almost forgot. You had a message today on the house phone. It was a call from a Carlos Dell or something like that. He was wondering if you were interested in going turkey hunting. He left a number.”
That immediately got my attention and I spoke up in a loud, excited tone “WHAT? WHO? Carlos Dell? What time was that?”
My reaction must have startled Vanna because she quickly replied “It was early this afternoon. The message is still on the machine. Go listen for yourself.” At that I jumped up and rushed into the other room to play the recording. Vanna quickly grabbed the remote seeing her chance to finally change the channel.
Vanna heard me let out a big “yahoo” and watched me dance a jig back into the den. The commotion even startled Maybelline, our dog who was sleeping on the couch. She lifted her head and gave out a couple of half barks while swiveling her head around as if we had just been invaded.
In an excited voice I said “That was Carl Cordelle! He’s inviting me to go turkey huntin’ with him this Saturday! ALRIGHT! Yes, yes, yes, yes….” All the while I was pumping my fist up and down and dancing a jig.
Vanna quickly spoke out “Whoa D.R., settle down. What’s the big deal? I thought you weren’t real high on turkey hunting. The last time you cooked one, you said you’d rather just go to H.E.B. and buy a butterball. That wild turkey really did turn out a bit rubbery.”
“Babe, you don’t understand. Carl is most probably the best hunter in the county. To top that off his family owns boo-coo land along Copperas creek that runs from Junction almost to Tea Cup Mountain. His property is a turkey hunter’s paradise! It’s quite an honor just to get an invite. I’ve got to hurry and call him back. Turn that thing down.” I was pointing at the TV that was now on the Hallmark channel.
Vanna turned the TV down to a whisper so she could listen to my side of the conversation as I talked in the other room.
“Hello Carl, its D.R. I got your message and I’m returning your call.” I was trying my best to talk in a normal unexcited voice.
“Yes sir, I’d love to. That suits me just fine. For sure. Yes sir, I’ll be glad to. I’ll be ready and meet you at 4:30 in the parking lot. And thanks again Carl.”
I walked back into the den and Vanna could tell that my excitement had totally subsided. I was shuffling along instead of dancing and there was only silence and a sullen look on my face. She immediately asked “Well… what’d he say? Is the hunting trip off?”
“No, the trip is on. He is picking me up early Saturday morning. We’re going to meet in The Wet Spot parking lot and ride together from there. ”
Vanna in a questioning voice asked “Sounds good to me, so what’s the problem? Have you changed your mind about wanting to go? Why the long face?”
“Oh no, I’m still very excited to get to go, but he wants me to go by Bobcat Bob’s and get a couple of buckets of turkey lure. I’ve told you before about how scary crazy old Bobcat is. As a peace offering, I’ll need to take a bottle of Woodford along when I go see him.” I was half talking to Vanna and half reminding myself.
Vanna got that unsympathetic look on her face and said “What? Turkey lure? Why do you have to have that? What ever happened to the frontier spirit where you go out, stalk one down and shoot it? You guys and your so called hunting. You always have to have a trick or advantage and you just end up making things more complicated and unfair. You never needed any turkey lure to bring home a turkey before.”
Her typical, logical woman response was not unexpected so I had to start my reply with my standard four word sentence “Vanna, you don’t understand.” I know from experience that this usually gets me into trouble but I continued anyway. “All of the turkeys I’ve brought home in the past I’ve shot during deer season, while deer hunting. Every once in awhile, an unlucky gobbler just happens to wander by. A deer rifle kinda makes the bird look like a busted bag of feathers if you shoot it in the middle, but I’m not a good enough shot to just aim for the head. This weekend’s hunt is different. It’s the start of the special spring turkey season when turkeys have love and mating on their minds. It makes ‘em extra crazy and it really gets ‘em out and moving about. You have to get real camo’d up and hide real still while calling like a love sick hen or challenging gobbler. When they get close enough, you aim a shotgun at their head and neck. It’s very sporting and a turkey lure sounds like something good to have, especially with only a short weekend hunting opportunity. Besides, that’s the way Carl wants to hunt them.”
Vanna shrugged in a sign of submission and said “Ok dead eye, you shoot ‘em and I’ll cook ‘em.” We both had a good chuckle.
There were a million thoughts reeling around in my head as I started thinking about everything I needed to do and gather up for the big hunt. The bed in our extra bedroom became my staging point to stack all the stuff I’d need to take. I got out my shotgun, sleeping bag, boots, cap and camo clothes. I was a bit disappointed when I noticed that all of my hunting clothes were in different camo patterns. My face mask and gloves were spring green, my shirt was autumn leaf brown and my pants were desert storm beige. I kept telling myself camo is camo. Turkeys are color blind and all they see are muddled patterns any way – I think. But way in the back of my head I didn’t want to look like a total nimrod in front of Carl either. Perhaps Jimbo had some matching stuff I could borrow. Right then and there I decided I needed a drink to relax and get focused on my preparations.
I went back into the den and interrupted Vanna’s TV program. “Say, I’m going over to The Wet Spot for a bit. The bowling league should be ending about now and I can catch Jimbo and Stinger there for a beer. I need to get my turkey calls back from Jimbo so I hope he can still find ‘em.”
With that Vanna said “Say hello to the boys and drive careful and DON’T drink too much.” I gave her a quick kiss and headed for the door. I’m sure she was relieved to get me away from the TV remote.
When I showed up at The Wet Spot, the parking lot was full. Sure enough, when I went in Hilde was working behind the bar, another sign of a really busy night. Despite the crowd, like a good bar tender, she had kept an eye on the front door and quickly greeted me in that foreign accent that always sounded out of place.
“Hello D.R., how are you doing tonight?”
I noticed that she was already placing a frosty beer mug up on the bar for me. “Just fine Hilde, how about yourself?”
“Good. Business is very good tonight. Your friends are here and are already on their second pitcher.” She motioned by nodding her head at the round table in the corner. There was Uncle Albert, Bad Ken, Stinger and Jimbo all drinking and laughing, all oblivious to the smoke, music and yammering going on.
I picked up the mug and headed their way. “Thank you Hilde. Send another pitcher over when you get a chance.”
She responded with a smile and said “Yes sir.” as if addressing a military officer.
