Fishing With Faith (A will to live)

Did you ever wonder why every fish fights for its life on the end of a hook? Why is it that all living creatures have this inherent desire to survive?? Why is it that we don’t just curl up and surrender our lives when faced with imminent danger? We’ve all been given a special purpose in our life and that purpose is often shrouded in mystery and occasionally highjacked by the devil along the way. I often wonder why Jesus went to the sea and chose fishermen for his first disciples. He didn’t really require their boats for travel with his ability to walk on water. Peter and his friends were terrible fisherman, so I don’t think it was because of their skill set but perhaps it was because of a fisherman’s willingness to accept failure and continue coming back armed only with the faith of a successful tomorrow. –Jim Farmer

The St. James Hotel

My stay was just a brief 3 months at the St. James Hotel in downtown Miami, Ok. in the spring of 1982 but the memory is now 40 years old, and I can still vividly remember one evening in particular that may have changed my life forever. It was a Friday and a buddy had told me about a little place off the road along Horse Creek a few miles before the creek dumped into Grand Lake……

A Hometown Hero

When I saw this picture all those memories I had as a child came flooding back to me and I had to say something about this man. The man who brought me into this world.

When I was a young kid growing up, I developed very bad allergies. I couldn’t eat normal food and was restricted to nothing but rice and a few other foods. I was allergic to things like flour, corn, dairy products, plants, animals and a whole host of other things. If I would have an allergic reaction, it was pretty bad. My lungs would immediately fill with fluid and sometimes I would pass out as a result. For a little kid to experience this day after day, it wasn’t the kind of childhood someone would want. I had to take shots every week and it was hard to find things that I could eat without a reaction. As a result of the allergies, my lungs were always congested and at times I really struggled to breath. I developed pneumonia a few times and one time I had to spend days in the hospital under an oxygen tent for double pneumonia. There were times when I could barely breath and struggled to draw a breath because of the asthma caused by the allergies. This continued for years until I grew out of most of the allergies.

Our little town had a doctor by the name of Wesley Hall, and he was my hometown hero because when I got sick, Dr. Hall would come out to our little house, day or night and get us fixed up. I’ll never forget that face standing over me a looking down at me with a smile and a diagnosis. Just the mere fact that he was in my presence made me feel better. I don’t know how many times doctor Hall got me patched up when I was a kid, but I can say that had it not been for this man as my doctor I don’t think I would have seen my 18th birthday. He truly had healing hands.

My dad was one of my biggest heroes in life, and he taught me a lot, but to be perfectly honest, because of those healing hands, Dr Hall was actually my biggest hero. I know Doctor Hall is in heaven now and what a glorious time for him. When I get there, he’s one of the first people I’m going to hug.

RIP Doctor Hall, you were a Hometown hero to a lot of us kids growing up.

The History of Cast Away Cove

It’s been at least 10 years since Lisa, and I found a little piece of lake property for sale during a time when the lake level was down more than 10 feet and the dock for the property was sitting on dry land. There were some young renters that were occupying the small doublewide trailer and the dwelling was in pretty bad shape. Still, it was lake property and something both Lisa and I had dreamed of owning one day. The property had been on the market for a while, and it was getting ready to drop off the listing again. The seller had come down on the price, but he had no takers. I didn’t really want to make the investment, but Lisa really thought it would be worth it one day. We made an offer on the property and it was accepted by the seller.

Once we took ownership of the property we went to work with a total remodel and replaced the old dock as well as installing rip rap at the water’s edge. In that same time frame the rains came and the lake filled to full pool, and we had plenty of water in our little cove to float the dock. Since that time, which was more than 10 years ago, our dock hasn’t seen dry land once. Lisa and I spent 6-7 years using the little lake house as a weekender for us, friends and family members. Some reading this may have stayed in our little lake house we appropriately named Cast Away Cove because of my tackle business (Cast Away Bait and Tackle) and the little cove the property was on. Here are some pictures of Cast Away Cove from years ago.

We had always wondered if we could build on the property and the prospect of building a new home was always something in the back of our minds. Around 2016 we started investigating the possibility of building a new home on the property, but we ran into a big roadblock that concerned the installation of a new and larger septic system. In order to expand a septic system, you need to have a certain amount of undisturbed soil and on the side of a hill you are required to have a holding type tank and pumping system. When we had the soil tests done, we didn’t have the room and there were too many large rocks to put in a larger septic system.

