Monday, February 8, 2016

A Riverview hunting story on me

Many, many years ago, we had the flu virus strike a bunch of our guides right in the heart of hunting season. Our folks are all very loyal, and will go as hard as they can even when sick, but this was a very virulent form of the flu. We had about five guides out with 102+ fevers, and we were desperate. I managed to call in two retired guides, one neighbor. Plus our manager, Aaron and I both had to hunt.

I should have smelled a rat when at least six guides each offered me two of their best dogs. Back in those days we only put six dogs in the jeep rather than the 8-10 each guide carries now in his jeep. At any rate, I was most grateful to get 6 "good" dogs. I asked Aaron to assign me to the Eastwoods hunting course since it was virtually in my backyard where I grew up, and I knew where every covey of quail tended to congregate on that course. Now might be a good time to also point out that the Eastwoods is also the hunting course that is closest to our dog kennels.

At any rate, I started my morning with a great deal of confidence as I dropped out my first brace of hunting dogs. That was also the last time I saw that pair for the entire morning. They tore out like "scalded dogs" straight to the comfort of their kennel,bed, and food. I began to get a sense of foreboding that this might not be a good morning for me.

I decided to drive the jeep to the back side of the course prior to turning the next pair of champions out. We did not have electronic collars back then; so I stood by the jeep ready to tackle the first dog that made a dash for home. I need not have worried as evidently this pair of dogs were trained to hunt only one thing, and that was the jeep! No matter how much I whistled, cajoled, and begged, they merely plodded right behind the rear wheels of the jeep. It was now approaching 10:00 am, and my guests had not fired a shot. They were getting restless, and I was mortified.

At that point I figured that I had nothing to lose; so I kenneled my jeep trackers, and dropped out my last pair of dogs. I do not remember the second dog's name, but the first one was named Henry. I had asked each guide to give me a name and description of the dogs I would be hunting. It is important to note Henry's name because one of my guests that morning was also named Henry. These last two dogs could hunt. However, somewhere in his training program, the dog, Henry, had decided that it was his job to flush the birds just before the hunters could get in position or range for a decent shot.

Finally it happened. Henry the dog flushed a covey out ahead of us while Henry the man took a desperation shot. In my frustration, I yelled, " Henry, you S.O.B.". Mr. Henry looked at me and yelled right back, " I'm shooting as good as I can". To which I promptly replied. " I wasn't yelling at you, Mr. Henry. I was yelling at the dog. I would never call a man with a loaded shotgun an S.O.B.".

It was at that point in time that I resorted to an extreme measure that I had sworn I would never do, As I watched Henry the dog merrily chasing this covey to the next hunting course, I borrowed Mr.Henry's shotgun, and shot Henry the dog in the rump from a distance that I deemed would only sting him and get his attention. Well, it worked, and I made a Christian out of that dog. We managed to come in with 21 birds, and I was just delighted not to be the first guide at Riverview to ever come in with no birds on a hunt.

Thank goodness, one of our regular guides felt good enough to go after lunch, and I removed myself from the line-up, but I never forgot the three guides who each gave me a pair of their "best" dogs.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Gun safety

Sometimes I find myself praying," Lord please wrap your arms around my shoulders, and place your hand over my mouth". I know that He has His arms around my shoulders, but I fear that He quite often removes His hand from my mouth. As any of you who have ever visited Riverview know, we are absolute fanatics about gun safety here. We shot our first safety video here in 1976, and are now on our sixth iteration. I wrote our first guide training manual in 1974, and we give each group an individual safety briefing at breakfast on the first morning. We also require all of our guests to shoot some clay targets so that we can observe their gun handling skills prior to going out in the field.

That is kind of a brief introduction to state the fact that I "fear" a shotgun, and I'm using the word "fear" as the Bible does in the sense of extreme respect and awe. When I was 17 years old, I had the misfortune of witnessing my Dad's best friend drop a loaded shotgun on the ground, and the gun fired into his stomach. I was the first one to get to him, and there was absolutely nothing that I could do to save him. My toughest job here is to convince my experienced hunters that a shotgun is just as deadly today as the first day they ever were taught how to shoot. Most novice hunters are scared of the gun as we all should be.

In closing, let me share a funny story to illustrate my point. I was so blessed for many years to be able to hunt with both my father and son at the same time. One day as we were walking off the field from a dove hunt, Cader IV eased over to me and commented, " Dad, Pop, which is what he called my father, doesn't carry his shotgun like you say we should". Both Cader IV and I had our guns broken down and empty. I glanced over at my Dad, and he was carrying a loaded shotgun in the classic "suit case carry" style. I told Cader IV, " You are absolutely correct; so you tell him".

