Did you take your kids fishing this year? My kids are all grown up with kids of their own now. And I think grandkids are the most fun because of course I can spoil them and send them back home. Really though, I absolutely love my kids and my grandkids, so much so that I take them fishing about as often as I can.
This all started back when I was a kid and like many of you we went fishing with one or both of our parents or maybe a grandparent or other family member or even a friend. It doesn’t matter who we went with it just matters that we got to go fishing.
I can still remember what I believe was my first fishing experience. It was at a little body of water in Oklahoma called Hula Lake. My mom and dad took us kids to the lake and while I don’t remember my brothers being there with me I do know they were there, and since they were older they were probably off fishing on their own. Anyway I was seated on the concrete dam dropping a worm and cork in the corner of two concrete walls. I pulled up fish after fish and I remember laughing out loud each time and the fact that I couldn’t wait to get my rig back in the water.
There was a man there who, as my dad explained was going to set a trot line that day and he wanted all the perch I could catch for him. I was more than happy to oblige him, of course and never even gave a thought to his taking my fish. I remember knowing what a trot line was or at least knowing he was going to catch big fish with my little fish.
I guess one of the advantages of growing up in a family of hunters and fishermen is that one receives an education in such things without knowing it. I suppose I learned most of the basics about life just listening to my folks talk with other people about what was going on in their lives.
My dad owned a second hand furniture store in Bartlesville, Oklahoma called the Idle Article. I used to spend days there before I was old enough to go to school and during summer break when I was older. I always tried out the bicycles as soon as they hit the store and he took me with him sometimes to pick up a load of furniture he had bought.
I don’t know how long he owned it but I do remember when a new street project was planned he sold out and went into business with his brother making horse trailers in Dewey, Oklahoma. Now that shop was a dangerous place for a little kid, what with all the cutting, grinding and moving machinery. I did get to go with him sometimes but it was usually on Saturday when only a few people were there.
I remember my mom driving me by the old store on the new street, which was actually a much wider by-pass sort of thing and seeing the outside of the building and a concrete retaining wall just six or so feet from the front wall of the building. The parking lot in front was gone and without having it explained to me I knew just why dad didn’t have a business there anymore.
That’s progress though and I’m sure it created more opportunities than it erased. That word progress is sure used a lot. We use it to describe the good things that go on and we use to define the failures of government also. Personally I like to use the word “progress” to describe my fishing prowess.
I started out fishing by myself in a pond behind our house with my best friend Tony Parker. Please understand the words “by myself” mean without my dad or mom or brothers you know, the people who told us we couldn’t jump in the pond or off the back of the dam into the creek. This little pond was a perfect spot for a couple of kids to explore. We sought out bullfrogs and bass along with all the trotline bait we could catch although, we never baited a trotline. I also saw the absolute biggest snapping turtle I had ever seen. Thinking back now it was probably only sixteen or so inches across but that was one third of my height back then.
When we got a little older, like maybe ten we began fishing the creek that ran by the park a little farther from the house. I later learned that creek was the Caney River or maybe the Little Caney. I still don’t know which but I’ll bet I could look it up on Google Maps real quick and find out… now that’s progress.
My folks took us fishing in a number of places. I remember we camped for a week or so at Beaver Lake in Arkansas the year it opened for fishing. We were there with my Uncle Donnie and Aunt Joyce and my Grandpa “Pappy” and Grandma “Pansy”. This is the only memory I have of grandma Pansy as, sadly she died later that year.
I believe we caught all the Sand bass out of Beaver lake year that trip and I’m sure my mom got tired of cold hot dogs in her sleeping bag but she didn’t complain. That was the year my dad tried to explain to me what blacktop was. Let’s see now, was it the whole road or just the black stripes we actually drove on that made up the blacktop. One can probably figure out the questions I had and the exasperation my dad must have felt as he patiently told me again what it was.
I’m all grown up now with kids of my own and grandkids too, as I mentioned earlier and I can hear myself in the questions that all of them have asked over the past thirty years. Why is Deer poop so small when a Deer is so big? Why do Coyotes howl at night? Do Channel cats really talk to you when you unhook them? Will you take me fishing?
Parents probably have no idea how many questions they answer over the lifetime of raising kids but it has to be in the bazillions. I seriously doubt if all those questions were ever answered but I didn’t mind, I just asked again.
When kids ask you to take them fishing and you are tempted to put them off with being too tired or it’s too windy or cold or you’re too busy please remember that one day our kids will have memories randomly pop into their heads about their parents and what we did with them when we were little. I just hope my kids remember me taking them and not putting them off.
Father’s Day came this year and as usual I missed my Father. He’s been gone for a few years now and something always happens on that day that makes me shed a tear remembering the times we had. And this year was no exception. I always remember hunting and fishing, of course but this year I thought of working on pole barns with him and pouring concrete. He introduced me to this neat little tool, when I was sixteen years old called the Jackhammer.
My job was to break up and clean out the concrete that occupied the holes we were planning to reuse for poles in the construction of a pole barn at a golf course. I thought it was real cool until I tried to pull it out of the hole and hit the trigger. I think I can still feel my teeth clacking together to this day.
This Father’s Day was a little different as I had the opportunity to take my son Jeff and two of his three boys fishing, all at the same time. Now the boys are two and four and as you might guess they both have a rather short attention span, but being boys they relish the idea of fishing because it involves water and the possibility of getting dirty.
We packed up the gear and ventured to the creek with the boys dressed in shorts and flip flops. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why in the world would you take your grandkids fishing at the creek in such attire, what with bugs and ticks and all? Well, I forgot to mention the creek runs behind my friend Don’s house and he mows right up to the water line. Plus it is in town just two minutes from my house.
