Ode To Uncle Suggs… A Lifelong Love Of Hunting And Fishing

Ken Daniel | May 16, 2024

The author’s Uncle Suggs and his Aunt Lucia. Uncle Suggs opened a window and lifelong love for the outdoors.

Did you ever wonder what it was that inspired your love of fishing or hunting or just being outdoors? Was it a parent, a friend, a book, or movie? Maybe you can’t put your finger on one person or thing. For me, the answer is crystal clear, my Uncle Suggs. I will soon celebrate my eightieth birthday, but my memories of my uncle are as sharp as if they happened yesterday. He passed away in nineteen fifty-seven. My parents divorced in nineteen fifty-two. My life was in turmoil. I was sent to Dawson, Georgia to live with my grandparents in Terrell County until the smoke cleared in Florida. Years later, I was visiting my father and his new family. I remember the night my father told me of his passing, four months earlier.

I was sad and angry all at once and asked, “How come you didn’t tell me before now?”

Tears burst from my eyes, and I began to cry. “Sorry, Kenny. I guess I didn’t realize you cared that much,” he answered.

“I loved Uncle Suggs,” I blurted through dripping tears and snot. “He taught me to love the outdoors… to hunt and to fish.”

My dad would spend years making up for that blunder, taking me hunting and fishing.

When he was a young man, my dad worked for my uncle who, was actually my great uncle, in his sheet metal shop. One day he brought his bird dog to the shop and told my father, “Go home at lunch and come back with your shot gun, shells and boots.”

“Are we going…? My father asked.

“Don’t tell anyone. But, yes, we’re taking off early, and going quail hunting.” My uncle’s one addiction was quail hunting.

At two o’clock, he locked the front door and they headed for the backdoor. Then the phone rang. The telephone was a relatively new contraption, and my uncle had yet to learn to ignore its enticing charm.

“Henry Suggs here… Yes, Mrs. Howell, how can I help you? Please slow down. I know it’s urgent, but I need to understand… Well, we don’t want all that food to spoil, do we? Yes, Mrs. Howell, Edward and I will be there shortly.”

My uncle hung up the phone, went to the bench, grabbed a scrap of sheet metal, a pair of seamers—a tool with a working end that looked like the jaws of a hammerhead shark—a hand drill with a large wood bit, and a steel punch. My great uncle shouted to my dad, “Put Lucie in the bed of the truck. We have one quick stop to make.”

“At Mrs. Howell’s?”

“Yes. But this will take less than five minutes.”

Dawson was, and still is a small town, so it only took two minutes to reach our destination.

Mrs. Howell was waiting on the porch, looking very troubled. Uncle Suggs grabbed the tools and the sheet of scrap tin. “The refrigerator is leaking on the floor, and making a big mess,” she moaned.

“We’ll have it fixed in a jiffy, M’am. You just go sit in the parlor.”

We walked past her into the kitchen. Wet towels surrounded the refrigerator, which was actually an icebox, a device that contained a block of ice to keep food cool. My uncle handed my dad the tools and sheet metal. “Take it all outside. Use the seamer tool to make a one-inch edge, then crimp on all four corners so it’ll hold water. Then, punch a hole in the center of it and make it fast. Then he whispered, “I hear quail whistling.”

Tools and the metal in hand, my dad found a table on the porch. In two minutes, he was back inside. My uncle had pushed the icebox about three feet from where it was, and told my dad, “See where that saltshaker is. Take the auger and drill a hole there. My dad knew not to question his uncle/boss and in seconds there was a one-inch hole that revealed the ground two feet below it. My uncle placed the metal pan over the new hole in the floor. They pushed the icebox back to its original position, gathered their tools and walked toward the parlor where Mrs. Howell sat, rocking in her favorite chair.

“It is not possible you gentlemen can be done, is it?

My uncle smiled, “Of course, we’re done. We are professionals.”

As we drove toward our quail hunt, my dad asked his uncle, “How long you think that trick will last?”

He smiled and glanced toward his nephew, “Long enough for us to shoot our limit.”

My first, in person recollection of my uncle was at a pond that he owned. My uncle, my Aunt Lucia, and I would sit on a long bench with a rail in front of it to rest our cane poles, waiting for one of our bobbers to disappear into the dark water. It was never a long wait before a fat bream or catfish would emerge from the depths and land at our feet in the muddy red clay.

If the fishing slowed, Uncle Suggs would ask, “Did you talk to the fish? You gotta talk to ’em, Kenny.”

“Oh, I forgot,” I replied. Then, I’d pick up the pole, lift the pole to my mouth, and say the magic words, “Fish bite. Fishy, fishy bite. then I would place the pole back on the rail and wait for the inevitable to occur. In seconds, the cork would disappear, and I’d haul in my mesmerized catch. My uncle was a very creative angler. He would paint nail polish stripes on baitfish to attract the many bass that inhabited his pond.