Monday, February 1, 2016

Politics

I think that we all know where the word "politics" is derived from. It's a combination of the word "poly" meaning many, and "tics" meaning blood sucking leeches. I have found it interesting to also learn that a gathering of baboons is called a " Congress". Do you see a pattern developing here?

But, what I do not know is what a "Caucus" is, and why the state of Iowa is so all fired important. To me the word "caucus" invokes the sound of a bunch of crows which we all know to be scavengers and the bane of the bird world. In my youth, I loved to hunt crows. I would always try to cripple the first bird, and then shoot the others as they responded to the wounded bird's cries. I lived in a pecan orchard, and the crows were eating us out of our hard earned money, much like today's politicians.

That got me to thinking that maybe I should fly out to Iowa, and just try to cripple one of the scavengers vying for the job as president. Just in case NSA is reading this blog, I'm just teasing. Speaking of Iowa, I read that 43% of the citizens of Iowa identified themselves as socialists. Surely this can'be ! We are talking about the corn growing heartland of America. I mean we are talking about God, apple pie, hard working farmers, and the American Way here.

If we have to have another form of government, I'm about ready to switch to a benevolent dictatorship. I don't want to be the dictator, but I do want to be his best friend. However, I would much prefer to see our country return to our roots of what made us the greatest nation on earth !

OK, in my next blog, I will return to some subject that I may know something about since political science is obviously not my field of expertise.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

This & That

There are two employees who work here whom I have never met, but would certainly like to do so. Their names are " I don't Know" and "Not me". Whenever a piece of equipment goes missing or is damaged , I always ask who did this, and it's always one of those two guys mentioned above. I've never seen their names on a pay check, but they must be very active Riverview employees.

I'm often asked when I'm gong to write my memoirs of my career at Riverview, and my answer is always the same, " The statute of limitations has not run on all of the perpetrators yet". However, I have decided to share two stories this morning, one involving a guide and one involving guests.

I was sitting at my desk many years ago when a guide called me and asked if I could come pick up a dog of his. Before I continue with this story, please know that our guides go through an extensive training program before they are ever allowed to take paying guests out. This training program includes one month of class work, one month of field work, a two week apprenticeship riding with an experienced guide, and then he must pass a trial hunt. The trial hunt is always the owners or managers pretending to be paying guests, and we try to do everything wrong that we can do to see if our young man is ready. So now back to the story. I drove out to the course to pick up the dog, and the guide met me with his dog way back from the guests. The exchange went like this; " What's wrong with the dog", I said. To which he responded, " There is nothing wrong with the dog. I'm lost. I've ridden around this field three times, and can't find my way into my course, and the guests are getting suspicious". I pointed out a small  trail leading down a steep hill, and told him that he would find the Cabbage Patch hunting course opening up on him when he got to the bottom of the hill.

He let out a big sigh, and started back to the jeep with the dog, and I had to say," Whoa, Bubba, you told the guests that dog was sick; so I need to take him back with me". " But, that's one of my best dogs", he responded. I told him that he should have chosen a second stringer to drag with him, but that I had to have the dog. At any rate, he found his course, had a great hunt, the guests were happy, and never smelled a rat.

 The next story involves two gentlemen who had never seen a shotgun or a quail. Their company sent them down here to check us out. Why you would send two non-hunters to check out a hunting operation, I will never figure out. But, there are a lot of things that large companies do that make very little sense to me. We showed them our safety video, taught them how to shoot, and put them with our most experienced guide who had been forewarned that they didn't know a thing about quail hunting. Just before they climbed on the jeep, I added an admonition that I have rarely ever uttered to any guests. I very sternly said, " You listen carefully to the guide, do everything he says, and do everything he does".

Well, they returned three hours later. They had shot six boxes of shells, and had killed five birds. They were thrilled, but I could tell that my guide was about to bust wide open to share something. When they went back to their cottage, Wayne said, "Boss, they can't shoot a lick, but they sure can follow directions". I asked him to expound on that a bit. He told me that when he flushed the first covey of quail, he squatted to the ground to make himself a smaller target, and waited for the shots that never came. When he glanced to his left and right, both guys had hunkered down on the ground just like he was doing. I guess that " do what he does" might have been misconstrued a bit.

That's all for now, folks!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Weather

One of my young friends who goes to church with me took me to task this past Sunday about writing so much about old age. That is easy for him to say since he's a specimen of a young man in the prime of his life. But, in deference to my young friend, I'm going to leave that subject alone for a while with one caveat; I want to quote my old friend and late, great Southern humorist, Lewis Grizzard, who wrote a book titled, "Elvis is dead and I don't feel so good myself anymore". I miss Lewis. He was a great satirical writer, and I have every book he ever wrote.