This is one of those waterways that snakes through drainage ditches until it forms a pretty little pond in a better part of town complete with Geese and Goldfish. This creek has a seemingly unlimited supply of perch that just love little chunks of worm and are more than willing to thrill a couple of little boys out to slay them with Spiderman poles.
We stayed about an hour, which I thought was very good for the age they were but they were really intent on catching fish. We returned our catch to the water each time and amassed a catch of about a zillion or so. We honestly lost count, which is odd for me since I am one of those crazy people who feels the need to count things, especially fish.
I am keeping a journal or actually more of a logbook here lately to see just how many fish I can catch in a year. I wondered what the count was up to the other day so I added them all up and was somewhat impressed with the total, as you might be as well. Anyway, that’s enough of that.
I sat and held Ivan, the youngest on my lap and taught him how to reel in his catch. He learned very quickly and soon he was able to work that reel like a pro and reel a fish right up to the tip of the rod. I guess we never see pro’s do that but anyway he thought that’s where they needed to end up.
Each time I removed the barbless hook he would put his little hand under the fish in the palm of my hand and give him a flip back in to the water. And of course his big brother, who was fishing with his daddy a few feet away, had this fishing thing down as he had been fishing before.
They both got poked a bit from the fish fins and, I think learned to respect the fish somewhat without being afraid to touch it. It was a fun time teaching kids to do something for the first time and watching them catch on and do it for themselves. I guess it just goes to show we can all learn from our dads, or granddads for that matter whether it’s how to hold a fish, run a jackhammer or finish concrete. I wished my dad could have been there to see his great grandsons catch fish for the first time. And then I realized he kind of was there in a sense as I showed my son what my Dad showed me and we passed it along to the little ones.
So Father’s Day this year was a special one as I heard from all my boys and my “adopted” daughter, fished with kids and remembered my own Dad. I think I will try to have another one real soon.
We played cops and robbers the other day. My son set it up with his wife and included two of his three boys, ages four and two as the cops, (a two month old cop just wouldn’t work). The call came in about 1530 hours of an armed robbery of cookies at Sissy’s house.
We arrived at the scene with the boys dressed in their kaki’s and polo’s sporting badges and notepads. The victim was interviewed and foam dart bullets were seized as evidence. A description of the perps was taken down and footprints were photographed.
The victim managed to photograph the getaway car and license plate, which was a real bonus. After they processed and cleared the scene the boy cops were on the hunt strapped in their car seats in Grandmas van.
Detective R.J. told us the victim said she heard the robbers say they were headed for a pink building in the woods so we looked around town for some place that fit the description. We settled on the Arboretum where we soon spotted the somewhat pink building. The detective boys asked a couple of girls playing Frisbee golf if they had seen any suspicious characters. They looked them up and down and smiled at their SWAT vests, helmets and toy guns and said “I think they went that way”.
We located and approached the suspect vehicle and confirmed the tag with the notes Detective R.J had written in his notebook and then spotted the bad guys eating cookies in a shelter house surrounded by woods. The scene was surveyed and an approach plan was hatched.
Detective Ivan and I quickly put a tree between us and the bandits and began our stalk while Detective R.J. and Grandma skirted around to the side. One of the bandits spotted us and shouted “It’s the Cops” and headed for the hills, right into the waiting arms of Detective R.J., who ordered him to his knees and slapped the plastic cuffs on him saying “You’re under arrest Daddy”. In the meantime Detective Ivan swooped in and secured the other bandit with “Stop right there Mommy”.
The bandits were escorted to the patrol vehicle and transported to jail, Grandma’s spare bedroom closet, while the Detectives munched on evidence. The culprits were soon afforded bond and released from jail to the waiting arms of their little Detectives, who immediately wanted to do it all over again.
Back about 1973 or so Kansas opened a season for snagging Paddlefish, or Spoonbill as we call them, on the Neosho River. My Dad and I enjoyed many an outing to Chetopa to snag below the dam beginning with the 1973 season and on until his death. I remember going with some friends who also got the snagging bug and they were all good times. I still go occasionally and have had the pleasure of sharing the seasons with my three sons.
Sometime prior to that season Mom, Dad and I had taken a trip to the Ozarks and fished at Roaring River State Park for Rainbow trout. This is where I got the trout bug. I guess I just love that cold clear water. Well anyway, we also visited Silver Dollar City near Branson, Missouri.
This was a great place for a thirteen year old kid and my Dad loved it too. Mom wouldn’t ride the rides much but Dad and I rode the Fire in the hole roller coaster so many times I lost count. And that brings me to the rest of my story.
During the following Spoonbill season my Dad still had that “Fire in the Hole” saying rattling around in his head and whenever a spoonbill was snagged and the battle had begun he would yell “Fire in the Hole” at the top of his lungs. Well it caught on real fast and before long it was the thing to say when a heavy surf rod bent double and the drag began to sing.
Through the years we laughed when we heard it and talked about how it got started. And we sort of forgot about it. Mom and Dad are in heaven now and my kids all have kids and occasionally I still get the itch to file some treble hooks and make a load of sinkers and go snagging in the spring. This year was no exception.
The water came up and the fish soon followed and I ventured south with my twenty-eight year old snagging rod in the back of the truck. I stood on the bank and surveyed the river remembering the holes and the best place to stand. I began that endless backhand cast followed by two or three quick yanks on the rod and repeat sequence and soon I hit one. My drag began to sing and I clamped down on it and began moving him toward the backwater where I would have the advantage. It was then that someone up on the bank saw me fighting a fish and yelled FIRE IN THE HOLE. I laughed out loud and said this one’s for you Dad.