At that point we decided to sell the property and purchase a permanent existing lake home, but the market was tough, and it was hard to invest our money into something that was already 20 years old. We placed the lake house on the market, but we had no takers and eventually took it back off the market when a tree fell on our dock during hurricane Irma. We had the dock repaired and just before we were going to place it back on the market an area very near our property was developed and some townhomes were built just a few hundred yards from our lake house. Lisa and I did some investigating and found out the townhomes were located inside the city limits, but our house was in the county. It was a long shot, but we were hoping there were city sewer lines near our house from the construction of the townhomes and we could somehow tap into the city sewer even though we were in the county. Originally, we had been told through hearsay that it couldn’t be done because it was commercial type sewer system. We wanted to find out for ourselves, so we set up a meeting with the Cumming City Utility Dept. and pleaded our case. They were very understanding and there was actually a sewer line very near our road and it was just a matter of running the sewer line down our street and we, as well as our neighbors could hook up to city sewer. It was like a dream come true when the guys at the city utility department said that we could build the biggest house we wanted, and they would provide the sewer services to our property!!

Next was finding a house plan and Lisa and I looked at a bunch but settled on a plan we both agreed to. We both scanned design after design on a website called Architectual Designs. They had hundreds of designs and we settled on one after weeks of looking and looking and looking. Turns out that the architect (Garrell and Associates) for the plan we finally agreed on lives near the lake, and we were able to modify the plan to fit our property. Once we settled on a plan it was time for a builder. We found Coal Mountain Builders were local folks and we liked the custom homes they had built in the past on the lake, so we signed the building contract and scheduled the build. We broke ground in the early spring of 2018, and we were in our new home by Christmas. Here’s pictures of the tear down of the old and subsequent build of the new Cast Away Cove lake house.

Skinning the Cat

Years ago, when my dad was still living, every year for his birthday I’d take him down to West Point Lake and Highland Marina to stay in their floating dock house and do a little fishing for a few days. I remember when I was a little kid growing up my dad always took the time to take me fishing so I thought I would return the favor for his birthday in October every year after he retired. We had some good times down at West Point and the cabin we always stayed at was a floating cabin, so it made it very easy for my dad to get in and out of the boat. The back door to the cabin was about 3 steps from our docked boat so it was very convenient, especially as my dad got older and didn’t get around as well.

Back then I was a striper fisherman, and I netted my own bait at West Point when we went. Bait wasn’t very hard to find, and we could usually set out my Hydro-glow light at the cabin dock and net as much bait as we wanted, but if we needed more, I could usually find it back behind the marina where the water got very shallow and muddy. That’s where the gizzard shad liked to hang out. I could usually get a lot of threadfin shad to come to my Hydro-glow light just before dawn but netting the gizzards was usually a bit more of a chore, especially if you didn’t know where to find them. I had a few places back in some pockets behind the marina that usually produced the gizzards we were looking for though.

Fishing on West Point in October can be pretty good if you know where the fish are hanging out. Usually by October the fish are in the river along a stretch just north of the lake proper and it’s just a matter of using your electronics to find them. Once you’ve found them, that’s where the live bait comes in. I would put out live bait on downlines, freelines and my planer boards, which I manufactured and sold. We would usually have an average of about 6-8 lines in the water at one time which isn’t really uncommon for striper fishermen. The more lines you have out, the better your chances. It can be fun and when you find the schools of stripers and you can be busy for a while.

My dad used to love catching fish and sometimes we would be on so many fish he would be reeling in fish one after another. The stripers were usually 3-5lbs in size and they were perfect if we wanted to keep a few for filets to take back home. When we were growing up my dad did not believe in killing anything for sport or releasing fish if they were edible. His thoughts on guns were that they were only to be used for self-preservation, whether it was nourishment or self-defense and his thoughts on fishing was that you keep everything you caught. Sometimes we would catch 50 fish in a days’ time, and I told him that if he wanted to keep his limit, he was going to be fileting his limit; soon after that he decided that catch and release was kinda fun and within the confines of the law.

Growing up, we had a little 5-acre farm on the outskirts of town and my dad was very frugal. We didn’t have a lot of money and we would McIver everything or make do with what we had. We were always Gerry rigging something to get the job done so sometimes you had to think outside the box. My dad used to say, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat“. Kinda scary phrase when your young and your old man believed in eating anything and everything that had 4 legs, fur, skin or scales. We didn’t eat any cats that I’m aware of, but he did use that phrase a lot when he would be working on something and found a fix.