However, I will move on to the subject at hand, the weather. As I am writing this, I am watching what the weather channel is calling  a snow storm of epic proportions moving in on the Atlantic east coast. I hate that for you folks who live north of the " Smith &Wesson" line, but I will remind you that all of life is a trade off. We have the heat, humidity, and gnats in the summer, but we are looking at crisp, cold hunting days, and green grass at the moment. Should you desire to escape that white stuff for a few days, give us a call.

I have also been seeing some temperatures in the far northern part of the U.S. that have a minus in front of the numbers. I think that because we grow up in the south, our blood must be thinner than Yankees. I'm reasonably certain that I could not survive a negative temperature. Maybe that is how y'all won the "War of Northern Aggression" by making us rebels fight on cold ground. I bet our poor soldiers froze before they could mount their rifles.

In closing I will quote my old friend Lewis Grizzard again who spent one year in Chicago working for a newspaper up there. Lewis said," Chicago has two seasons--The Fourth of July and Winter". I'm glad that I live in the south, but please don't remind me of this comment in August.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Winter half of season

Well, Mother Nature finally decided that it was time for winter here. We spent Christmas Day here at an all time, record breaking high of 82 degrees. However, this week we finally had our first killing frost. As many of you know, I go to a little country church located in this community. There are actually a good many folks in my church who are older than me. I have asked all of them if they ever remembered a year that we went this late without a hard frost, and they all answered with a resounding,"NO".

Now some of you may not know this, but the toughest day of the hunting season for our bird dogs to pick up the scent of quail is about three days after the first killing frost. That is because that is the day that the grass and weeds that were killed by the frost begin to sour and stink. That smell tends to mask the scent of the quail for the dogs, and they have a tough time for that one day or possibly two. That day occurred here yesterday. I was pleasantly surprised with the number of coveys located, and the number of dead birds retrieved, but the guides all noticed it and commented on the problems the dogs were having.

Speaking of hunting, I have always found it interesting to hear the disparity in what the guests say about how many coveys they moved compared to what the guides say. I've often heard guests say that they didn't see very many birds.This situation almost always occurs when a group comes in with a very low bag limit. I usually just quietly ease over to that jeep, and count the empty boxes of shells. As best I can figure, these hunters must be shooting at a lot of sparrows and black birds during the hunt because there are a lot of empty shell boxes on the jeep not to have seen many quail.

I think that it is just human nature to want to blame our lack of shooting ability on anything except ourselves. Well, this week, I felt like Diogenes who went around searching for a truthful man. We had a guest come in from his hunt with a very small bag of quail. I was just waiting for it, but he got off the jeep and promptly said, " We saw tons of quail, had plenty of opportunities, the guide and dog work was superb, but we could not hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle". Eureka, an honest hunter !

In closing, I continue to watch the goings on in Washington with complete bafflement. Evidently, common sense is a flower that does not grow in everyone's garden !

Monday, January 11, 2016

Rambling thoughts

There is an old country music song that has a line I love which goes, " Life's a dance you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, and sometimes you follow". I've always believed that we should never stop trying to learn. However, I have discovered as I get older, that I find myself following more often than leading. In this age of rapid technology advances I find that I have difficulty keeping up . As one of my friends so aptly stated," Cader, you are slowly coming into the 21st century about 16 years after the 20th century ended".

Some of the things I have learned in no particular order are: First, I was wrong to resist the switch to using these little English Cocker dogs for flushing and retrieving birds here. This has been a true game changer here. It has improved both the safety and quality of the hunts at Riverview.

I've learned that I only have to be away from Riverview for a couple of days to realize how beautiful these big piney woods, and moss draped oak trees are. I love to hear the sound of the wind blowing through the tops of the big pines.

I've learned that it is much easier to run an organization than watch one's son do it. However, I had a great role model in my father who would offer me advice, but never tried to snatch the baton back after it had been passed. I believe that I'm doing the same thing, but Pop never told me how hard that would be.

I've learned that there are truly no friends like old friends. While I have been blessed to have the best friends in the world, those with long histories seem to be the ones that both know and love you, warts and all.

I have learned that no matter how lousy my day has been or what my problems are, a smile, a kiss, and an "I love you,Papa" from one of my grandchildren make the problems fade away.
 And finally, this is not something that I have learned, but it is something that I have always known---Our guests are all successful people, and successful people are the easiest people in the world to deal with. I would not trade our guests for any group anywhere.
 Have a great 2016 everyone!