I caught several that day as did a number of other old river rats and I must have heard “FIRE IN THE HOLE” three dozen times. I even uttered it myself, of course. I chatted with an old timer from up north about “spoonbillin” and we talked about the times we had on the river and it was almost as if my Dad was there.
I went a couple more times and caught some more ‘bills and each time I heard someone yell that saying I thought about what an indelible mark certain people leave on our lives from the closest family members to those we meet only once. I reminisced about the times my Dad and I fished that river and the times my boys fished it with us. I am grateful my Dad taught me to fish and even more so I am thrilled at hearing a simple saying like fire in the hole yelled by an excited fisherman and see the joy it brings to others as well as myself for a totally different reason.
Once in a while a man does something that, at the time seems perfectly harmless. Then in retrospect he realizes the extent of the damage caused by that now not so innocent act.
I have fished five times in the last two weeks and have only a Crappie and three Trout to show for it. I fear I committed a mortal sin when I...washed my fishing rag. Woe, woe, woe is me.
This morning while again catching nada I looked down at the right time and saw the mother of all Kansas trout breach the surface not five scant yards in front of me in an attempt to ginsu a minnow. I swear it snarled at me. And my pistol was in my pocket.
Please don't send cards or, especially, offer advice. I will prevail, I will, once again, eventually, render that fish rag a smelly stiffened barely recognizable square of red cloth that bruises my leg in the wind whilst I pilot a watercraft into the blue beyond.
I will once again adorn the pages of facebookdom with self serving photographs of various Leviathan of the deep while laying claim to their defeat. Don't cry for me, don't cry for me.
Back in the day as a Sheriff's Department Detective one of my jobs was as a sniper. Now don't go getting excited, It never really amounted to much, thankfully. I spent a lot of time punching holes in paper and was called to a few situations which resulted in deployment and then peaceful surrender.
The most noteworthy call came one hot summer day from the local stockyards. The owner called the Sheriff's office to ask for a sharp shooter to cull a Black Angus bull that had gotten loose and was causing considerable trouble.
I happened to be close by and took the call. I soon found myself among some cowboys on horseback on the North edge of town. The story, as told to me went something like this. A very large and cantankerous Angus bull of about a thousand pounds had gotten loose from the stockyards and, after wooling a couple of cowboys and charging a horse or two had left the compound and headed southeast toward town.
The last report had him wandering the brush in a creek bottom with some cowboys in pursuit. I enlisted the aid of a local PD officer whom I trusted and asked him to bring along his shotgun loaded with slugs as backup. I uncased my trusty Ruger M77.308 complete with a Leupold 4-12 x 50 Vari x 3 scope and recoil arrester. I loaded up five Winchester Silvertip 165 grain boat tail rounds in the magazine and closed the bolt. It was time to go hunting.
We entered the brush, which was a forty or so acre creek bottom and very low flood plain area, undeveloped and unused. Visions of Capstick stalking African big game danced in my head as I moved forward at a slow pace, my trusty gun bearer trailing.
Now having never hunted anything larger than a Whitetail Deer and certainly nothing intent on doing me great bodily harm I couldn't help but recall the tails of the aforementioned Peter Hathaway Capstick. Capstick was a professional hunter in Zimbabwe back in the sixties and always recounted his adventures with precise detail. Usually with much flare and humor. He also told of the damage an angry Bovine could inflict on the human form if he so desired.
Now this was no Cape Buffalo we were hunting but I was not going to take any chances, I mean, after all how romantic would the story be of a cop being stomped by a cow up by Wal-Mart. Never the less I employed what stalking skills I had and finally located our quarry.
He stood at the edge of the creek breathing hard with his butt to the high bank. There were three cowboys sitting atop their horses a considerable distance west while we stalked in from the north. I whispered to Jon that I could see him and pointed him out. The brush was quite thick and it did take a bit of looking to make him out, but once we saw the whole of him he couldn't be missed.
The bull was standing his ground looking back and forth at us and the cowboys. I maneuvered to my left for a better shot and closed the distance to about thirty yards. This bull was actually pawing the ground and blowing snot with each breath. To say that he was somewhat perturbed would be an understatement. He continued watching us until we stopped, then one of the horses made that noise that horses make for which there is no real literary term, especially when it startles the bejeebers out of you. This was the break I was looking for. I took careful aim and settled the crosshairs on his massive neck, trying to calculate the distance between the bullet's path and the crosshairs in my scope so as not to muff it and BOOM. The rifle had no kick and I saw the animal drop like a bag of hammers.
A cowboy whooped and shouted good shot, while another replied "Well it was only thirty yards". Reality bites, and at the right time too. We approached the bull while the cowboys stayed where they were. I should have wondered why they did this but... I poked the bull with my gun barrel and determined he was dead. I then pulled a rookie mistake and sat atop the behemoth with his left foreleg sticking out from between my knees, sticking straight out between my knees mind you. With my rifle, fortunately in my left hand I smiled at Jon who smiled back and to this day I wonder if he saw it coming.
The old bull was hit through the neck and momentarily paralyzed. As I perched atop his mass of black hide and muscles he suddenly came to life and snorted a breath and kicked his two left legs, which if you will remember were sticking straight out and one of them between my knees. For a second I thought I was a goner but then my training kicked in and suddenly my .40 caliber Smith and Wesson was in my right hand and headed for the base of his brain. I don't know if it made contact before it went off or not but it did its job well and the beast went limp.