When I sat down there was a moment of surprise as if I had interrupted a discussion everyone was deeply involved in. After a quick hello from everyone I began filling my glass when Bad Ken spoke up.
“Boy, I’m glad you showed up D.R. I’m sure a smart fella like you can set these guys straight.” Uncle Albert shook his head and rolled his eyes while Stinger and Jimbo just laughed.
Bad Ken, with his condescending tone, continued “I’ve been trying to explain, that spaghetti was invented in Italy and was first introduced to America by Christopher Columbus.”
Uncle Albert quickly countered “That is ridiculous. First of all Columbus was not Italian, he was Spanish and Spaghetti was first invented in China. Marco Polo brought the pasta noodles back from China to Italy where it became popular. By the way, Marco Polo was born Croatian and was not Italian either.”
Bad Ken fired right back “Sorry to disagree, but if that’s true explain this. If you go to the Chinese Garden Restaurant, spaghetti is nowhere to be found on the menu. I know because I was there last night and really looked hard for it.”
Jimbo, slightly slurring his words, decided to speak up. “I think spaghetti was invented in France and brought to America by the most famous French cook ever, Chef Boyardee. He invented ‘mystery-meat’ also, which he very sparingly mixes with his sauce. ”
There was a brief silence at the table as what Jimbo said fully sank in. Then everyone burst into laughter and although the origin of spaghetti was still unresolved, the discussion was over, at least for now.
Tyree set down a new pitcher of beer and after we thanked him he rushed off continuing to be the busiest man in the place. As everyone started refilling their glasses I got my chance to talk.
“Say Jimbo, could I borrow your camo suit this weekend? Carl Cordelle invited me to go turkey hunting. I’ll need to get my box calls back from you too.”
Bad Ken spoke right up “D.R. you lucky dog! Carl’s family place has some of the best turkey hunting in Texas!”
Jimbo kind of crinkled up his face with a confused look and said “Sure you can borrow the camo, but are you sure I’ve got your turkey calls?”
“Yep, I‘m sure. I lent them to you a couple of years back. You were practicing for that calling contest or something. Please look for them right away as I need to get them before Saturday.”
Bad Ken asked “What gun are you going to use D.R.?”
“I thought I’d take my regular pump 20 gauge. It’s a great dove gun, but of course I’ll have to buy some bigger shells for it.”
At that, everyone at the table groaned and shook their heads. Bad Ken was first to speak up “Your 20 gauge is way too small for turkey hunting. You need at least a 12 gauge.”
Jimbo was quick to offer “You can borrow my 12 gauge if you like.”
Bad Ken quickly added “Jimbo, how old is your shotgun? Can it handle 3 inch or 3 ½ inch shells?”
Jimbo, still a little puzzled, said “I don’t know how big a shell it will shoot. I just use the cheapest dove loads I can find at Walmart. It was our dad’s so it’s more than 40 years old.”
Bad Ken trying to show off his gun knowledge said “If it’s that old, it can only safely use 2 ¾” shells. Not near big enough for turkey. Just think about it a minute. One turkey is as big as a pile of a 100 doves!”
Stinger, who had been pretty quiet up to now, spoke up. “My Grandpa Eloy has a 10 gauge that I’m sure he wouldn’t mind letting you use. It’s a single shot, break open Ithaca with a 32” full choke barrel. Smitty checked it out and it’s made of good strong steel, capable of handling the hottest loads made.”
Bad Ken said “The mighty 10 gauge - now that’s exactly what you need! Be sure to get the 3 ½” high velocity shells for it. No shot smaller than #4’s for sure.”
Surprisingly, even Uncle Albert agreed with Bad Ken saying a little extra power wouldn’t hurt when hunting such giant birds. So Stinger and I made a plan to meet at 1 o’clock the next afternoon to go and see Grandpa Eloy. Stinger added “Pick up a 4 pack of Swisher Sweets as a peace offering. Grandpa will really like that.”
I was thinking to myself that things were starting to fall in place. Gun, clothes and calls lined-out. I decided to keep up the momentum and head to the liquor store. “Thanks guys, I need to run. I want to go by Keggy’s before he closes. Here is some cash for the bar bill. Stinger, I’ll pick you up at your house tomorrow at one.” They all saluted with their mugs as I headed for the front door.
I got to the liquor store about 30 minutes before closing. Keggy greeted me when I entered “Hello D.R. You’re here kinda late. Lucky for you I was just marking down some bargains for tomorrow, which I’ll be glad to honor if you buy tonight.”
“Thanks Keggy. Your Woodford wouldn’t be on sale by chance would it?”
Keggy just laughed and said “Woodford Reserve is never on sale, but in honor of spring turkey season I have these quarts of Wild Turkey for $25, this week only. You know its 101 proof, right?” He pointed to the bottle on display at the counter with a big 101 highlighted in red.
“No thanks Keggy, just a fifth of Woodford. Oh yeah, and a small pack of Swisher Sweets.”
I got out my credit card as Keggy started putting the bottle and smokes in a bag. He was laughing a little. He spoke up “Come on D.R. you’re not going to drink $40 bourbon with 99 cent cigars! I have some really nice Davidoffs on sale right now $6 each or two for $11 bucks.”
“No thanks Keggy. The Swishers are not for me, I don’t smoke. When I was about 13 years old, Jimbo and I got sicker than dogs smoking grape vine. I just about puked my guts out and to top things off dad gave us both a good lickin’. Best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve never smoked anything since.”
Keggy being the persistent salesman continued “I know that if you’re drinking Woodford you’re probably drinking it straight or on the rocks. How about a bar of Godiva dark chocolate to compliment that. It’s on sale for $3. Sip a little, then eat a square. Bourbon and chocolate, there ain’t nothin’ better!”
The chocolate actually did sound pretty good so I relented “Okay, throw a bar in.” I handed him my credit card, signed the slip, then pick-up my treasure bag. Time to head home with one more preparation step completed.
The next day, as promised, I picked up Stinger at his house. He was waiting on the front porch throwing pebbles at his cat. The cat was dodging around the yard enjoying the game. The yard was over grown and needed water badly. When Stinger saw my truck he hopped up, snatched a large paper bag and was at the street grabbing the door handle before the truck stopped.
He said “Hey D.R.” as he jumped in.
“Hello Stinger. Man your yard is a mess.”
In a flat, matter of fact voice Stinger just said “Yeah, the lawnmower broke.”
