Time To Go To Work
Daryl Gay's Life On The Back Page, April 2018
Occasionally when I sit down to pound out something or other for your monthly perusal, the ideas flow a mile a minute.
And then… here comes April.
Oh, we could whip up a fine turkey-hunting tale; except for the fact that I learned long ago that you’d best write what you know and remain well distanced from those things that place your ignorance on public display.
Strangely enough, a great good (retired!) friend of long standing related this week that he’s about to embark on a seven-states-plus-Mexico turkey extravaganza. It’s highly likely that you’ll hear more about him because I got this non-hunter (many moons ago!) started on his long and winding trek.
So, what DO we write about…
Well, let’s take a look around the office. Yeah, that oughta do it!
We got “trophies.” On top of trophies. Beside more trophies.
Not one of them includes the word “participation.”
There’s a GRPA (Georgia Recreation & Park Association) state championship trophy for baseball. Over here are two more just like it but with soccer players on top. And on my left, the seriously heavy stone monstrosity from the USSSA Baseball World Series championship game. (So we lost the finale to Charlotte, N.C.. How’d they ever get into Dublin’s classification anyway?)
That the Knuckleheads are pretty fair to middlin’ athletes is not up for debate; so now let’s get to the real important stuff: photos of my huge granddaddy with a huge largemouth; him and me (age 3) with his three bird dogs, Belle, Sport and Jeff; uncles Austin and Kermit with the same dogs; Daddy with an 8-lb. bass caught while I was swimming in the pond 40 yards away; my sons Myles and Dylan with their first deer; Dylan at about 4 holding a 22-oz. bluegill; Myles straining to heft a 4-pounder caught sight-fishing (his specialty).
The list goes on and on. And I can’t help but think about what went into each of them.
There was one year I coached The Fellas on 12 different teams in three sports—baseball, football and soccer—including all-stars and travel teams.
And I say that so you’ll know I realize the grind that goes into getting where you want to go. So do my boys. And there’s always bemusement these days when Myles is coaching high school baseball or Dylan is talking hunting with friends and they get deer in the headlights looks in return.
I know those looks.
Sticking to the hunting aspect, even though I never got bit by the turkey bug, I have managed to call one within 10 yards and am fairly confident the deal could have been closed had the trigger been pulled.
At the time, it simply looked like a good gobbler for one of the boys to take later, if they cared to. Naturally, Dylan did, killing two gobblers out of five with the first shot at a turkey he ever took.
Sounds like beginner’s luck, but if you’re looking for a point to be made amongst all this wandering, just know that he and a pal chased the gobbling gang for over an hour—the last 20 minutes on their bellies—before finally heading them off. And that a life lived in the woods provided the required skills.
I’m not going to tell you that I came up poor, only that Granddaddy worked his life away in a cotton mill and raised five children in a company row house. Eventually, he owned three of those houses.
Daddy, at 9, quit school after third grade and took a job plowing a mule and sharecropping to help feed his mother and two younger sisters after his own dad walked away from the family. He later became a carpenter and contractor, and it was at his feet that I learned the value of a dollar: “When you see something you want to buy, figure how many hours you’ll need to work to pay for it, then ask if it’s really worth it?”
That’s some of the best advice he ever gave me. (At 50 cents an hour.) Along with counting shotgun shells. In all the years we shot doves, I never saw him purchase over two boxes at a time, always on the morning of opening day. His shots were never wasted.
To us, hunting was a large part of subsistence living. My participation trophy was a squirrel or rabbit or dove or quail.
Or robin or sparrow.
I know, I know, so put your pen down. On the other hand, if you’ve never looked at a mule’s butt since daylight and been hungry enough at sundown to consider sparrows and rice a delicacy, just hush.
A major, MAJOR portion of my hunting lessons centered on doing things the right—and strictly legal— way. Daddy was truly heavy-handed about it because he knew both the satisfaction of a job well done and how much it would eternally bug both of us to know that I had somehow cheated.
Truth is, you’ll get out of a trophy based on what you’ve put into it. Think about that best buck ever. Work at it? Come home flummoxed time and again? How sweet was it when he hit the ground?
Mine took three years. Saw him once each season. Moved the climber location a dozen times. Finally figured out that he was in the thickest crud this side of Croatia.
I can still see him pacing through the pines, frozen breath swirling. I can hear him fall, then slide…
Just in case you’re not aware, your—and your kids’—right to hunt and own a firearm is under the heaviest assault in the history of the greatest country in the world.
I’m curious if the kids these days are being taught that this heritage is worth working—HARD—for.
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