A Tribute To Charlie Elliott
On May 1, 2000, hunters and anglers everywhere lost a great friend, Mr. Charlie Elliott, of Covington, who was 94. Among his many accomplishments, Charlie Elliott was the author of more than 20 books, served as the southern editor for Outdoor Life magazine and was the first director of Georgia’s Game & Fish Commission. As a tribute to Mr. Charlie, GON has included excerpts of the eulogy given on May 6 by Dr. Don Martin and Ms. Royeese Stowe, senior pastor and associate pastor at First United Methodist Church of Covington.
I grew up reading the articles of Mr. Charlie Elliott. As a little 11-year-old boy, I would push mom and dad’s lawnmower over all the neighborhood, trying to earn enough money so that I could subscribe to Outdoor Life. And when it came in the mailbox it was always wonderful to look at the cover and then open it and read the articles by Mr. Charlie Elliott, who had gone places and seen things that I could only dream of because he wrote about them.
When I pulled into Covington, Georgia and unloaded my ministry books, and learned before the week was out that Mr. Charlie Elliott grew up in this church and still lived in this community, I felt like somebody just told me that I was the pastor of Babe Ruth. So, of course I went to see him, and I still remember walking into his study, and I felt a little bit like I did when I walked into the Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church just before I was to be ordained.
I, like Rev. Stowe, visited with Mr. Charlie more often than not because I needed to see him, not because he needed to see me. And all of our conversations eventually turned to the subject of turkey hunting. For those who don’t know, I love to turkey hunt. One day I was talking with Mr. Charlie, and I just confessed my sins to him as if I was speaking to the bishop, and said in conclusion, “Mr. Charlie, I’m the worst turkey hunter in Georgia.” And he laughed and said—and I guess I read it but forgot — “I held that honor myself for 10 years of my life.” And then he went over the turkey-hunting basics with me: Be still. Don’t call too much. Stay put.
I bought a new turkey gun this year. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I carried it in over my shoulder into Merryvale. Some of the nurses gave me strange looks. I carried it in to Mr. Charlie and said, “Mr. Charlie, would you please bless this turkey gun?”
He said to me, “Well, I’ve been asked to do a lot of things.” So, I put it in his tired, 94-year-old, feeble hands, and he started to lift it to his shoulder, and then said, just as Mr. Charlie would, “Preacher, this gun’s too heavy to bless.”
“Say something, Mr. Charlie, over that gun.” And he blessed it, and said to me, “Be still. Don’t call too much. Stay put.”
More than anything else in the world this spring, I wanted to walk into Merryvale with that gun slung over my shoulder and a gobbler in my hands and walk in and say to Mr. Charlie, “I did it. I did it.” And don’t tell my congregation, but most every morning except Sunday I’ve been up at about quarter ’til five and out in the woods of Morgan County, hoping that the benediction that he offered to that shotgun would mean something. And I came in the morning after he died having been made a fool of again by a bird that gobbled and didn’t show up, and heard the news. I had to sit quiet for just a minute, you know? Just to sit there with my gun and my turkey and Mr. Charlie and have my picture made would have meant a million dollars to me, but it didn’t happen. But I hope Mr. Charlie’s here today, I hope somewhere he sits invisible, quiet, in this sanctuary, because I’ve got something to say to Mr. Charlie. At 7:15 on Friday morning, sir, as the sun came over the prettiest meadow in Georgia, and as the mist still hung on the river that was in the background, I squeezed the trigger on the gun you blessed and handed off the title of the worst turkey hunter in Georgia to somebody who’s probably sitting in this congregation.
Mr. Charlie is with the God he loved. With the God he continually, wonderfully saw through the lens of creation.
I can see Mr. Charlie now, can you? He can hear again, he can hear the leaves rustle, and the birds sing, and he has with him a few of his favorite dogs, and Old Dan is leading the pack. The game is abundant but skillful. They’re trying to outsmart the Old Professor. His legs are strong and he can run down a rabbit. His golf clubs are sitting in a corner of a cabin someplace, and after 10,000 years or so of hunting and fishing and blazing trails that no one has ever walked on before, he’ll have a long, cool drink of George Dickel, and then he’ll pick up the golf clubs and play a round or two. His guide as he blazes these trails is the same one that walked with him on every adventure and walked with him every day of his life. His Lord. Amen.
“My guide, leading a packhorse with a rack of huge antlers lashed on its back, was passing across a gravel bar just as a brilliant rainbow appeared in the sky. With my camera in hand I jumped off my horse and ran to a spot on the gravel bar where I could make a picture of the end of the rainbow touching down in the trophy rack. Today that photograph means vastly more than just a scene snapped in Canada’s far northern Yukon territory. It seems more like a reflection of the beauty and drama of those years when I followed the distant game trails where no modern man had ever left a track. That picture could be the epitaph of a life lived beyond the end of the trail, where I often stood in awe of the beauty and the music of the universe. I felt at times as though I were holding hands with eternity.” — Charlie Elliott
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