I verified I was heading right by saying “If I remember correctly, Eloy’s place is off of ranch road 2241 near Bluffton.”
“Yeah, that’s right. It’s a bit of a drive from here.”
Stinger is a funny guy. Sometimes you can’t shut him up and other times you can’t pry a word out of him. I was trying to get a conversation going but this must have been one of his quiet days. I needed a little background info on Grandpa Eloy as I didn’t remember much. I do remember he was already old when I met him.
I spoke up. “I got some Swisher Sweets here for Eloy even though Keggy wasn’t real high on them. I got the ones with a tip. ”
“Oh don’t worry, he’ll love ‘em. I got some sardines, crackers, canned chili and some little Debbie Cakes here in this bag. All his favorites. I’m sure he’ll be tickled. Right about now he’s sitting on the back porch listening to the agriculture report on the radio and sipping on his afternoon toddy. You know D.R., sometimes I wonder if someday I’ll be just like Grandpa Eloy just sitting on my back porch just watching it all go by. That is if I should live so long.”
I was a little surprised at his somber and reflective tone so I asked “Gee Stinger, you sound like you’re worried about him. Is there something wrong?”
“Nah, it’s just that the onry Ol’ cuss lives by himself out in the boonies. He can’t see very well anymore and for sure he can barely hear. He seems to get along okay taking care of himself, but he just spends his time listening to the radio on the back porch. You know he has out lived two wives. We all worry about him and feel like he should move closer in. That would make it much easier to check in on him, but he’ll have nothing to do with the notion of moving.”
I had Stinger talking so I tried to keep him going “Gee, how old is he?”
“Well no one rightly knows. We even asked him and he doesn’t know. But Grandpa Eloy has seen a lot and has done a lot. As you’ll quickly see, he gets a bit confused at times and he says a lot of strange things. His memories are his and his alone now. There just in his head and we’ll never get to hear about all of ‘em.”
We drove along in silence for a short while until I decided to push the George Strait cassette in. A little music filled the silence and helped pass the miles. I hoped it would soften Stinger’s saddened mood.
We turned off onto a dirt road and traveled about a mile down to Eloy’s house. It was a really nice looking house nestled among giant, ancient live oaks. It was as if the trees decided where Eloy was allowed to build his house. The road ended and became his driveway that went down the side of the house and around back and came back up front again.
Stinger spoke up “Circle around back, he’ll be sitting on the back porch.” Sure enough, there he was sitting in an old stuffed chair, listening to the radio and drinking his so called toddy. When we pulled up he seemed more bothered than surprised.
Eloy yelled out “Dang! You scared off the zebra! You’re at the wrong house any way. Turn around and go back to the highway and turn right. The Mequons live a mile further down the road.”
Stinger got out of the truck and started walking over to the porch. “Grandpa Eloy, it’s me Stinger, don’t you recognize me?”
Eloy leaned forward for a better look as he turned the radio down “Who?”
“Stinger”, a little upset at not being recognized, spoke up “It’s me, Percy, you know, Mary’s boy. Don’t ya’ remember me?”
Eloy stretched out his words as his memory gradually returned “Oh yeah, Percy. How’s your Ma?”
“She’s just fine and sends her love. This here is my friend D.R. You may remember him from when he visited a long time back.”
Eloy extended his hand to shake and said “I don’t remember, but good to meet you Mr. Dean Hard.”
“Thank you sir, but the name is D.R. – just the letter ‘D’ and just the letter ‘R’. Just D.R.”
Eloy looked confused and said in a questioning voice “D.R? What happened, did your mama not like you?”
In a laugh I said “No sir, I mean yes sir, ah…it’s just a nick name. Here I brought you a pack of Swisher Sweets.” Now that got his attention and I could see his excitement as I handed him the little cigars.
“Thank you D.R. Do you have a light?” He was already opening the pack, as I fumbled in all my pockets for matches.
“Never mind, I found some right here.” He was shakily trying to get the wrapper off one of the cigars and light it. I moved forward to help him, but Stinger silently grabbed my arm and held me back, shaking his head no, to not interfere. When he got the cigar lit he took a big drag and then a big gulp of that awful looking black toddy. He gave a big ‘Ahhh’ as if all was right in the world.
Stinger showed him the paper bag he’d brought and said “Here are some groceries for you. There are some Lil’ Debbie cakes and Wolf Brand chili in here.”
Grandpa Eloy, puffing on his cigar, said “Percy, you’re a good boy. Would you set that down on the kitchen table for me? And hand me one of those Lil’ Debbies while you’re at it.” Stinger went inside and returned with one of the round cakes in hand.
Eloy, smoking, drinking and eating cake, suddenly got a serious look on his face and asked “Say, you fellas didn’t happen to see Woof when you drove in? He didn’t come home last night and I’m worried. It ain’t like him to be gone over night.”
Stinger shot a strange look in my direction and said “No sir we didn’t see Woof or any other dogs for that matter.”
Eloy set his cake down on the arm of the chair and took a big gulp out of the toddy and cleared his mouth because he remembered something “Oh by the way, are you guys hungry? I have some left over Veal Scaloppini in shallot-mushroom sauce from last night. There may also be a little Cod Amandine left from the day before too. Help yourselves.”
Stinger and I looked at each other mystified how this simple, but obviously confused old man even knew the names of such dishes. We both humored him by saying “None for us, thank you”.
Stinger decided it was time to get to the point. “D.R. has got a really great invitation to go turkey hunting this weekend and he was wondering if he could borrow the Ithaca?”
Eloy put his drink down and said “Well, I don’t know. I might need that gun. Yesterday I shot a fat eight point buck with it from the porch here. It was on that far ridge over there.” He pointed off in the distance at a ridge that was at least a 1,000 yards away. “One shot and I dropped him like a rock. Before I could get over there, two Indians rode up, draped the deer over a horse and disappeared into the brush. Dang, I hate those Indians!”
Stinger looked at me and just rolled his eyes.
Eloy continued “Well D.R. if Percy says you’re alright then you’re alright. If you promise to take good care of it and you promise to bring it right back, I guess that will be fine.”
I was quick to say “Yes sir, I promise to take extra-special care and I appreciate you lending it to me.”
Eloy turned to Stinger and said “Go fetch it, you know where I keep it.”
