Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reporting From Here in the Woods



-->      It is Thursday morning and I am sitting in one of my old deer-stands high above the ground on a beautiful fall day, writing this column in a little tablet.  I don’t do much writing from the woods any more but I use to do it a lot, in the time before computers. Back then I would hand-write something and take it home and let Gloria Jean type it for me.  I sold lots and lots of magazine articles that way.  Gloria Jean is by far the best wife I have ever had for that reason alone; disregarding the fact she isn’t much of a cook.
         I have never bragged on her cooking unless she was right there and I had to do it.  There are times a husband has to lie, you understand.  But I am not lying when I say that when she was 18 she was absolutely gorgeous… and very shy.  How many times, when you were young, did you meet a beautiful girl who was quiet and shy?  But in addition to that, she could type more than 100 words a minute and not hardly ever make a mistake!  About three months after I met her I asked her to type a very important manuscript for me that I had written out in the woods the previous turkey season.

         Some college girls had offered to type that manuscript for 4 or 5 cents a word and Gloria did it for nothing.  While most guys back then jumped into marriage without giving it a thought, I considered all the pluses and minuses to it.  Here I have met this beautiful and quiet girl who thinks I am the greatest thing since the electric typewriter and she will type my stuff free.  I got to thinking that in my writing career I might write a million words and she might save me whatever a million nickels are worth.  On the minus side, there was the cooking difficulty, but back then you could get Colonel Sanders chicken dinners for a buck seventy-five.
 It was a good move on my part.  Gloria Jean can type better than ever and she is still fairly good looking considering all these years of typing and organizing and trying to help me keep track of my socks. That first manuscript she typed went to Outdoor Life magazine and it brought me fifteen hundred dollars.  It was chosen by a big New York publishing company as the best outdoor article of 1973 and published as the only outdoor article in a book of award winning sports stories.  The book publisher sent me another fifteen hundred dollars and from that point Outdoor Life and Field and Stream magazines bought everything I sent them, typed and looking extra professional all because of Gloria Jean's typing ability   

      Can you imagine what it was like to some Ozark country boy whose biggest payday was on a hay-crew, to see three thousand dollars for something he had written in an hour or so leaning up against a tree waiting to hear a turkey gobble. That story was entitled, “Old Paint, the Story of a Wooden Johnboat.  You can read it a book of short stories I published 15 years ago entitled, “Ain’t No Such Animal”.  If you write ‘enquiring’ about ‘acquiring’ it, you may get information about all nine of my books in a neatly typed letter from Gloria Jean!  The only trouble is, she sells all my books way too cheap and with my autograph no less.  She says that after all these years, she ought to know more than anyone else what my stuff is worth!


Doggone it, I was so intent on writing that I let a deer slip past me.  Still, it has been a good day.  A bluejay lit only feet from me on a hickory branch.  Thankfully he didn’t give that dreaded alarm call bluejays are famous for.  He put forth a musical double note something like ‘O-link’, and then flew away.  When you see one that close it is amazing how magnificent they are in color and size.  I also see a group of wild turkeys off in the trees a hundred yards or so away.  There are 6 or 7 big ones, so I think all of them are gobblers.  It is easy to track their movement, since one is snow white.  I would like to see him closer to see if he is a true albino, but I doubt it.
         The white ones, the gray ones, are no more than the result of tame turkeys crossing with wild ones.  If you hear someone say they are a result of wild genetics, they are full of baloney.  If you go into the deep mountains of Arkansas where the genetics are purer than any I’ve ever seen, you will never see a gray or white turkey unless it is indeed a true albino. You also won’t see any 24 pounders!

         As I watch that white turkey gleaming through the trees, it makes me realize that he likely is going to have a hard time surviving with that bright white color.  Too easy to be seen by bobcats, owls, etc. Of course he should do well when it snows!  But somewhere in his ancestry, some wild, ne’er do well wild gobbler convinced a gullible tame white turkey hen that life was better in the woods, scrounging for acorns.  I understand that… it is sort of what I did with Gloria Jean.
         Someone asked why, since I am so critical of ‘trophy hunters’ that I would shoot bucks in preference to does.  Usually I take one of each during the season.   But on my place in St. Clair county, I don’t shoot does at all because the deer numbers there are not strong.  That’s a result of the old man who owned it before me shooting everything that he saw, well more than his limit.  He traded those extra deer to some local Amish people for work, or furniture.  He shot many of them out of his window, and they were all does or young of the year.
         The deer population there need to build back a little. One or two bucks are capable of siring fawns with a number of does, so if you kill a buck, you do not harm the potential to increase deer numbers. But where I hunt in another county I see a thriving deer herd where it doesn’t hurt a thing to shoot a doe for the venison.  When you start talking about ‘managing’ a state deer herd, the whole idea is a little bit ridiculous. A landowner knows what deer numbers he has and two tracts of land several counties apart are entirely different.  Deer numbers go up and down, and the late summer blue-tongue disease can really affect that in some regions, as it did a few years back.
         Our Department of Conservation had that big doe kill-off about 10 or 12 years ago because insurance companies were so upset about car collisions with deer.  They all insisted that it was due to an over-population of deer.  No one even talked about a 30 percent rapid increase in auto traffic.  That attitude back then really hit some deer populations hard, as a lot of hunters killed 8 or10 does per season.  But deer numbers bounce back in time if a landowner wants them to.  On my place, there will be more deer next year and the next because I know how to make it happen.  You do not ‘manage’ a statewide deer herd; you manage smaller pockets of deer on defined tracts or farms.  If you are an on-the-land manager, it is easy to do.

         Well I think I am going to climb down and go home, deerless BUT...NOT DEARLESS!  

1 comment:

"M" said...

Dang! Man you scored. And I don't mean the fish.

Like your articles in the Christian County Headliner. We hav e some interesting critters here in the county. I usually encounter them in the Commissioners office.

Ray Weter

And by the way, my wife practices ( well she doesn't really "practice" ) anesthesia at CMH.