Suddenly I realized I was about ten feet away and looking at the bull from a different angle than before. The owner, standing up the hill on the road shouted at us asking what was going on. In true Capstick fashion I replied, "just paying the insurance".
I recently traveled to Branson with my wife and some others from our church. We attended a conference at the Hilton and stayed there for three nights. Wow, what a place. We had a large room overlooking the Landing, the scenic railway train and of course, the lake. I managed to sneak off and do some fishing during the times when the meetings did not include me. I only caught eighteen trout during the few times got out but as usual with me I had fun anyway.
I ventured to the dam right as the water shut off. I tied on a silver Kastmaster and fished it right under the cable. Its funny how the lure can be in mid retrieve with the Sun shining bright and no fish biting and then a gust of wind suddenly puts a chop on the water and wham you get bit. This happened so often I sometimes found myself waiting for a windy chop to make my cast out past the shallows to the deeper water where I dreamed the bigger fish were lurking.
The last time I did this I caught Crappie, perch and a Smallmouth bass, not so this trip. Every trout I caught was a "Hammer Handle" or "Silver Bullet" as Phil Lilley calls them. They were fun though. I moved to the MDC ramp downstream and the fun continued as I caught a few trout there while watching a man teach another how to fly fish. I almost cheered when he hooked into his first fish but I figured he might be like me and did not want to be recognized for finally doing something everyone else has probably done many times but instead wanted to jump up and down on the inside and take it in stride on the outside. You know, the manly way.
I also fished off the dock at Lilleys Landing that week. I laughed as I fished with Duane and Paul. Mainly I laughed at the two of them giggling over the latest creation to come from Duane's fly tying vice. If they didn't catch something on a jig they would disappear into the shop and a few minutes later emerge with something of a different color or with eyes on it and off they'd go again. I love seeing grown ups have fun and the fact that they knew me and included me in their antics meant a great deal.
I witnessed something I had never seen before that week. I suppose it has to happen to some extent each time the water is suddenly turned off at the dam but I watched the lake run backward. And it not only ran backward, it did so for about six hours. The only time I witnessed anything like this before was once last summer while fishing below the lookout I saw waves, about four feet high suddenly rear up and wash upstream for a distance of about forty or fifty yards. This went on for about fifteen seconds and was very violent. So much so that it made me glad we were against the bluff bank as I'm sure it would have swamped us.
Well anyway, I caught fish in the cold and the semi-warm weather, stuck my rod in the water to melt the ice out of the eyes and, oh yes I was attempting to show a friend, whom had accompanied me that day how to catch a Sculpin behind Phil's dock with a small jig when a Brown Trout about eighteen inches long rocketed out from under the dock from about fifteen or twenty feet away and inhaled my jig. I had no idea a fish could see that far under water. So here I was trying to climb down from the walkway to the bank, which had snow on it without going swimming. I was giggling myself and groaning because it was a long way for a broken down old man to bend over on a steep bank. Anyway he broke me off when I got him out of the water and took my jig with him. Fortunately the jig was barbless so he shouldn't have much trouble throwing it.
My week was great. I had a great time worshipping the Lord with friends and got to eat, shop, sight see and fish with my wife and friends, but boy was I ready to get home after four days of not sleeping in my own bed. When we opened the door to the house late Thursday we were met by a couple of grandsons, ages two and four. What an end to a nice vacation, leaving something you love to come back to something you love. To coin a phrase; It just doesn't get any better than this.
This evening I had the chance to head to the creek. It is spring, despite what the weather seems to say about it and that means White Bass. (Sand Bass for those with an accent).
I arrived about two hours before dark thinking this water is too much like chocolate milk to catch fish, but fish have to eat so I stayed. I managed to catch about fifteen Whites before it got dark and, I had a good time doing it.
The real fun was in my head of course, remembering the times I brought my dad there and all the fish we caught together. I also thought about the times mom fried fish and Morels for lunch or made her delicious catfish gumbo for supper.
I heard a deer snort behind me. I knew what that was because my dad taught me to recognize the sound and imitate it myself. He could call crows with his voice, you know. A beaver slapped the water in front of me and I remembered the time late at night, us fishing the strip mine pits and I heard that noise for the first time and my dad had to show me what it was… and reassure me it wouldn’t get me.
There were Ducks on the creek tonight and Geese honking around the bend. Then about dark the owls began their chorus of “Who cooks for youuuuu” and that evil laugh they make. My boys used to listen with young wide eyes to the owls when we entered the woods before daylight on a deer hunt. I guess it sounds like a Sasquatch when one is ten years old…or fifty-three.
When I walked out of the woods tonight I thanked God for my family who taught me to pray, took me fishing and went fishing with me, taught me to survive in the woods, build a fire and eat something I found on the ground. You know… the important things in life.
The phone call came just after dark one evening. The voice on the other end was a familiar one saying he had a little boy that wanted to tell me something. It was the special Kansas youth Deer season and I knew what was coming. A few seconds later I heard the excited voice of my seven year old great nephew, Gryffin telling me he had just taken his very first buck. He went on telling me how big he was, how far away he was, what gun he used and then dropped the bomb. “Uncle Kelly we can’t find it”. With that his dad picked up the phone and asked if I could come and help, I told him I would be right there.