Stinger went in the house and brought out the monstrous old shotgun. He broke it open and ejected a huge old paper shot shell from the chamber. There was a thick coat of dust on the gun and it was obvious that it hadn’t been touched in many years. He handed the gun over to me to examine. It closed up tight as a vault and I hefted the substantial gun to my shoulder. It seemed to weigh a ton, but it felt good in swing, balance and point. A truly fine shotgun.
Just then we heard the roar of a speeding truck coming up along the side of the house. A giant brown truck turned sharply in front of us and slid to a stop. The UPS driver got up and rustled around and then stepped out with a package. “Hello gentlemen. Eloy, I have a package here from Blue Apron’s dinner in a box. Let’s see what this one says ‘Cranberry Drizzled Duck Breasts’. Let me know if this one is as good as the Beef Wellington you liked so much last week.” He set the box down on the porch, clicked it with his scanner, jumped back into the idling van and sped off.
To say Stinger and I were stunned is an understatement. We stood there for a moment bug eyed with our mouths opened. So that’s how Grandpa had been feeding himself. Things still didn’t make sense though. Stinger was quick to ask “Grandpa Eloy, how have you been ordering dinners over the internet without a computer?”
Eloy set his drink down, wiped his sticky fingers on his pants, reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out an iPhone. He held it up and said “I’ve got the Blue Apron app right here. It downloads for free.”
Stinger took the box into the house and left it on the kitchen counter. We both noticed that Eloy was getting a bit tired and wanted to nap. We said our thank you’s and goodbye’s and headed for my truck. Grandpa Eloy spoke up “Be sure to keep an eye out for Ol’ Woof on your way out.”
Stinger yelled back “Will do grandpa.”
I wrapped the shotgun in an old blanket and stashed it carefully in the back of the truck. As soon as I started the engine, with a smile I said “Well Percy that was an interesting visit!”
Stinger shook his head and angrily said “Now don’t you start with me. My name is Stinger. That’s the only name I want to hear outta your mouth!”
I just laughed and said “Keep looking around. I sure wish we could find Woof for him. Eloy seems to really miss his dog.”
Stinger just shook his head and said “D.R., Woof has been gone for more than 10 years now. He was already an old dog when he disappeared. I guess you noticed grandpa has quite an imagination and says a lot of crazy stuff.”
“Yeah, quite an imagination. By the way what’s in that toddy he drinks?”
“Every morning grandpa makes an extra strong pot of black coffee. He drinks half the pot then puts what’s left in a mason jar. He puts the jar in the frig to get it good and cold. In the afternoon he gets it out and spikes it with whatever liquor he has on hand. He wraps the jar with a folded wet wash cloth to keep it cool. I guess you could say he invented the first koosie.” We both laughed.
Just then, up the road a ways, a large animal dashed across the road. I quickly spoke up “Did you see that?”
Stinger was surprised too and said “Yeah, I did. I didn’t know grandpa had a horse.”
I said “You know Stinger, my eyes may be playing tricks on me, but I could swear that looked like a zebra.”
The next morning I got the Ithaca out and gave it a good, detailed cleaning. It polished up to be a beautiful old gun. Not shiny and bright but burnished and proud with character. It was a wonder to just hold the giant gun and I was excited to be able to hunt with it. I wish it could talk and tell stories of all the hunts it had been on.
It was already Thursday and the weekend hunt was fast approaching. My plan for the day was to first go by H&L and buy some 10 gauge turkey shells. In the afternoon I was going to drive over to see Bobcat Bob and buy the turkey lures Carl requested. I was not looking forward to that afternoon trip.
As I was walking in H&L’s front door, I met Calvin Leonard coming out. “Hello Calvin.” He seemed angry and preoccupied and said a quick “Hello D.R.” and just kept on going at a brisk walk. This was odd for Calvin as he usually will stop and exchange niceties for a few minutes. At 6 foot 2 and 260 pounds he could seem a bit intimidating but he has always been pretty friendly to me. I did notice a hint of a strange odor as he passed by.
After entering, I walked straight back to the gun section and as expected there was Buddy behind the counter. I reminded myself to not mention Carl’s name around Buddy seeing as the two of them didn’t get along.
“Hello Buddy, how’s business?”
Buddy was smiling and replied “Hey D.R. Business is really good, especially with turkey season starting this weekend. By the way, I’m glad you’re here. You’re good friends with Bad Ken aren’t you?”
I was a bit surprised at the question. “Yeah, Bad Ken and I are pretty good friends. We fish sometimes and drink a few beers at The Wet Spot from time to time. Why do you ask?”
Still smiling, Buddy asks “Well do you know Calvin Leonard?”
“Yeah, I know Calvin. I just saw him walking out of here. He didn’t look too happy.”
Buddy, half laughing, said “I suggest that you tell Ken to stay clear of Calvin for a while.”
There’s a lot of devil in Buddy and for some reason, he enjoys it when folks are fighting with each other. With a puzzled voice I asked “Why? What’s up?”
Buddy laughed a little and then began “Last week Calvin sent his 13 year old son Jake in here to buy some .22 shells. It seems Calvin is having a lot of skunks wandering into his yard lately and he needs to do some varmint eradication. Bad Ken was here reading the gun magazines off the rack and overheard the conversation. Of course he had to have his say so and interrupted. He started by telling Jake to get hollow-points because they are more deadly. But then he tells the boy a story of how skunks make really good pets, saying that as a kid he had one named Stinky that was gentle as a lamb and much smarter than any dog. Of course Jake was fascinated and asked Bad Ken how he went about catching a skunk. Well Ken explains that it’s a little known fact that a skunk can’t spray you unless he has his rear legs on the ground. The skunk needs the resistance to properly squeeze his spraying muscles. So if you grab one by the tail real quick and jerk him off the ground, he can’t spray you. Man, Ol’ Ken had that boy totally fascinated, almost hypnotized. Well guess what? Jake tried to catch his first skunk last night! I just got through telling Calvin about Bad Ken’s story and he got really mad.” At that Buddy busted out laughing.
I thought to myself that Bad Ken really is bad, but then I started laughing too!
After we both settled down Buddy asked “What can I do for you today D.R.?”
“I’ve got an invite to go turkey hunting this weekend and I need some shotgun shells.”