So anyway, back to West Point. There was one year that we went to West Point in October, and we couldn’t find the fish in the river that year. This was a year that it was still unseasonably hot, and a lot of stripers were still either down lake or way up the river, beyond where we could have gone so we chose to fish the lake that year. The first day of fishing, bait wasn’t a problem as I went behind the marina in a small cut, and we found the mother lode of 3–4-inch gizzard shad. They were so packed back in the pocket, I could fill my 8-footer with one bad throw. After getting bait we set out to find the fish, but we struggled to find any fish at all. The fish seemed to be scattered and we spent all day on the lake without much luck. Speaking of luck, I remembered a scene in the movie “Titanic” when the villain, Billy Dane says “I believe in making my own luck“. Such a cool phrase from one of my favorite villain actors. Well, by the end of the day we hadn’t caught any decent a fish, and I wasn’t not going to be satisfied with bringing my dad down to the lake for his birthday and not watch him catch plenty of fish. I believe in making my own luck so that evening I came up with a plan. I told my dad that we had plenty of bait at our disposal, so we were going to pack our bait tank full of gizzard shad and also pack a few 5-gallon buckets full of the netted gizzards and take them down lake in what I called the “bait relocation program”.

Early the next morning we went back to the gizzard hole, and we netted gizzards by the hundreds and put them in my big 50 gallon bait tank and the buckets of water. The bait was overpopulated in the buckets and tank but still alive for the quick move. I went down lake with the bait and I found a bay that had a west wind and waves blowing right into the bay. I positioned the boat at the mouth of the bay and started slowly driving across the mouth of the bay while we were releasing scoops of disoriented gizzard shad across the mouth of the bay. I believe some may call this technique “baiting the hole” but for this story we’re going to call this “skinning the cat“. That’s the plan I came up with. We scattered lively, half dead and disoriented gizzard shad across the mouth of the bay and let the wind-blown waves scatter the bait into the bay. At that point I told my dad that we were going to take a break and let nature do its thing.

We centered my 21-foot Carolina Skiff right in the middle of the bay and before long we started seeing fish on the graph below the boat. I baited my dad’s downline with a small gizzard and as soon as he dropped it down under the boat, he had a fish on. I spent all day netting fish after fish for my dad. Just as soon as he would lower the bait, his rod would load up and he had another fish to fight. He must have caught 30, 40 or maybe 50 fish that day, as I have no idea, but I know he was worn slap out that night.

The next morning, we went back to the bay and to our amazement the fish were still in the area, so we spent the morning catching more fish with fresh bait I had netted before leaving for home. All in all it was a great trip for us filled with fish catching and laughs. Had we not come up with the idea of moving the bait to the fish we might have had an unproductive trip. It was very easy to pick off fish after fish by drawing in the numbers and just dropping one line down at a time to catch one fish time after time after time.

West Point was a lot of fun for my dad and I in his last years. I always wanted to make sure he knew how much I appreciated all the things he had done for me over the years when I was growing up. This video below was one of our last trips to West Point Lake. We were blessed.

The Handshake

It’s only happened a few times in my life but each time it has happened the memory has lasted my lifetime. I can remember the first time I felt that hand and it was my grandfathers hand. It was a hand that was hard and almost unshakable because of the size of the fingers and the hardened blisters that turn the skin to granite. It was a working mans hands. Hands that aren’t afraid of a hard days work and raising a God fearing Christian family. Hands that are full of love and faith.

I only knew James for a short period of my life but the first time I met Mr. Kelly and shook his hand I felt that old familiar feeling in that hand shake. He probably thought I was weird because it took me so long to let go of his hand as we talked but I was savoring every moment and I felt it all. Man, I felt it all. I felt the hard work, the kindness, the understanding, the knowledge and above all else, the faith. James quoted scripture and told me stories from the bible which related to our conversations just about every Sunday morning before church. James used to ask me every week, “How many fish did you catch this week”? After I would give him a number he would take a long pause and nod. It took me a while but I think James pondered if that number of fish could be turned into the number of men I could bring to Christ every week. I honestly think he was thinking that every week when he asked me that question, and he asked me that same question every week. We talked about many things during our short friendship but just having a conversation and a laugh or two with James was one of the many reasons I love our little church and church family.

Loss is a bitter sweet fact of life and we’re all going to miss James Kelly but Jesus has a special place in Heaven for James Kelly and when I get there I’m sure I’ll hear that beautiful voice once again and James and I will be able to catch up with those fish numbers. James was laid to rest in a little meadow behind our little church this past weekend so we can visit with him often.

Etowah Church

Most folks didn’t know this till now but a few years back Lisa and I were contemplating finding a church. We are both Christians and both brought up going to small churches. In our conversations Lisa suggested we both pray on it and we’ll get our answer. Lisa’s daughter Callie and her friends drove by this beautiful little church nestled on a hill along the banks of the Etowah River and they just loved the church surrounded by horse pastures and meadows along the river. Callie was engaged to be married and thought that the little church in the country would be a great place to be married so Lisa contacted the church and we made plans for a spring wedding at the church. When spring came we had the wedding there and it was beautiful. It was a great cermony and we couldn’t have asked for a better backdrop for a wedding.