I turned to my wife, Linnet and told her I needed to go help Josh and Gryffin find a Deer. Like I needed to tell her anything, I was probably grinning and jumping around like a puppy while I pulled my boots on. They live only about seven miles from us so I made the trip in no time. Pulling up in the driveway I found a smiling kid standing next to his dad who was also grinning from ear to ear. After a quick story about where they were hunting, the shotgun slug and the miss on the first shot I found out the deer was in the weeds and boy howdy did he mean weeds.
They had been hunting from an elevated stand less than a mile from home when the big eight pointer made his way into the clearing. Gryffin raised his weapon, a 20 gauge slug gun and fired. The gun bucked but the deer just looked around. He tried it again and down the buck went and…into the eight foot tall horseweeds, about twenty acres of them if my memory serves.
So now here we were standing where the deer had stood trying to size up the task ahead of us. Did I mention it was pitch black now? Fortunately Gryffin’s dad, Josh is a real outdoorsman and he owns a dog, not just any dog mind you but the kind of dog a real outdoorsman should own. One that retrieves ducks finds downed quail, sleeps on the bed and oh yes, she is an accomplished deer retriever too, with a few deer already under her belt, so to speak.
This story is one of triumph over adversity as Gryffin’s older brother had gone to be with Jesus about six months earlier at the tender age of eight. Very few can understand what this family has been through and are still feeling. This short respite called deer hunting was just one of the things they really needed, to laugh and smile and slap each other on the back and tell stories if just for a night in order to fill that vast emptiness inside.
And we did just that. Ella, a Black Lab found the Deer in short order, in the creek and we began the task of hauling him up the creek bank and pushing over the impenetrable forest of horseweeds to walk on top of them while dragging a two-hundred plus pound eight point Whitetail Buck, what a beast. Did I mention it was still eighty-five degrees outside?
We wrestled that bruiser over the weed field and into my new and as yet un-bloodied truck. Fortunately the tailgate sits as high as the top of the fence and we slid the bed mat over the barbed wire. We were sweating in tall horseweeds now. Taking that deer back to the house was one of my prouder moments in life. I counted myself lucky to have been called to come and help.
Gryffin showed his deer to his mom and younger brother and sister and then Grandma and Grandpa showed up and it started all over again and he did not forget to tell them about the weeds and how hot it was and about standing in the middle of the creek in darkness because Uncle Kelly forgot to bring a flashlight.
As any seasoned hunter knows there are duties to perform after the harvesting of a big game animal and this was no exception. I felt blessed to stand back and watch as a proud daddy showed his son the how to’s of field dressing and skinning, which he thought was gross. We wrestled the Buck to where we could weigh him and he pegged the scales at two-hundred pounds even. My lower back had picked that number hours earlier.
There was much joy in my just watching these things progress as it reminded me of similar times had when I was a boy. My big brother Keith’s first deer and how we processed it in the back yard. My Grandpa “pappy” and his first and I believe only deer in the same backyard. I thought back to my first one and then the many times my dad took us out hunting, fishing and camping. The night we put a cold hot dog in Mom’s sleeping bag and how she screamed, even though she was on to us from the get go. That trip was the only time I can remember seeing my Grandma “Pansy” .
There is a point in about every circumstance where one no longer feels needed or is unable to add to the festivities. That time came for me that night and I really did not mind it at all. I got to be part of a family deer hunt and recovery and the celebration that followed. I took photographs and hugged kids, petted dogs and shooed chickens. My experience was complete and I went home happy.
Another great day in the woods came to a close this evening. I went deer hunting... again, with my son Steve and a couple of friends. We started off in the middle of a mile section surrounded by cedar trees mostly. If you have ever hunted amongst the Cedars you'll know what I mean when I say it's the ultimate corn maze.
Steve and I spotted some deer in a cut bean field so we glassed them a bit ...from a hilltop. As daylight overcame them they began to mosey to the Cedars, but we were already there, waiting.
What grows wild, in the woods that would make a deer run in circles? Whatever it is she had a bunch of it. A single doe, obviously excited by the four smallish bucks nearby, ran in circles for about ten minutes in and out of the line of bucks. She jumped in the air and kicked to one side then the other. I'm guessing she had heard all the stories and wanted nothing to do with them, anyway the bucks seemed to shrug her off and continue their beeline to bedtime.
Steve picked out a deer and settled in for a shot. I covered my ears and waited...nothing. The deer trotted some and I burped at him (yes a big 'ol Diet Coke burp) and he stopped, I waited and, again nothing. The deer decided he'd had enough and sprinted for cover. I looked at Steve and said nothing as he held up a rifle round with a nice big dent in the primer and the bullet still in the other end.
He told me he pulled the trigger raised and lowered the bolt and and tried again but to no avail. He had to console me. I hate it when opportunity knocks for one of my kids then the door slams shut.
Anyway we decided to skirt the hillside to see if we could cut him off and fifty yards later as we rounded a rockpile I heard Steve say "Dad" then his rifle boomed. Another forty yards and high fives and back slapping ensued. Steve had not hunted or taken a deer in years and he did not care if it wasn't the bull of the woods. It was like that first one all over again.
We began the chore that always accompanies the taking of big game and after retrieving my deer hauler from the truck he rolled him off the hilltop and I followed, my camo coat suddenly seeming a size too small.
Hey, do you want to go on a wild hog hunt in Texas no less? The call came in late November and as Bryan spoke with his Sergeant visions of wild hairy beasts with long tusks filled their heads. They agreed on inviting a few more of their fellow officers and soon the plan was in motion. The guys spent the month of December looking forward to and planning for their first pig hunt. Well, their first as a group anyway. Bryan had killed a pig just after high school graduation but that seemed like a lifetime ago. Now it was January ten years later and suddenly it was time to load the truck.