Buddy rubbed his hands together and said “You have come to the right place. I got a new shipment in yesterday of the latest and greatest turkey ammo available. What gauge do you need?”
It made me proud to say it “I’ll be hunting with a 10 gauge.”
Buddy got a surprised look on his face and said “Ah, a man’s gun! I’ve got just what you need. It’s brand new from Winchester loaded just for shooting turkeys!”
With that he goes into the back room and returns with a small shiny black box. The box size was not what I expected. He opened it up and took out one of the shells and handed it to me. It was huge! I felt like I was holding an artillery shell!
Buddy spoke up “Being a 10 gauge, you are holding the most powerful, scientifically designed turkey cartridge on the planet. This shell is not loaded with plain old lead shot, the pellets are made of tungsten which is 30% heavier than lead. That’s not all. There are multiple shot sizes loaded with a special wad to make the shot string longer giving you a greater chance of a hit, even if your aim is off slightly. Now get this. The shot is not round! Each pellet is hexagonal in shape so they can be stacked precisely in the shell to maximize capacity. The pointed edges on the pellets themselves have also proven to cause more damage on impact and therefore are more lethal. Of course it is a high velocity shell and is 3-1/2” long and contains 2-3/8 ounces of shot. That is the largest payload of any commercially available shotgun shell. They come 5 shells to a box.”
I was surprised by the last thing he said “There are only 5 in a box? A box of dove or duck shells contains 25.”
“D.R. you only get to shoot one or two turkeys. How many shells do you need?”
I nodded my head and said “Yeah, your right. 5 ought to be enough. How much is a box?”
“They’re a bargain at $36 a box.”
I was stunned and said “Geez-us, that’s more than $7 a shot!”
Buddy laid it on thick “D.R., a man like you, shooting a 10 gauge, deserves to only shoot the best.”
“Okay, I’ll take one box.” Out came my credit card again. They were expensive but as Buddy explained, they were awesome!
When I got home I had fully planned to test shoot and pattern the Ithaca on a target. I had already put up a large piece of cardboard 30 yards away with a turkey’s head drawn on it. But since I only had 5 shells and they cost $7 a piece I decided to forego the practice. Besides, the way Buddy explained things, the turkeys would practically fall over dead if they just got a glimpse of the box! I decided to have some lunch and watch a little TV before heading over to see Bobcat Bob. Dobber had given me 2 fairly clean buckets and I had the Woodford. I was just procrastinating and getting mentally prepared for that dreaded visit. I kept telling myself that Bobcat Bob was really quite interesting, that is if he didn’t shoot you when you first show up.
At about 1:30 I found myself driving down highway 16 turning off towards Bobcat’s house. A short ways down the dirt road I noticed a cloud of smoke and it looked like it was coming from near his house. As I eased closer, I saw that the smoke was coming from a 55 gallon drum that was burning near the road. In front of the shop there was a pickup truck with its front end propped up on jack stands. I figured Bobcat was working on his truck because I could see his legs and shoes sticking out from underneath the vehicle. I was uneasy because there was no telling what he might do if I startled him. I stepped out of my truck, paper sack in hand and immediately announced myself in a loud voice “Hello Bobcat, it’s me, D.R. I hate to interrupt your work, but could I bother you for a minute. I brought some Woodford and I thought we might have a drink and talk some business.”
All was quiet for a minute except for the crackling of the barrel fire. The legs didn’t move. I began swiveling my head around like an owl because something just didn’t feel right.
Eerily, out of the silence, a voice right next to me said “What kind of business?” That scared the living daylights out of me as I turned around but saw nothing. Then the bush next to my feet just stood up! It was Bobcat Bob holding a big pistol and draped in a sniper’s ghillie suit. I had almost stepped on him!
I looked into his blackened face just stunned. Only the whites of his eyes and teeth betraying that he was indeed a man. He started to laugh and pulled the shaggy hood off his head. “Carl told me you’d be coming by, but you can’t be too careful. I worry whenever I’m burning because it tends to attract unwanted attention. At that the big bush reached out to shake my hand. My frazzled composure really amused him because he continued to laugh. “Did I hear you say something about some Woodford and some business? C’mon, lets go over to my shop and find some glasses.”
As we walked past his pickup I could tell the legs were just a pair of jeans stuffed with newspapers and tucked into some old shoes. Bob was pulling off pieces of the ghillie suit as we walked. I couldn’t help but notice the odd smell in the air coming from that burning barrel.
Once we were inside he went directly over to a cabinet and retrieved a couple of glasses. I was a little nervous about going into the shop remembering my last visit. I studied the room carefully up and down and asked “Is Rosie around?”
Bob took on a concerned voice “I don’t think so, but if you see her I don’t recommend trying to pet her. She’s been acting pretty strange and ornery lately. It might be mating time for her or maybe another bobcat has come into her territory. She came in all bloody the other evening and she wouldn’t let me get close enough to clean her up any.”
I opened the bag and handed Bobcat the bottle. He blew the dust out of our glasses and poured a generous amount in each. He handed me one and we clinked glasses and then leaned back into the two dilapidated stuffed chairs. I noticed my paper bag wasn’t empty and I shook out the candy bar I got from Keggy. I had forgotten about it and I asked Bob “Would you like a piece of chocolate? It’s supposed to be good with bourbon.”
Bobcat crinkled up his face and laughed saying “Sure, if you say so.” I unwrapped the bar and broke off a good sized piece for both of us. We both took a big swig of bourbon and savored its hot smoothness. Then we took a bite of the thick dark chocolate.
Bobcat was quick to comment “Dang that is good! I don’t know if the Woodford is making the chocolate taste twice as good or if it’s the other way around.” He was right, or should I say Keggy was right, that is an awesome combination! A couple more swigs and bites and Bob was pouring more into our glasses.
Bob got down to business quickly “So you and Carl are going after Ol’ Tom Turkey this weekend. Buying some turkey lure is a smart move.”
“Yes sir, I need 2 buckets full.”
Bobcat gave a quick curt response “That’ll be 10 bucks.”
I quickly reached in my pocket and pulled out a $10 bill which I had already put there preparing for a quick payment. “Here ya’ go.” Just then, I noticed I was starting to feel the bourbon.
Bob slipped the bill into his shirt pocket and with a sort of accusatory tone said “You did bring your own buckets?”
I was happy to answer “Yes sir, they’re in my truck.”