After the wedding Lisa and I had discussed going to the little church some Sunday for their Sunday service although it was a pretty long drive for us. We never acted on it until late in the year when I got an invite to do a podcast from my friend Danny who was starting up a fishing podcast called “Fish North Georgia” and he and his friend Josh wanted me to come out one evening for an on air interview. I agreed and he gave me the address to the building where they did there podcast on a Thursday evening. When the evening came I wanted Lisa to drive me because it was raining and dark which makes it hard for me to navigate with bad eyes. Lisa agreed and off we went out to the country for the podcast appointment. Lisa was driving and I was navigating as we went. Lisa said, “remember the church where Callie got married”? I said yes and she replied “Well, I think it’s around that area. As we approached the address the rain was really coming down and when the gps lit up it said “You have reached your destination” just as the lights from my truck lit up the whole church. James Kelly had a big metal building behind the church and Danny and Josh were members of the church and had their podcast in James Kelly’s metal building every week. It took me a bit but the odds of landing back at the little church out in the country so far from home twice in a short period of time when Lisa and I were praying for an answer, well, it’s pretty astronomical in my view so Lisa and I had our answer and we have been attending our little church ever since.

On a final note, today is a very special day for me as it was one year ago today I was baptized in the Etowah River right next to our little church. It’s a sweet memory for me and I’m very happy that James Kelly was there. It was his and Linda’s land that led to that little spot on the river where I was baptized.

The Hawk and the Crows

I wrote this a while back and decided to put it on my blog. Try to be the hawk in life”.

The Hawk and the Crows…..I spend a lot of days on the lake now and as I’m going about my day I can’t help but see the occasional hawk flying around the lakeshore and nesting in nearby trees. We have a very large population of red tailed hawks around the lake and a lot of times the hawks will use the lake as their hunting grounds. I love to watch the hawks swoop down for a floating fish from time to time and often times I can see them in the trees working together to hunt squirrels and small ground type rodents. They have a shrill scream and can be heard from a long way away when they are hunting or communicating and it’s easy for me to get distracted from fishing to watch the hawks. Numerous times I’ve seen the big hawks flying over the lake and sometimes hoovering around the big hawks are one or two black crows. The black crows seem to harass the hawk at every turn and they are relentless almost crashing into the hawk as they dive and swoop over the hawk during flight. The crow does not hunt and is not a predator and certainly no match for the hawk in battle. A couple of my observations during these hawk vs crow encounters are number one, if you watch closely you’ll see that the crows never attack the hawk from the front, it’s always from the rear and it’s always followed by a quick get away. Another observation is that the hawk pays little to no attention to the crows. The hawk goes on about his business and very rarely acknowledges the harassing crows existence. Keep in mind that the hawk is a master hunter and can kill it’s prey in flight with a quick swoop of it’s talons but it chooses to ignore the smaller weaker crows with focus and an even temper. My guess is that the hawk doesn’t like the taste of crow or there would be a lot less crows and a lot of fat hawks around there but they pay the crows no mind while in flight. After a few minutes of relentless attack, the crow gets no reaction and usually looses interest, moving on with no blood loss or feathers shed. If there is a moral to my observation, it would be to try and be like the hawk as you go through your life. There will always be a crow or two nipping at your heals, trying to throw you off course but pay them no mind and keep going with the focus and even temper of the hawk. Be the hawk in life, not the crow.-Jim Farmer

The Goose in the Pot

It’s been about ten years now, ten years of watching nature at it’s best and at it’s worst. It all started several years ago when we purchased a little doublewide trailer on the lake and started using it for a weekend getaway from our main home which was 10 minutes away. My wife and I really enjoy fishing so buying a lake house with a dock for our boat was a no brainer and a mutual goal of ours to make it easier to fish and enjoy the lake. We really enjoyed the lake life and started making plans to live on the lake full time by building our dream home on the property. One of the main reasons we decided to live on the lake full time was due to the peaceful serenity of our little cove, appropriately named “Cast Away Cove”. Since making our purchase and spending time at the lake we’ve gotten to know our surroundings and our neighbors as well. Our little place is tucked back into a private little pocket that is out of the way of all the boat traffic and is only visited by the occasional fisherman if the water level is high enough to provide cover for the bass around our docks. Also, since making our purchase, we removed the old doublewide and built our permanent full time home on the property. Since our home is above the cove we made the best of the lake views and positioned our large living area bay windows to face the lake. We have an un obstructed view of the cove and the shoreline as well as 4 or 5 of the neighbors docks. Right away when we started making fishing trips from our dock to the creek we started noticing a few Canadian geese that seemed to be hanging around one of our neighbors dock like maybe the dock was their home. They were either on the dock or out in the water swimming around but always making the dock their focus while swimming about. Sometimes they would disappear for months at a time but they would always return sometime in late winter and stay until late spring. During the time that they stay around a neighbors dock we started noticing one particular goose sitting atop one of the large flower pots that the neighbors had sitting on a corner of the dock. At first we thought that the goose had taken ownership of the pot for territorial purposes but we soon realized that the goose was sitting atop a pile of eggs. We were baffled at first because our neighbors have a boat in their slip and occasionally use the boat but the mother goose never really seemed bothered by the neighbors comings and goings, she just kept right on sitting on the eggs. We’ve gotten to be good friends with our neighbors and they are of a mind to let nature take it’s course so they go on about their business of launching their boat around the pot and the nesting goose. She hasn’t been too fond of the neighbors comings and goings on the dock while she sits in the pot but she tolerates the traffic with an occasional squawk.