On one trip to the pond, my uncle brought an old, single-shot, 12-gauge shotgun. He wanted to teach me how to shoot this gun. We boarded a small wooden boat he kept there and paddled to the other side of the pond. My uncle pointed out a dead pine tree and told me to aim at low-hanging pinecone. I had to place the stock under my arm so I could look down the barrel. I found the pinecone, pulled back the hammer, and as instructed, squeeeezed the trigger. The blast was deafening. The recoil pushed the hammer into my cheek and propelled me over the gunnel, and into the drink. Uncle Suggs managed to catch the gun before it joined me. I sputtered to the surface.

As my uncle pulled me aboard, blood running down my cheek, I asked, “Did I hit the pinecone?”

“No, but you scared the feathers out of a flock crows.”

My uncle loved a good dove shoot. We went to a mammoth field that had recently been harvested of its corn crop. We were the only humans on the field. Dove were flying everywhere. His dog, Lucie might have been good at qual hunting, but not dove. I soon realized I would be Lucie for a day. Uncle Suggs brought a wooden box to sit on, his pump twelve gauge, and two boxes of 7 1/2 bird shot.

His instructions were precise, “You sit beside me. Stay quiet and still. When I shoot, you follow the bird with both eyes. As soon as it hits the ground, you lock your eyes on that EXACT spot and run toward that EXACT spot. You never take your eyes off that spot. You pick up the bird, run back, and wait for me to shoot. KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BIRD. Understood?”

“Yes sir!” We left the field triumphant, having taken our limit.

To this day, I love a good dove shoot.

My uncle was a complicated person. In his shop, The Dawson Sheet Metal Works, he conceived, designed and built a peanut sheller. Yes, a machine that shelled peanuts. Much of his business was with Cinderella Foods that manufactured peanut butter. The word got out about this feat, and one day a reporter showed up from the Albany Herald newspaper, asking for an interview with the inventor.

Uncle Suggs turned him down. “I take no credit for the invention. I can only take credit for following the direction provided me.”

The reporter then asked, “Then tell me who provided the directions?”

As he escorted the man out of the shop, my uncle answered, “God. Interview him.”

Uncle Suggs and the author’s dad are pictured with a peanut sheller that Uncle Suggs built in his Dawson sheet metal shop.

People in Dawson called him Henry or Mr. Suggs. His name at birth was Hildebert Eusebios Suggs. A name he would never warm to. His grave stone reads, H.E. Suggs 1889 – 1957.

I spent the summer of 1954 in Dawson in my grandparents’ home. However, I spent most of my time with Uncle Suggs. The day after my return to Dawson, he presented me with a brand new Crosman pellet rifle.

“Can I hunt with it?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered. “But to be a responsible hunter, you only shoot what you plan to eat. It just so happens the peanut butter factory is having a problem with sparrows getting into bins of shelled peanuts. Any thoughts?”

My head was spinning. “I have just the solution!” I shouted, raising the rifle over my head. The next day, Uncle Suggs took me to the factory. He put me in a folding chair in front of a large bin. Sparrows were everywhere.

He spoke in a whisper. “Don’t try to shoot at a bird in flight. Wait till one lands. Take a breath, let it out and squeeze the trigger….”

That summer, I became an excellent marksman and, yes, a connoisseur of sparrow. Today that pellet rifle hangs in my office.

My uncle was raised in Pensacola, Florida. In his youth, he raced motorcycles. When he came to Dawson to start his business, he met Lucia Lamar Daniel, my great aunt. They fell in love. Just before the wedding, he secretly bought her a house on Church Street. A beautiful two-story Victorian jewel, anyone would covet. Or so he thought. Five days before the wedding, he asked her to go for a short drive. When he pulled up to the to this magnificent structure, he announced, “This will be our new home.”

Aunt Lucia replied, “It’s beautiful. Don’t you think it’s a bit too big, Henry, dear?”

Undaunted, he hired a crew. He and the five men excised the entire second story, as if it never existed. Four days later, the home was ready to greet the newlyweds following their wedding.

My uncle was an amazing man, a complex man, a man of many dimensions. A man who loved to hunt and fish, a man of inspiration. A man who inspired me to love what he loved.

Thank you, Uncle Suggs. Your memory will live with me forever.

Editor’s Note: The author Ken Daniel was the creator and Executive Producer of Georgia Public Television’s Georgia Outdoors television show, highlighting hunting and fishing across Georgia on public television. 

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  1. Julian Curry on May 16, 2024 at 9:25 pm

    What an excellent story, it brought tears to my eyes. I had an uncle in Savannah Georgia that I would visit for a few weeks in the summer, I caught my love of fishing from him. Waldo Kight, such a great man.

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