Folks That Matter

Life On The Back Page - May 2024

Daryl Gay | May 4, 2024


Back when the world was smaller and closer together—we weren’t whizzing here, there and yonder strapped into the lap of luxurious motoring on a moment’s notice—it was a whole heap easier to keep up with the folks who really matter.

You young bucks won’t know what I’m talking about here, but I had four girlfriends that actually lived on DIRT roads!

And before you get all heated up, no, not at the same time. I ain’t never had no death wish. Further, so as not to leave you hanging, two were definite culls right out of the gate; one I maybe should’ve held onto a little longer and a little harder and don’t recall why I didn’t—probably hormones; and the fourth could never have worked out because she was a better fisherman that I was.

Still see her occasionally. Mostly on the river, paddling a jonboat. Checking limb-lines. Arms like Tarzan hanging out of her sleeveless.

Times like this it’s good to have the big motor. She could probably plane that boat out with a 6-foot paddle, but no way she can hang with my old orange Johnson Stinger at a distance…

Oh, well… y’all know how easily I get sidetracked. We were talking about folks who matter, and I was about to remind you of one such.

His name is Buren Mock.

He was introduced to you on these pages last year as a 96-year-old deer hunter, who despite some devastating setbacks, was still making his way into the stand and putting venison in the freezer.

These days? Still doing it at 97! And he’ll be 98 in November, when the season rolls back around.

I was luxuriously motoring a couple weeks ago and found myself outside of Colquitt, within roughly 20 miles of Mister Buren’s front door. Another guy who really matters—son Myles—was with me.

Opportunities to come face to face with living legends are extremely rare these days. It was vastly important to me that Myles hear the stories of this last surviving World War II veteran in Miller County. He was there. Saw it. Did it. Survived it. Made it home.

His remembrances of those final days in war-ravaged Manila back in 1945 are indeed fascinating. But I saved one story for you—from 2023. I’ll let him tell it…

“I killed one deer last year with that old 742 of Ashley’s, but I had a chance at a sure-enough good one,” he recalls with a laugh.

Be advised that the 742 is a Remington autoloader that has killed several tons of deer and has been passed down to grandson, Ashley—who will get it when Buren’s hunting days are done.

Roughly the year 2050…

“I never unload that gun because an unloaded gun is worthless. But before the season, I had Ashley take it and give it a good cleaning and go over it. I knew it was ready for me when I got in the stand.

“Opening morning I was watching a little doe working around out in front, probably about 50 yards. It was an easy shot, but I was more interested in watching than shooting. After about 30 minutes, a sure-enough good one stepped out behind her at about 60 yards. That’s when I got interested in shooting.”

He held his arms high and spread them wide—you know the deal. This is a hunter who has a dump truck load of antlers around the place, not to mention an 8-pointer hanging on the wall that will make your eyes bug out. It’s a whitetail that looks like a mule deer. The man knows a good buck when he sees one. And he tells a good story. I’m on the edge of my seat—when his phone rings…

He glances down, and as you might guess, recognizes the caller: “It’s my Lady Friend…”

OK, so let’s take another brief dirt-road detour here.

I’ve made a pact with Editor Brad Gill concerning a column/series I plan to pen upon reaching my 100th birthday. Assuming I can get away with it.

It’s all about the things I CAN’T tell you. Want to, but can’t. You have no idea how many fascinating facts, titillating true tales and downright idiotic goings-on I’ve had to leave out for various reasons from amongst the hundreds of pieces you’ve read under my byline.

Kind of like Mister Buren’s Lady Friend. Because it ain’t none of my business. Nor yourn. All I can leak to you for now is that his friends accuse him of robbing the cradle. Also, he’s not checking out local school districts with plans of starting a new family.

You’ll have to wait til I’m a hundred and hope I don’t get fired after the first episode…

“I was so excited I had to catch my breath (at 97 years old; how good is THAT?). I eased my gun up on the rest. I knew it was a chip shot when I pulled the trigger. CLICK!”

He can laugh about it now, but I’m guessing it wasn’t all that funny at the time. Mostly because I’ve been right there. Twice.

“Ashley took good care of my gun and did the right thing and the safe thing by not reloading it,” Mister Buren said with only a touch of chagrin. “I’m so used to it always being loaded that I didn’t even slide the bolt back and check it, which I should have. That buck didn’t hang around and give me time to fix things.”

And then he reminded me of the attitude that has made this man so special to me and many others:

“But that’s all right. I know exactly where I left him. I’ll see him again next season—with a loaded gun.”

As for you, old buck, you need to step back out and give Buren Mock another chance. After all, he’s earned it.

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