The Suburban loaded real nice with the rear seat removed and hitched to it was a twelve foot trailer that carried a Polaris 4x4 and a deep freeze. Various boxes and bags of camouflage clothes, rifle cases stuffed with a favorite gun and whatever food would go with wild pork chops. They seemed to be prepared as well as they could envision, given they would be hunting in daylight and at night with spotlights and night vision, which is legal there... Bryan just wanted to get going and when the time came the four of them climbed aboard and departed. Four guys, all cops who worked the county in and around Dodge City, Kansas, they really needed this break.
Bryan had chosen his trusty patrol rifle, a Ruger 556 in .223 and had fitted it with a Redfield red dot sight scavenged from his dad’s Redhawk .44 magnum revolver, which was on his hip. A little bit of custom fitting and he was shooting holes in holes at the range.
The trip went quickly as they eagerly switched the chore of driving among themselves while the others undoubtedly slept since they were, after all the night shift and were used to sleeping the day away so to speak. The Deputies from Kansas had always worked hard running traffic, investigating accidents, gang crimes and drug deals and even tracking down a bank robber earlier that year. But this hunt was a chance to do something different, something exciting and memorable. Something they had never done before as a group.
They arrived at the ranch and after stowing their gear they got right to it. Meeting with the land owner they agreed on a plan for the first afternoons hunt and set about finding their stands.
Sitting in a ground blind under what would have been an elevated deer blind earlier in the year, one could hear pigs squealing off in the brush a hundred yards away. The feeder in front of the blind promised some action about dark, but when it went off the only thing to come running were Cardinals. They broke for supper and decided to return later that night.
Things, as they sometimes do went awry from there on. Only one pig was taken that night but with it came a report of poachers. The land owner did not enlist the help of the party of hunting cops, he didn’t have to. They all immediately began doing what they do best, hunting man.
Now, hunting man may seem a somewhat morbid term to use in a hunting story but the reality of it is that is what law enforcement is and has been since the first man was appointed by his peers to find the bad guy who had wronged someone else.
Bryan had come from a long line of cops as his father was a Kansas Deputy, his Great Grandfather was the Pawhuska Oklahoma City Constable and another grandfather down the line was a Deputy U.S. Marshall. Truth be known the entire hunting party had it in their blood.
So the boys in blue camo set about their task and over the next few days rounded up a total of fifteen poachers in numerous groups. Apparently the place was lousy with them. They killed no more pigs but they did succeed in making a lifelong friend of the landowner and impressed the local Game Warden to boot.
It might seem a more fitting ending to this story to say the landowner refunded their money but after all they did hunt and take a pig under his guidance. But then one must consider the chosen profession of the hunters. As it turned out they paid a modest fee to travel to Texas and do what they do best, enforce the law. But this time they did it in the Texas landscape dodging the scrub brush and washes while riding in UTV’s and pickup trucks, communicating with cell phones and walkie talkies. Not quite like the Marshals and Rangers of yesteryear but doing the best they could with what they had. I’ll bet they had a blast.
I went fishing the other day. I took Marlan and Gary with me as they are two very good fishing buddies, and it was the least I could do. We fished the trout pit south of McCune and had a blast. Now by blast I mean we caught fish, of course but more than that we connected again as friends.
Now don’t go getting all girly and mushy on me, just hear me out. This work, work, work lifestyle we all lead can wear on a person from time to time and because of that once in a while we need some camaraderie and good old fashion fun to recharge our batteries. This was just such a trip.
We hunted the Trout, literally. We stalked them and threw to them during their swirling surface dances with their fins out of the water while eating who knows what, these fish were far off shore, thirty to forty yards and it took a quarter ounce spoon to reach them but when we did they came a running, so to speak.
Three grown men whooping and hollering like kids, laughing and telling stories, if you can imagine that and all the while the sun dipping low in the west. This meant our time together would soon come to an end but we ignored it and fished on. Off in the distance we could hear a deer snorting at whatever spooked it, and then a few turkeys gobbled. A few minutes later the owls began their chorus of spooky nighttime tunes followed by the coyotes howling to tell the world they were alive and well and on the prowl. And we continued to catch trout.
I looked off to the west as the clouds cleared and witnessed a brilliant reddish orange orb sinking into the horizon and noticed it’s reflection off the water , still so bright it turned my friend Gary into a mere shadow just a few feet away.
In thinking back on our trip we began by decided to just go fishing but I think down deep we all knew we were looking forward to a great time with friends, the kind of trip one tells their kids about. Well we had just such a trip and it came via something as simple as the opening of one’s eyes and ears to the sights and sounds of Gods nature, given to us to enjoy and relish and talk about.
I thought about going back tonight but I really didn’t think I could improve on that memory so I just stayed home. Sometimes I wonder if stopping to smell the roses and relive the good times we’ve had with family and friends is enough and concluded it is…but not always since, of course we have to take those trips and make those memories first in order to relive them.
I dearly love those times spent with friends and family where we agree this was the best trip ever. But I thank God for the ability to remember them years down the road and relive that smile on a long past father or mothers face or try to once again hear a child’s voice quiver with excitement at the marvel of doing something special for the first time. I hope I live a long while.
went to the Deer woods today. I didn’t buy my tags early enough to hunt the daylight hour but, being the early riser that I am I went none the less, after lunch. This was my first day out this year so naturally, no Deer. I mainly went to check out my ground blind, which in this case is a fancy term for a clump of trees in the middle of which, I stand and hunt.