The remarkable thing about the whole process of nesting and hatching eggs is really ‘the whole process’. In the 9-10 years we’ve been here at the lake, we’ve watched it play out year after year, no two years have ever been the same when it comes to the outcome. What has been constant in the hatching of the eggs is the devotion of mother and father geese and not one year has gone by without mother goose sitting on those eggs through rain or shine for more than a month. She rarely leaves the pot and the male mate is always patrolling the area around the dock for intruders…. and there are intruders. Other geese would try and move in on the territory but the male mate is pretty big and usually takes care of business in short order, running any other geese out of the area. These geese don’t play either, they can fight to the death if one doesn’t relinquish and leave the area. From time to time a big Blue Heron might show up but is promptly run off by the male. I’ve also seen him go after our little Rat Terrier a few times when our terrier got close to the waters edge next to the dock.

The male that hangs around the female has a large neck and he gives me the big stink eye with those big black eyes every time I idle by their dock. They communicate through honking sounds and the male usually has a few low groining sounds when I go by. I’m sure it’s some kind of obscenity in goose language but I politely move on and he goes on about his day without incident. I’ve really been impressed over the years because out of all the years of watching these geese, they have never left the eggs until they either hatched or didn’t. There were years that they didn’t hatch, mostly because of the weather. If we got a real cold spell during the process there was a chance the eggs would get to cold and not hatch at all or in the case of last year, the eggs hatched but the goslings died shortly there after because the mother had smothered them during a bad storm. While she spends hour after hour and day after day on the pot she passes her time pecking away at the edge of the pot and slowly making the pot shorter. Over the last 10 years she has managed to chew the sides down a good 4-5 inches and if this keeps up the pot will dwindle to nothing in the next 4-5 years.

Two years ago we placed a small towel in the bottom of the pot to help with insulation the bottom of the pot and five of the eggs hatched after the mother removed one of the eggs from the pot and left it on the wood stained deck of the dock right next to the pot. I assumed the sixth egg was just too much for the pot so she removed it. It was pretty cool because all five eggs hatched the year and we had a group of seven geese around here for a while before five of the seven left the area, assuming they may have migrated with other geese during the migration periods here on the lake. This year she successfully hatched 4 out of five goslings and they are cruising around here as we speak.

The tragic part about this years hatching is that four of the five eggs hatched this spring but a fifth didn’t. We’re not for certain why the fifth didn’t hatch but I can say that the four that did hatch left the pot while she was still sitting on the fifth egg off and on waiting for it to hatch. Occasionally she would get off the pot and the four little hatchlings would try and jump out of the pot as we could see their little heads bobbing up and down inside the pot. Finally, three of the four vacated the pot while mom was walking around the pot but the fourth was smaller and really struggling to get out while mom was on and off the pot. We could tell the mother wanted to be with her new hatchlings but there was still one egg unhatched and one small hatchling that was really struggling inside the pot to get out. Finally the fourth made it out and left the dock to join the other three. Later we found out that another neighbor who was watching everything unfold with binoculars from her house said a small prayer for the fourth gosling to make it out and by golly the little one finally made it out and joined the rest of the little ones.

Once the little ones left the pot and entered the water for the first time, daddy goose quickly rounded them up and they swam away to another neighbors half submerged gangway that was directly in the warm sun. There the father goose and the four goslings rested at the waters edge of the gangway. Momma goose was still on the pot waiting for the fifth egg to hatch while she helplessly watched the other four of of her hatchlings on the gangway with daddy from afar. Perhaps she knew the fifth egg wasn’t going to hatch or perhaps she couldn’t stand watching the newborn goslings from afar anymore but whatever the reason she chose to leave the pot to be with her newborn goslings and leave the fifth egg unhatched in the cold morning air.