Bob asked “Did you bring lids?”
In an apologetic tone and said “No sir, I hadn’t thought about that.”
Bobcat with another quick response “I sell lids for a buck a piece.”
So I got my wallet out and pulled out 2 dollars and handed them over. These quickly disappeared into Bob’s shirt pocket.
Bobcat held out his glass in a mock toast and took a big swig and downed his drink. Of course I had to follow suit. Bobcat wiped his mouth on his sleeve and said “Okay, you go and get your buckets while I put more agarita bushes in my burn barrel.”
We both stood up and I could tell the Woodford was working as we both sort of sauntered out the door to our respective tasks. I kept a watchful eye out for Rosie as I could just imagine her jumping out from every bush just like Bobcat in his ghillie suit. When I returned with the buckets I stopped and watched as Bobcat fed the barrel fire a couple of big bunches of the thorny, flowered bushes. That strange pungent odor was thick and smothering in the air.
Once we were back in the shop Bobcat took the buckets over to a large 55 gallon drum laying on its side that had a faucet for a spigot. He separated the buckets and set one down underneath the faucet and turned it on. My first thought was that he was filling the bucket with water to rinse it out, but Bobcat commented I was lucky as it seem like there was only about ten gallons of lure left in the drum. The so called lure just looked like water to me. He came back to his chair and poured us another drink as the bucket continued to fill.
My bourbon courage was up so I asked “Bobcat, are you sure that stuff is turkey lure, it looks kinda thin?”
Bobcat took a big swig of bourbon and popped the last piece of chocolate into his mouth and said “D.R. I assure you that the turkey lure you’re getting there is the finest available. I’m very proud of it as it took many years of scientific experimenting to perfect it. D.R. let me ask you something. Do you know much about turkeys and how to hunt ‘em? ”
I thought for a minute and with a puzzled look on my face said “Well, not really. I’ve shot a few but they all just happened to wander by while I was hunting something else. I never really have given much serious thought to the sport of just hunting turkeys.”
The first bucket was getting full so Bobcat got up and switched buckets. He pulled out a couple of lids from under his chair and used one to tightly seal the first bucket.
Bobcat sat down and continued “President Theodore Roosevelt, who was a great hunter, wanted to make Ol’ Tom Turkey America’s national bird. He considered it to be much grander and much smarter than the bald eagle. He once said that a turkey has eye sight that could spot the slightest movement a mile away and a turkey has hearing that can detect a pin dropping in the woods. The turkey lacked only one heightened sense, that of smell. The president declared that if God had given that bird a sense of smell, no hunter could ever get close enough to shoot one.”
Bobcat’s comments were very interesting and I was thinking that he sounded a lot like Uncle Albert giving a lecture at the round table. As we both kept a watchful eye on the filling of the second bucket, he poured some more bourbon in our glasses and continued.
“Now Roosevelt was right but he missed one of Ol’ Tom’s other uncanny senses, the sense of touch. This much-unknown sensitivity in a turkey’s feet is the key to the development of my turkey lure. My great grandfather got the unrefined version of the formula from a Cherokee medicine man named Runamuk. The actual potion is not really a lure in the way it works. It will not attract a turkey but once a turkey touches it they have an irresistible urge to follow its trail.”
I was fascinated and listened intently and when my fuzzy thinking finally go focused I spoke up in a surprised voice “I get it now. So you apply the turkey lure making a trail that leads the turkey to within gun range.”
Bobcat smiled, nodded and said “Exactly, but there are other complications that have to be worked out. Runamuk was confounded by why sometimes, several gobblers together would be walking by and touch the lure path causing some to immediately turn and follow it, while others were unaffected and just kept on walking. My great grandfather, working with Runamuk, figured out the mystery. He discovered that a turkey had to make contact with the lure with both feet simultaneously for it to have an effect. Runamuk widened the lure path and bingo, problem solved!”
Bobcat got up and turned off the spigot to the second bucket. He pressed on the lid and said “There ya’ go. Two buckets of the finest turkey lure made.” He sat back down and poured some more bourbon into both our glasses.
I must admit my thinking was a little fuzzy but I was fascinated by Bobcat’s story and surprisingly, it even made sense. I could picture in my mind, me sitting behind a bush, Ithaca in hand, as a single row of giant bearded turkey gobblers marched single file towards me like soldiers.
Bobcat continued his explanation “Now that was many years ago and luckily I inherited the formula. That’s when I did my own research and testing. Do you know that the typical turkey stride is 11 and 5/8 inches? I know that measurement because I’ve followed and measured many of Ol’ Tom’s tracks. I was able to statistically determine the optimal lure path width for the highest probability of double foot contact. It’s not fun carrying a 5 gallon bucket around the woods so it is important to minimize the spread width in order to maximize the trail length.”
At this point, things were getting pretty fuzzy and confusing for me. Bobcat had lost me when he started talking about all the measuring, statistics and probability. I’m not very good at the math stuff.
Bobcat seemed unaffected by the drinks and continued his explanation “D.R., I know you’re going hunting with Carl and he is an expert on how to use the lure, but a smart fellow like you probably still sees one more problem, right?”
This question kinda caught me off guard. I just sort of stared wide eyed and shook my head and shrugged my shoulders.
Bobcat spoke up “You lay out a nice lure trail, pick a good hiding spot and get ready for some shootin’. Here’s the problem. That big ol’ gobbler comes along, steps on the lure and immediately turns and starts following it. How do you make sure the turkey follows the trail in your direction instead of the other?”
I was silent for a minute and then spoke up “Gee, I hadn’t thought about that. I guess a turkey could turn the wrong way and never come by you.”
Bobcat just smiled and said “Carl knows how to do this, but take a look at the drawing I have hung on the wall over there. You layout your lure path in a long line and on one end make a loop that turns back into itself. You position yourself at the opposite end of the trail. If the turkey turns the wrong way, he’ll get to the loop, come back around, go back down the trail and eventually get to your shooting position. It is as simple as that!”
With that we both had a chuckle that turned into a laugh. Bobcat said “Come on, I’ll help you load these buckets into your truck. It looks like the Woodford bottle is another dead soldier.”
After we safely loaded and tied down the two buckets in the back of my truck I just had to ask “Say Bobcat, what are you burning over there?”