The trees were still in the same place as were the Deer, which was not that same place so I amused myself redefining my hunting territory by breaking off the odd limb I dreamed would get in the way of a spectacular shot. I also counted off the paces to the tall yellow grass, still twenty-five yards away just like years previous. It’s funny how trees will sprout limbs and saplings will grow six feet in a year but the tall yellow grass is set in its boundaries. People are like that. Some are adventurous and some like the recliner, but I digress.
Last year, during Deer season I somehow misplaced a brand new insulated, reversible, camouflage hunting vest that I found on sale at the Sportsmen’s Mecca of the Ozarks. I hunted high and low, questioned my son extensively about his choice of equipment during gun season, sorry Jeff and finally gave it up as lost. I had asked God to help me find it numerous times as I searched in vain and behold today was the day. As I approached my tree clump my keen hunter’s eye spotted evidence of someone’s having used my stand without my knowledge as there on the ground laid some sort of camouflaged thing.
Of course you have figured out by now it was my long lost vest left there while I pursued big game on foot last November, you know, the “rolled to my knees” story. As muddy, smelly and unrecognizable as it was with small sprouts actually growing from the fleece I shook it vigorously and hauled it home in the back of the truck. I will attest to the toughness of polyester in its ability to fend off the elements. A simple wash and dry and we are friends once again.
I have friends that are like camouflage polyester. I don’t see them for a year and when we finally meet again it takes no time to catch up and suddenly it’s like we never parted. Here’s to them for, like a patient hunting vest they are indeed good friends.
I went trout fishing the other day. Actually fourteen of us fished for four days on Lake Taneycomo near Branson, Missouri. This was our twenty-fifth year for this trip and the usual suspects showed up, kids, brothers and friends.
We floated the lake in an array of boats catching trout, we polished some props in the gravel, we ran out of gas but surprisingly no one went in the water. One night we watched a Ferret cruise the dock looking for a meal and saw an Otter swimming the outside looking for the same thing. All while sitting in the back of someone’s boat under the dock catching trout in the dark.
This is the time one really gets to know a friend, when there is nothing much to do but talk. It’s dark and cold, because the water’s only forty-six degrees, fish are busting the surface all around. Ahhh, if we’d only had a campfire…
We saw sunny skies, rain, wind, a hundred other boats and three times that number of fishermen. We motored to the dam through a maze of currents and water only about a foot deep in places. Fly flingers, bottom draggers, finesse jiggers... we all caught trout.
Did I mention it was all you can eat rib month at Rib Crib? That was a long noisy table what with all the laughing, talking and smacking. I lost count of the number of ribs I ate but I am sure I also lost the contest. We met a guy named Doug Gabriel there too. He was handing out passes to his show down on the strip. Nice fella with an equally impressive pair of boots on his feet. I’m sure his show was a good one but we were all so full of ribs and, well you know how sleepy one gets after tying on the feed bag following a hard day on the water.
Sleeping that close to the water is just plain peaceful. Always cool and quiet with the birds gently waking you at five every morning. Oh well I had to go fishing anyway. If you haven’t figured it out yet this was a fishing trip. No shows or shopping. No night life other than the occasional ice cream cone after supper. In the twenty-five years of making this trip we have had about the same crowd with the same idea, fish till you drop then when you wake up do it again.
We’ve always taken our own food, except for the ribs and always let the cook go for free, he’s done it fourteen years straight now. He even has two menus so we don’t have to eat the same thing every three-hundred-sixty-five days. We’ve witnessed Lilleys Landing Resort go through it’s growing pains to become a wonderful place to stay and we’ve watched Phil and Marsha’s kids get bigger each year until now they’re practically running the place. We missed Jerry Lilley this year. He’s with Jesus now as well as three or four of our original fishing crew and of course we told stories about them all over again this year. People just look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them my friend always Bob threw his fishing rod overboard when he’d had enough, every year. One year Gary caught it and gave it back to him. Bob took that one home that year. Bob embarked on his final life journey to meet the Lord that year after a long battle with cancer. He never made it back to the lake.
I hope that someday the people I love will continue to do the things we do, like fish and hunt and take kids to the zoo and ride motorcycles. But I hope they will remember that we all made each other’s lives a little bit richer just by being together while doing something we loved. I hugged all my kids that weekend and that beats all the fish in the world.
My wife, Linnet’s father, Harvey Gaither passed away this past Tuesday from his third bout with cancer. He was a real trooper, as they say in dealing with it. He kept his composure and his sense of humor and spoke of it very frankly. When the time came he had everything in order he could have thought of and was surrounded by family. That seems to be all there is to say, on the surface.
During the days afterward the outpouring of love and support from friends and family was overwhelming. People came by, brought food, soft drinks, prayer blankets, hugs. We even got a box of farm fresh eggs. This went on in each household directly connected to this loss. Harvey had many friends.
My father in law touched many lives in his time on earth. He kept the books at Sun Graphics for thirty some years and knew everyone who ever worked there and kept in contact with many after his retirement. He also poured his time and support into the church and more pointedly into the kids. He thoroughly enjoyed the teen quizzing program and even challenged the kids to a contest once that ended up with him coming to church on Sunday morning dressed as Papa Smurf, blue face, white beard and all to announce the quiz meet results.
I remember washing dishes and ending up running around the yard with him popping each other with wet tea towels like a couple of kids. We staked a goat in his yard and a sign on his roof for his fiftieth birthday. He loved it. He cooked hamburgers for the whole family so many times and looked after his kids and grandkids constantly. He fathered three daughters and raised six. He had heart to heart talks with his sons-in-law and always wanted to see the Deer I got.