We watched to see if she would come back to the pot after joining the rest of her family but she never returned. Her, daddy and the four babies moved to another neighbors shoreline where mom and dad have spent the bulk of their time coddling the young ones. The goslings have a hearty appetite and eat constantly. The family wanders around the grass and weedy areas of our shoreline while the little ones graze on new grass and weed tops. As in past years I’m sure we’ll be visited by the family from time to time throughout the remainder of the spring and summer as we watch the small goslings grow into adulthood and leave the area by next winter only to see two geese reappear around the dock next February ready to start the cycle all over again.

Our Sauna Build Project

About 10 years ago Lisa and I put a steam sauna in our last house and we enjoyed it so much were going to install another one. When we built the Cast Away Cove house a few years back we had the builder add a small room off of the man cave bath and leave it unfinished. (I also knew that a lot of the sauna heaters are 220vac heaters so I had our electrical install a dedicated 220vac and a switch box in a little utility room under the stairs and will be access to the heater control as well as Bluetooth for tunes when the sauna is complete). Our plan was to install the sauna later. Well. now it’s later and we ordered everything we need from Superior Sauna out of Wisconsin. We received the shipment yesterday so now we can get started with our winter project 2021. I’ll be posting pictures of the progress until it’s complete.

Politics and the Buzz Fink Traveling Hypnotist Show

I have finally gotten to the age where politics is something I pay closer attention to. I’m not sure why but maybe it’s because so many people in our circle of friends are into politics or maybe it’s because we are in an election year, nonetheless I can’t spend a day without politics being shoved in my face in some shape or form. When I think about politics and the different beliefs people have concerning politics I think about Yuma, Arizona in the mid 80’s and a large bar with a big dance floor and a billboard out front that said “The Buzz Fink Hypnotist Show” tonight only! Yea buddy, I expected a night of drinking, dancing and shenanigans with about a dozen or so of my closest Navy buddies while we were in Yuma for a few weeks playing with the Marine Corps and as a bonus we were all going to be treated to a hypnotist show. How about that! I had never been to anything like that in the past but a $20 cover charge paid for old Buzz Finks night in town and my entertainment. I’m going to leave out a few names here because I’m friends with a shipmate that was hypnotized by Mr. Fink and our friend provided us with some much needed entertainment after a long week of work. Let’s just call him “Bill” for the sake of anonymity and questions that could arise if I used his real name. I don’t have any solid proof of this happening other than my word and maybe a few witnesses willing to talk as cameras were not allowed during the show and taking photographs in a nightclub in the 80’s was a little different than it is today. It didn’t happen a lot.
We arrived at the club a little early and as we were paying the cover charge the doorman asked if any of us were interested in being in the show. I thought that was kind of odd but one of the guys in our group piped up and volunteered for the show. His name was Bill and he was no different than the rest of us, a beer drinking Navy guy looking for a good time and a place to hang out for the evening. We made our way in and found a few tables to pull together for all of us. I don’t recall the name of the bar but they had a few pool tables in a different area of the club so I wandered into the billiard area to see if anyone was a decent player that I could hustle for a beer or a few dollars while waiting on the show to start. One thing that was pretty cool about hustling pool while at the club was that I usually had a few friends within shouting distance if I needed backup but 99% of the time everything was fine. I remembered that the 9 foot tables in the billiard area were all covered in black felt vs the typical green felt which took me some getting used to. I shot pool with some of the locals and a few Navy friends before we went back into the dance floor area for the show. When we all sat down for the show to began the lights dimmed and there were about 25 chairs lined up on the dance floor facing the opposite direction as the tables and where we were located. On the wall in the direction the line of chairs were facing was a large screen tv mounted on the wall which really wasn’t very big for the size of tv’s in the late 80’s. The only thing playing on the tv was a round black and white rotating swirl. As the show began Buzz Fink introduced himself and rattled off some credentials before calling all of his volunteers to the dance floor to be seated. Our buddy Bill from our group made his way to the floor and his seat facing the swirling tv screen. We were all laughing at the fact that Bill was going to be hypnotized right before our very eyes. Old Buzz started talking fast and telling the group of volunteers that they were going to relax and let all of their thoughts fade away clearing your mind of every distraction. Buzz continued to relax the group and then said that the group was getting very tired and sleepy. Very relaxed and very sleepy..very sleepy now as you doze off to sleep. At that point most of the group had fallen into some kind of deep sleep with heads down and eyes closed. Not everyone was hypnotized though. There were a few that were wide awake and excused themselves from the group as Buzz had instructed them. This was the small group that didn’t get hypnotized. Out of 25 people, probably 5 got up and returned to their seat in the audience. At that point Buzz had the group that was hypnotized do all sorts of crazy things. They were acting like farm animals, making funny sounds and sitting on each others laps. Our buddy Bill was the highlight of the show as Buzz had Bill doing all kinds of stuff, from acting like a chicken to acting like a male stripper. It was very very entertaining to say the least. Bill was the topic of discussion for weeks to come in the squadron. It was very interesting to see these individuals under complete control of ole Buzz. I asked Bill what he remembered after it was over and he said it was like being in a dream where everything was kind of hazy and cloudy and he didn’t remember a lot about what he had done.