“Oh, I’m making black agarita ashes. Agarita bushes only bloom in February and March and the blooms are important when making my Black Salve. Do you need some, it’s only $2 a jar? Best thing ever for poison oak or foot cronks.”
I was silent for a moment then almost asked, but I decided that I had asked enough questions for one day. “I’ll keep that in mind, maybe another time. Thank you Bobcat, I appreciate your time and the special turkey lure.”
“Good luck D.R.” Bobcat turned around and walked off towards the woods.
At that, I eased on down the road with my head reeling from the drinking and spending another strange afternoon with Bobcat Bob. I pulled over when I got to the main highway. I was in no condition to drive home yet, so I just leaned back and took a short nap.
When I got home Vanna was doing something unusual, she was hanging a few clothes on the clothesline. When I got out of the truck she was just standing there facing me with one hand on each hip.
“Hello Vanna, what happened? Did the dryer breakdown again?”
Her answer was quick and showed her irritation. “No. Your brother came by and dropped off some camo clothes and your turkey calls. Those clothes were so filthy I had to soak them before washing them. They had dried blood on them from who knows how long. I decided that I didn’t want to contaminate my Maytag drying those awful rags!”
I had to laugh a little. Normally I would have been upset by her washing those camo’s, being that all the scented soap would ruin them for deer hunting, but as Bobcat had said, turkeys don’t have a sense of smell. I gave her a simple reply “Thanks for doing that, don’t let me forget to pack them later when they are dry.”
I was really excited the rest of the evening as I began to pack everything. I was going to have to get up extra early to meet Carl in the Wet Spot parking lot at 4:30 AM. I wanted to put as much stuff as possible in the truck that night so I could get a quick get-away in the morning. I packed all the stuff that I had laid out in the extra bedroom into 2 duffle bags. I was worried about the weather some, so at the last minute I packed an extra jacket and some rain gear. Finally I set the alarm and hit the sack at about 10:00 PM which is early for me. The extra early to bed time didn’t help much as I laid in bed thinking about what I forgot and how I was going to bag that big ol’ Tom tomorrow.
The alarm’s awful ring shattered my deep sleep and startled me awake at 3:45 AM. It took a minute for me to get my wits but I knew I smelled coffee. I looked over and Vanna was not in bed. I quickly dressed in the clothes I had laid out the night before.
When I went into the kitchen, there was Vanna in her robe, pouring a cup of coffee. As she held it out to me I said “What are you doing up?”
In a groggy voice she said “I thought I’d make you some coffee and wish you luck. After all, you’ve been tossing and turning all night, so I’ve been pretty much awake anyway. Besides it’s still dark and I’ll go back to bed when you leave and still get plenty of sleep.”
I was slurping on the edge of the coffee cup cooling the coffee swallow by swallow as I sucked it in. I was fully awake and excited now and said “Umm, umm that’s good coffee! You are the best! I’m sorry about the rough night, I guess I am a little keyed up.”
There was a box on the counter and Vanna was putting a pie and some other containers into it. “I made a Jack Daniels chocolate pecan pie and a pot of chili for you to take along. Here are some half full bags of chips too. Don’t forget this box.” At that she came over and gave me a quick kiss goodbye and said “Be careful and stay out of trouble. I’m headed back to bed.”
I was quick to reply “WOW – a bourbon chocolate pecan pie, my favorite! Now while I’m gone find a good recipe for the turkey I’ll be bringing home.” I laughed and Vanna just turned and wearily waved bye. I took the box and all the other gear that I hadn’t packed the night before out to the truck.
It’s kind of strange driving around at 4 o’clock in the morning. No traffic and everything is very still and quiet with only the vapor lights dimly lighting the streets. I pulled into the Wet Spot parking lot about 4:15 and parked up front but off to one side. I had told Hilde and Tyree that I would be parked there for a couple of nights and to not be alarmed. There were two other car parked there in an odd pattern showing that they were the remains of the day after all the other customers had left. I couldn’t place the cars as to belonging to anyone I knew.
I was really getting anxious as I watch for trucks coming down the street. I started to worry a little around 4:30 when Carl had not showed up yet. Finally about 4:40 I saw Carl’s giant pickup coming down the street and pulling into the lot. He drives about the fanciest pickup that I have ever seen. It has a heavy duty grill guard, 4-doors and a full size bed. There were running boards and chrome tie downs. A medallion that said ‘King Ranch Edition’ was displayed prominently on the side of each fender.
Carl parked next to me and got out of the truck. “Mornin’ D.R. Are you ready to bag some turkeys?” We both chuckled as we shook hands.
“You bet! I’ve been looking forward to this all week. I’ve been packing, prepin’ and now I am ready and raring to go! Where do you want me to put my gear?”
Carl opened the rear door and said “Here you hand me stuff and I’ll put it in the truck. Start with your gun and I’ll put it safely here in the back seat.”
As I handed him the rolled up blanket I said “There is a 10 gauge Ithaca rolled up in here, so be careful with that.” Then I passed him a soft gun case and said “This is my regular shotgun I’m taking along as a backup. Be careful with this box too, it has a pie in it.”
I continued to pass boxes, bags and clothes over to Carl and he stashed them in the cab or bed wherever he thought best. Finally he said “Geez-us, you sure have a lot of stuff.” Just then I handed him a 5 foot long 4” PVC pipe capped on both ends. He wrinkled his brow and said “What is this?”
“That’s a take-down fishing rod. I know Coppras creek runs across your place and I thought I might wet a hook if I get a chance.” Carl just shook his head and smiled as he slipped the oversize tube into the truck bed. Last but not least, I climbed into my truck bed and carefully transferred the two buckets of turkey lure, one by one to Carl. I did a complete once over everywhere in my truck to make sure I had loaded everything. Finally we were ready to get on the road.
I hoisted myself up into Carl’s truck and settled into a nice leather bucket seat. There was a large center console with drink holders, trays and padded arm rests. The dash was lit up with blue lights everywhere and when Carl put the truck in reverse a backup screen came on showing the area behind us. That was a good thing since the back seat was so full of stuff you could barely see out the back.
“Man-o-man Carl, I really like your truck!”
“Thanks D.R. It’s a couple of years old now and I was thinking of trading up, but this Ford has been trouble free and it only has 75,000 miles on it. Grab that thermos there by your feet and pour us some coffee, we have a fair drive ahead of us.”
