By: Kenny Gasaway
One of the things I like to see most are the photos of grandfathers and their grandkids posing with fish and game that was taken on their outdoor adventures.
I get more pleasure looking at photos of grandparents and their kid’s offspring posing with a spike, Jake or a mess of blue gills than I do a man with a twelve point buck, twelve inch bearded gobbler or a twelve pound bass!
Not that I do not like to see photos with parents and their kids, those are very important too. Families sharing the outdoors are what keep the sport alive, and most of us adored our dads and learned many things from them. I know I did.
Today, however, is a tribute to Grandparents. I will write the dads and moms article on another day.
The cool thing about a granddad is he is humored by things his grandkids do. Actions that your grandfather thinks are cute or funny get you into trouble with your dad! When my daughter was growing up, she had rather hunt with my dad than me. It was less threatening.
When you are with your Grand Paw, you aren’t worried about the result of your report card, what will be said if you wiggle and spook a gobbler, or if you miss a buck that is running low to the ground in front of a pack of walkers.
To all of you grandfathers, grandsons, and granddaughters, I admonish you to really observe and cherish your relationship.
Grandfathers, you are assisting in molding those kids into what they will be someday in both ethics and etiquette. They will never forget you, and you will be cherished until the day they die. Be sure you teach them right!
Grandkids listen to and observe your grandfather. Enjoy every moment you have with him, and try to remember those moments. You will never outgrow them. You will take the memories of your times together to your grave.
I would like to share with you what my grandfather meant to me, and a few things about him.
He had thick, gray hair and skin that seemed as rough as the back of a rattler. I am sure he was only 6’ one or two, but he seemed to challenge the tree tops to a young boy who would only grow to be just less than five feet, eight. I called him “Big Dad;” he called me “Boy.”
He was an elder in his church, as well as the music director. Big Dad was the town barber, and everyone knew him, most liked him, but I his grandson, worshipped him.
Big Dad was my dad’s father, and the only grandfather I knew. My mother’s dad passed away when I was only two. I was Big Dad’s first grandson, and was the only one who lived close by to be fortunate enough to hunt and fish with him on a regular basis.
I cannot remember when he first took me fishing, but I know I sat on deer stands with him from the time I was around 8 or 9. When I was 10, he called a tom within 20 yards that felt the sting of a 4-10 that was fired from the trembling hands of a child.
We went frog gigging, trotline and yo-yo fishing, as well as cane pole fishing. He taught me how to set a steel trap for coons, how to clean them and stretch their hides, as well as how to cook them. He taught me how to never waste meat. He even ate the tongue, heart, liver, and brains of squirrels. (I admit I do not do that anymore.)
Big Dad was tough as nails, and had to be in order to raise a family during the depression. His family depended on what he could grow and kill. He raised his kids to be the same as he was, hard working and tough. My dad, who will be 80 in December, is just as good a man and did just as much if not more with me in the outdoors. He came from the same stock. I only wish my mother had been taller than 5 feet!
I practically lived in Big Dad’s barber shop, and learned many things from different people about hunting, fishing, and life in general. When dad and Big Dad were in “the shop” talking with all of the other men about men things, I was getting the best education one could ever wish for. It was always clean talk. Big Dad was not tolerant of anything else.
In March of 1989, Big Dad went on to the Great Beyond, and now rests in the Gasaway plot of Dark Corner Cemetery along side of my grandmother, who passed a few years after his death. He was buried on a cold March day, and as we huddled together at his graveside service, the pastor was about to say a few words before the final prayer when a pair of hunting dogs opened up in a distant swamp. We listened to the race for a few minutes, and when the hounds momentarily quieted, the preacher said, “I cannot add anything to that.” And with that, he said the closing prayer.
I was completely devastated, and although he was approaching 90 years old, it didn’t seem fair to lose him. I was trapped inside a three-year drought of not killing a gobbler during this time, and was almost losing interest in turkey hunting, one of the things that I had always loved. Big Dad was a successful hunter because he believed in the three P’s: Patience, Persistence, and Preservation.
A few days before his passing, Big Dad encouraged me to “keep after those gobblers and hang tough.” That was our last conversation, and when I told him I loved him, he said “I love you too, boy.” That is the last thing we said to each other, the last time I would ever hear that whispering voice of his.
I barely had any interest that year in hunting, but knowing I must “go in order to succeed” I had scouted a little and found a gobbler to hunt on an Island in Jumper Creek.
Ray Lovett, a friend of mine who works for the Division of Forestry, had also told me of a gobbler some of the staff had been seeing near the fire tower in Richloam Management Area. He took me there a week before Big Dad passed away and pointed to a road that led to a pasture when the bird had been seen strutting.
I chose to hunt Jumper first since I had hunted there before. I really wanted to kill a gobbler so I could tell Big Dad one last turkey story!
I was in Jumper Creek hunting on opening day (which was on Friday back in 1989) and planned on hunting the Richloam bird the following day if I saw no action at JC. As I was working a bird around nine-thirty, I didn’t realize my grandfather was already standing at the pearly gates. I got the news when I came home at lunch. I cannot tell you how much that hurt.
Although I was in no mood to hunt the rest of the year, I knew Big Dad would have been disappointed if I gave up on his account. After the funeral, and a full week later, I opted to hunt the Richloam bird rather than having to take the boat ride that was necessary to reach the island where the Jumper bird had been gobbling.
In all my turkey hunting years before and since, I cannot remember a more fulfilling hunt! It was a hunt where everything came into place so perfectly; it must have been a divine gift from above!
The tom gobbled on the roost at my first owl call, so I followed the dim road that led to the pasture Raymond had pointed to the week before. I could see the gobbler strutting in a bald cypress on the edge of the field, and hoped he would fly down on the management area side of the fence.
My soft tree yelps and the absence of other hens and other hunters was to my advantage, and by the grace of God, the bird sailed to my side of the fence!
I was positioned against a large loblolly pine that just happened to have palmettos growing four feet away from it that were the perfect height for a natural blind. It was also comfortable; there were neither knots nor snags protruding that made the hunt one of discomfort.
It only took one call to turn him to the fire lane I was on. He gobbled, broke into strut, drummed and gave me the show we turkey hunters love for about two minutes, inching my way with short steps. At thirty yards he broke strut, gobbled, then stretched his neck enabling me to make the death shot I had been waiting for.
As I held the flopping bird’s neck with a firm grip that I always do, I looked to the heavens and said, “I love you Big Dad. I miss you so much! Look what I have killed! What a nice bird! Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord!” At that moment, I almost felt the presence of both of Them, and in my mind I heard the whispering voice of Big Dad saying, “You got ‘em, Boy, you got ‘em! Now, go on back with your life, I’m OK.”
At that moment calm came about me that to this day I cannot explain. It then occurred to me this was the first bird I had bagged in years, and it was now time to enjoy that part of the hunt. That was in 1989, and since then, I have not missed a season without bagging at least one gobbler. I guess that day changed my luck.
I took the gobbler to the check station when his 10 inch beard was measured, as were his inch long spurs. The 17 pounder was no trophy in the eyes of many, and I have certainly killed several much better, but that was and is my favorite bird to this day. His tail and beard mount is in my “hunting room” with an inscription, “In Memory of Big Dad.”
At the check station while I was telling my story in between crying spells, an old man and his grandson of about 10 or 11 years drove up in an older pickup truck.
I told the pair of losing my grandfather just a few days before this successful morning, and how the kid should cherish every moment he has with his granddaddy. I went on to say that I would give anything to be with my Big Dad right now. The old man replied, “I think you are with him, and always will be.”
You know what? I think he was right!