When I see politics on tv and I think of our differences in opinions when it comes to politics and our beliefs, I think of ole Buzz and the show. It’s like this; some folks believe whole heartedly that their political beliefs are righteous and the true path for our nation while others see it completely differently to the point of violence and aggression. They have been conditioned to believe this by what they see and hear in the media. The media is able to hit those buttons by continuous disinformation or skewed information to form your political opinions. I have friends that have completely different views from me and my beliefs and sometimes I wonder how they could possibly be in favor of something I don’t believe in but just like in the hypnotist show they were conditioned into their beliefs. It’s not like I blame them, I’m just as guilty at times because I have been conditioned by my media. Basically, you don’t need a swirling screen on a tv to put into some kind of trance so you can form a solid political opinion, you just need to turn on a news outlet and continue to watch that one news outlet.

Now, there’s one thing old Buzz told us folks in the audience when the show started, he said that if you didn’t want to be hypnotized like the folks in the chairs, look away from the tv screen….and that has been my choice. I rely on my faith to guide me through the tough times and I don’t get caught up in all the shenanigans of politics on that swirling tv screen.

Baker’s Hedgerow

It was the Christmas of 1970 and all I wanted for Christmas was a Daisy BB gun. I’d been hunting with my dad for a few years without a gun and I was ready to go it on my own and get my first gun. By the time I was 10 my dad had taught me about gun safety and I had learned a lot about hunting. Whether it was dove, quail, pheasant, ducks, geese, rabbit, squirrel or deer I had learned a lot from my dad when it came to guns and hunting. I watched, learned and mimicked his every move when it came to hunting. I could work our bird dogs and I knew exactly what to do when a dog went down on point and I had good training in gun muzzle awareness and how to handle and care for guns. My dad spent several years in the Army and Army reserve so he knew a good bit about firearms. We usually loaded our own shells and I spent many days as a kid reloading 410, 12 gauge and 20 gauge shells for a winter of hunting. My dad especially liked bird hunting and working with bird dogs so I helped my dad train our Brittney Spaniels so I was used to dogs and I knew what we required of them on a hunt. I was a little too young for our towns hunter safety course but I knew exactly what I could and couldn’t do when it came to firearms and hunting at a very early age.

Christmas finally arrived and we had a white Christmas in 1970. There was at least a foot of snow on the ground that year and I knew I was going to get that BB gun. Of course I played along with my parents when they told me I may or may not get a BB gun depending on what Santa thought but I was way past that Santa stuff. I planned it out in my head and I was ready to take myself, my new BB gun and 2 of our best bird dogs out for my first solo hunt. When I unwrapped my Daisy my grandparents were there and I can still remember it like it was this Christmas. I can remember the ouuu’s and the ahhh’s from my family as I tore the wrapping paper off to expose the long rectangular Daisy box and I was ready to start another chapter in hunting. My dad and I went out in the back yard and my dad helped me load and cock the gun. We both sighted and shot the BB gun at some makeshift targets and my dad made sure I knew what I was doing before he turned me loose with the gun and the dogs. He quizzed me on a few safety items and made sure I was confident in handling the dogs. He knew that I could handle the dogs and he was aware that I would mimic everything he did when it came to commands for the dogs. I had already planned everything in my mind months in advance and myself and the dogs were headed to Baker’s Hedgerow.

Baker’s Hedgerow was a mile long row of hedge apple trees and briars that lined two large crop fields about two miles from our farm. I had to cross a few big fields and climb through a couple of barbed wire fences to get to Baker’s hedgerow. My dad and I hunted the hedgerow frequently and there was generally a few coveys of quail somewhere along the hedgerow. Our dogs knew the area well and our Brittney’s knew exactly what to do when hunting the tree line and adjacent fields. The great thing about Brittney dogs was that their tails were bobbed and they would work in heavy cover and briars when other dogs wouldn’t. Our dogs were trained to work close to the hunter and not range out too far ahead and spook the birds, whether it was quail or pheasant. Our dogs were taught to be obedient but to them hunting was a job and a job they did well. Our best dog was a large male named Prince. Prince was a breeding male and sired several litters of Brittney pups over the course of his life. I had a little female Brittney named Buttons and she was a great hunter also, just like Prince. Buttons was a breeder dog and provided us with some fine litters from her and Prince. Another female we used for hunting was Princess. She was another female we used for breeding but not as bird savvy as Prince and Buttons but she did well enough to take on hunts as long as Prince was there to lead the way. On my first hunt I chose to take Prince and Buttons because they worked well together and they were easy to handle. Prince was the boss and looked at hunting as his job and he knew exactly what to do. The only problem we ever had with Prince was that he didn’t ever want to quit. If he knew we were quitting and heading for the truck or the house he would do his best to drag it out and keep hunting. Although Prince bit my sister once while she was trying to play with him while he was eating, we never had a problem with him and he seemed to understand that I was an extension of my dad and he always adhered to my commands. My job was always feeding the dogs and I think that’s another reason he respected me, I was the guy the brought the hot food on a cold winter night.