There were two mugs sitting in the console. Carl had a splash of coffee already in one and mine was clean and ready. I poured the steaming coffee and the aroma really set the mood and heightened my excitement. It doesn’t get much better than this!
In the subdued light of the truck cab I could see several slender shotgun shells lying loose in the console tray. On the driver’s side, just above the center console I could see the plastic butt of a small rifle sticking up out of a scabbard. It was tucked away neatly between the seat and the console, just like a scabbard a cowboy would carry on his saddle.
I took a big slurp of coffee and asked “Say Carl, what ya’ got tucked in there by your seat?” motioning at the gun butt.
“That’s my snake charmer” he said with a chuckle. “I keep it handy in case I come across a rattler that needs killin’. It’s a pretty good two-legged-snake deterrent too. It shoots a .410 shotgun shell loaded with a half-ounce of bird shot. Perfect snake medicine!” I chuckled too, looking at the snake charmer that resembled a big pistol more than a shotgun.
The coffee was good and the ride was quiet and soothing in the plush pickup. Carl started some small talk.
“So D.R. are you a big turkey hunter?”
“Well, not really.” I said it almost like an apology. “I’ve shot a few turkeys, but I can’t say that I really ever was a turkey hunter. What I mean to say, is that every turkey I ever shot, I was deer hunting and the poor bird just happened to wander by. This will be my first spring turkey hunt where I’m going out to strictly hunt turkeys.”
Carl smiled with delight at his chance to indoctrinate a new turkey hunter. “D.R. you are in for a real treat! Our ranch is loaded with trophy turkeys. The river bottom on the property provides a great roosting area while the flats nearby are loaded with grass and grain that turkeys love. Also, the steep hills that surround the ranch act like a giant fence keeping the birds sort of concentrated in the middle. Yes sir, you are going to see some really big Ol’ Toms this weekend!”
“I want to thank you again Carl, I’m really excited about this hunt. I spent all week getting prepared and I talked to a lot of folks about turkey hunting. I’m especially curious to see how the turkey lure that we got from Bobcat Bob works out.”
Carl chuckled and said “How was Ol’ Bobcat?”
“He seemed to be just fine. I must admit he’s a bit unusual, but we shared some Woodford and got along just fine.”
Carl smiled and repeated back to me “A bit unusual – that is putting it mildly!” He started to laugh which started me to laugh too as I realized we both had similar opinions on Bobcat Bob.
“D.R. to tell you the truth, I really appreciate you getting the turkey lure. Bobcat is harmless enough and I call him my friend, but just between you and me, he gives me the creeps. One time I went out there to get some buck lure and just as I pulled up, I glanced in the rear view mirror and there was Ol’ Bobcat sitting in the back seat smiling. I don’t how or when he got in the truck, but it scared the daylights out of me. He just laughed and said hello Carl and jumped out. I hate going out to his place, but he does have some great hunting formulas.”
We were both silent for a moment and then we both shared a good laugh. Then Carl said “Did Bobcat tell you how to use the turkey lure? Did he show you the diagram?”
“Yes he did, but he didn’t go into too much detail saying that you are an expert at setting this up.”
Carl with a confident voice said “Yes, I am. I love using the turkey lure because it works like a charm. Just wait ‘til you’re sitting there and here comes a giant tom marching straight at your shotgun. You’re just gonna love it! Now you know this is my wife’s family property and there are a couple simple rules that are required of our guests. You can shoot two tom turkeys but we ask that they must have a minimum of a 6 inch long beard. That won’t be a problem since there are plenty of big ol’ toms running around dragging their beards on the ground.” At that he let out a chuckle.
I must admit I was really starting to get excited. I could picture myself in full camouflaged with my back against a tree and my knees propped up with the big Ithaca resting on top. There in front of me was a flock of giant turkeys trotting straight at me with their beards swinging side to side. This was going to be good!
Carl spoke up and broke my trance “Say, let’s finish the last of that coffee, it’s not much further now. Here is the plan. We got a little bit of a late start this morning so what I’m going to do is turn off when we get to Art and drive to the back of the ranch. It’s a little further but we should get there by daybreak. There is an old gate I discovered that not many people know about. We’ll enter the back of the ranch right about light and we can lay out our turkey lures. Then we’ll go into camp, unload, have some breakfast then go back out about 9:00 AM for a late morning hunt. The turkeys should be full of their breakfast and running all over our lures by then.”
I poured the coffee and said “Sounds good to me, you’re the boss!” I tipped my mug like I was making a toast. We were both smugly smiling ear to ear.
When we got to Art, Carl slowed down and turned off on a back road. It felt funny because we had been travelling so fast and smooth down the highway and now the road was rough and we were going much slower. There in the distance the sky was a beautiful red and yellow announcing the sunrise. There was enough light now to create shadows and make common things take on strange disguises. We were both quiet now knowing our journey’s end was near.
Suddenly Carl slowed down in what I thought was the middle of the road. He turned to the left and I could see now there was an overgrown road leading back into the brush. The sun was up now and I could see pretty good, but I was surprised that Carl was driving such a nice truck down such an overgrown road. It didn’t seem to bother Carl so I said nothing. Finally we eased to a stop and sure enough, there was a narrow metal gate.
Carl spoke up “Open it as quietly as you can. The latch is on the left side.”
I stepped out of the truck and walked around front with my eyes focused on the overgrown gate trying to spot the latch. That's when I suddenly heard strange purring and ruffling sounds. I looked up and not 15 yards away was a huge Ol’ Tom turkey in full puffed-up strut. His beard was dragging the ground and his wing tips were strumming against the ground. There was a second gobbler with an equally impressive beard pecking away behind him. I was shocked and frozen by what I saw until I heard Carl whisper “Aim for the head.”
I turned around and he was holding the little snake charmer out at arm’s length. I grabbed the little shotgun and rested it on the fence. I put the bead right on that big strutting turkey’s head and started to squeeze. In that precise moment the second gobbler decided to pop up and see what was happening.
The bang shattered the morning silence and when I took another look, there on the ground were two giant flopping turkeys. I was stunned for a moment just gawking trying to let what just happened sink in.
Then I heard Carl in a loud voice say “Well D.R., looks like you’ll be needing that fishing rod after all!” At that he began to laugh.