So many people don’t have the opportunity to live around such folks. I did, from the time I was nineteen and feel as though I was unfairly blessed. We will really miss him in the years to come and we will strive to meet him in heaven. But the real lesson here is I watched a man grow and help people grow, live and help people live and I hope that when I am gone from this earth someone will be able to say the same about me.
I went to a funeral today. It was not a normal funeral as one would think of as normal but rather something like I had never experienced before. This man was a veteran of the Vietnam War. He was just ten years older than I and had passed away in a nursing home. I was there because a friend had invited me to come along and basically keep him company.
I obliged him and we met shortly before 9:00AM and headed for the Ft. Scott National Cemetery. If you’ve never been there, it is quite a place to see. Row upon row of white headstones just like on T.V. with meticulous care taken to make the grounds look just so. I had driven through the cemetery on a couple of occasions but never had a reason to be there before.
When we arrived we were met by a man who led us to the ceremony sight where eight VFW Honor Guardsmen stood at attention. We unloaded the casket, draped with a US flag and they escorted it to the proper place under the canopy.
Military rights were afforded, prayers were offered and a beautiful rendition of taps was played. Salutes were snapped at the proper time and the flag was properly folded and placed upon the casket.
I guess I haven’t told you that the people I’ve mentioned here were the only ones in attendance. This veteran had no family, no wife, no kids, no nieces or nephews. No close friends to come pay their respects. The national cemetery provided the plot and needed services upon proof of his being a veteran. The funeral home, knowing there would be no payment provided their services anyway because it was the right thing to do.
I did not know this man, I saw his name but did not recognize it but I was thinking the whole time how sad it was that this man died alone save a few acquaintances from the nursing home. I cannot imagine being that utterly alone and facing death here on earth. I’ll admit I shed a tear during taps as I stood with my hand over my heart and these old soldiers saluted with shaking hands genuinely sorry to see one of their own being buried in this lonely manner.
I played no part in this event, like I said I was just “along for the ride” but I am ever so much more honored to have had the opportunity to witness this military sendoff of a boots on the ground nature, if you will. I am also thankful that in this country fraught with so much turmoil there are still people willing to take time out of their busy lives to see to it that a soldier, whom nobody knew was given the proper honor and respect when he was laid to rest.
I am thankful for all the friends I have and especially for my family, without them I would not make it through my days here on earth. But mostly I am thankful for my God whose promise of eternal life would be enough for me had I been in this man’s situation. If you see an old soldier, be sure to tell him or her thanks. One never knows, that might be the last time they hear it.
So gun season has dawned and the Deer are, by now what one would call SKITTISH. I awoke at the crack of TOO DANG to discover it was 61 degrees outside. I immediately switched from long johns and sweat shirts to the more seasonal Hawaiian shirt and shorts.
I still had a Doe tag so I went out with my son Steve, who still had a buck tag this morning to a new place. I was in there on the previous Thursday and saw a mess of Does so I figured there must be a buck around somewhere...not. Not even a doe today.
But hunting is just that and not killing so we amused ourselves by counting and stalking the elusive Red Squirrel. I quit counting at fifty and as far as stalking, well we were the ones being stalked.
The impenetrable brush to the west of us produced a steady stream of the little tree rats and they delighted themselves with sneaking up on us and checking us out from the safety of a young Elm tree overhanging the creek sometimes four or five at a time.
If you've never had a Squirrel try to get you to move you have missed out. They bob and weave and cuss in rodentease while running from limb to limb all the while keeping a sharp eye out for any sudden movement on your part. Fortunately for us they could not get directly overhead or they would have dropped...well, stuff on us. And yes I have had that happen on occasion.
Anyway the squirrels and the Deer won today, I guess I don't mind losing once in a while since that means I get to try again. They say the brain of a deer, and for that matter a Squirrel is greatly inferior to that of a human...Obviously scientists don't hunt.
My Dads Deer rifle was a Ruger RL in 257 Roberts. He accurized it himself and, boy could he drive tacks with it. Then one day he got the itch to improve it again. We took it to an old friend of his named Marion Reed who lived along Butler Creek near Bartlesville, Oklahoma, a gunsmith of no small talent. He had it a week and viola a 257 Ackley Improved. 117 grain bullets now flew at 3100 fps. He charged $100.00 because he had to make the cutting tools first.
Marion Reed did a lot of work for the late Frank Phillips and his son and at one time had an exhibit at the Woolaroc museum near Pawhuska, Oklahoma in his honor.
I was hunting with this rifle one day and I scanned the woods with the thought in the back of my mind that since it was near the end of deer season this place was hunted out. I managed to make it to the west side just before dark and low and behold...Deer. One, two, three...fourteen Deer, and a couple of them bucks, were just standing... in the middle of a cut field... 300 yards away... on property across the fence.
Hmmm... Think fast boy. I called the owner of the property I was hunting and asked for the number of his neighbor. Then I called him and told him I was looking over his fence at fourteen deer. He just simply asked “why don't you shoot one of them”. I'm pretty sure I said thanks before I hung up.
Taking a rest with Dads rifle over a post, I leveled down. Gloves, they get in my way. I usually don't wear them when I hunt but my left hand gets cold real fast anymore.
I bit my middle finger trying to pull the right one off, picked out the biggest Doe and... well, let's just say that Dad's old gun performed like he would have wanted it to.
A long shot is no big deal for an expert marksman, but I never claimed to be that and I guess it goes to show that an expert's gun can make anyone look good.
I looked skyward and thanked the Lord for a deer to eat, then said quietly, thanks Dad.