Shortly after feeding Prince and Buttons a hot meal of dry dog food with warm water poured in, which we always did before taking them on a hunt, I bundled up and got final instructions from everyone in the family including a laughable warning not to shoot my eye out. I was ready and let the dogs out for the hunt. We headed southwest out across our pasture and the nearest neighbors field, the Peaks, covered with snow. We had to cross our neighbors field to the south to get to Baker’s hedgerow. The Peaks pasture was used for their cattle to graze and included two watering ponds in which I frequently fished during the summer months. The dogs knew the way to the hedgerow and all I had to do was try and keep up. Prince would stop at every little clump of grass to sniff it out for any evidence of bird activity. Buttons was always in tow of Prince and they worked their way across the fields. Just before we reached the hedgerow there was a little draw with thickets and a small creek. As we approached the thickets I cocked my BB gun and got ready for action. I knew that their could be a covey of quail anywhere around the draw and my suspicions were confirmed when Prince started getting birdy. When the dogs would get birdy they would seem more serious and more pronounced in there movements. Their bobbed tails would start working back and forth with excitement and they would be nose to the ground working the area with a serious intent. If their keen noses caught a whiff of a bird or birds they would stop suddenly, frozen it time and a front paw would come off the ground, bent at the knee. This is what is referred to as “on point”. Prince didn’t exactly go down on point in this case but before he could I saw what was making him birdy. It was a Prairie Chicken and one of the only ones I had ever seen in my life. Prairie Chickens were very rare in our neck of the woods but I knew they existed from our years of hunting and listening to my dad speak of them in my younger years. I knew exactly what they looked like from the numerous books and magazines I had on upland gamebirds and the stories I read of bird hunting. Compared to a Bobwhite quail, the Prairie Chicken is much larger and would rather run from danger than hold tight in the snow or fly away. Both Prince and Buttons finally got a good whiff of the bird and went down on a hard point. I held the dogs point with a “whoa” command. A “whoa” or “whoa back” command was a command we used for the dogs when we wanted them to hold point and not move. This command would be given to the dogs over and over until we got into position to flush the bird and got ready to take a shot.This Prairie Chicken chose to run while the dogs held point from my command and I got a close look at the large bird. I don’t know if me or the bird was more shocked but as the big bird ran out away from us I didn’t take a shot and the bird didn’t fly until it was way out in front of us. The dogs finally broke point when they realized the bird had ran and after they saw that the bird had taken flight they went back to scouring the ground for more birds.

We worked our way to the hedgerow and started down the edge with the dogs working in and out of the thickets. They never strayed to far ahead and I could usually see them of hear the ID tags on there collars clinking as they ran. They would zig zag back and forth and in and out of the hedges.  I saw a few single quail kick up and fly ahead of the dogs but we just couldn’t find a nice covey over the course of walking the tree line. I never got to fire a shot at a bird with my new Daisy. We were just about to leave the hedgerow for home when I heard a faint crying noise from inside the tree lie and it sounded like a baby crying off in the distance. I saw Prince stop and listen, ears up and straining to hear the noise. We heard it again and Prince took off through the trees with Buttons in tow. They were gone for a while and I started thinking it may have been a Bobcat but soon Prince came out in a clearing carrying a small kitten in his mouth. The kitten was crying and Prince dropped the kitten at my feet. To this day I don’t know how that kitten wound up out there in the middle of nowhere but there it was, a little male tomcat cold and squalling. I picked the kitten up and put it inside my heavy coat and headed for home. Prince and Buttons were jumping around all the way home wanting to get a look at the little kitten in my coat. When I got back to the house I put the dogs up and walked in the back door to show everyone what I had found. When Kay saw the little kitten she went and got some milk from the fridge to warm and feed him. My dad wasn’t to keen on the idea of another mouth to feed but Kay had a soft spot for animals, especially a stray left out in the cold so we decided to keep the tomcat and I would add him to my chores to take care of. I named that cat Tommy and he spent the next several years hanging out around the farm catching rats, mice, snakes and any other small varmint that was around the house or barn. We made several trips back to Baker’s Hedgerow over the years but I’ll never forget my first hunting trip with my new BB gun and finding ole Tommy out there on Christmas day 1970.