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Archive for April, 2012

“The farther we get away from the land, the greater our insecurity.” (And the less our sense of stability, continuity, and self-identification.)
–Henry Ford

In the previous post I offered a selection of quotes on the Southern sense—and pride—of place, an integral part of the Southern psyche.

In this concluding post I present a selection of quotes on the importance of land in Southern history, culture, livelihood, and memory.

At the end of this post, which is already quite long, I close with some select quotes from the Ken Burns TV series about the role and importance of our national parks. I hope you will read and meditate on this final portion because in some ways it is a summary of everything I am trying to say in these Southern posts and indeed in all of my writing.

Note: Throughout all these quotes I have indicated emphasis by the use of italics. I have also indicated my comments within quotes by placing them in brackets. My comments outside quotes are set in parentheses.

Quotes about Land

Mine:

“When I speak of the South/Arkansas/Delta as the ‘Holy Land,’ I am really not being facetious; on the contrary, I am painfully serious.”

“They ain’t makin’ no more land—it is a rare and sacred thing.”

“The best thing that can happen to anyone is to be shaken (back) to his roots.”

“The only land I own down home is just enough to bury me in. So when I die my soul may be in heaven, but my heart is going to be in Arkansas—which is basically the same thing, of course.”

“As a tenth-generation Southerner, the last of my ancestral line to be born in a house on Peacock land, naturally I am big on land and a return to it. Yet the only piece of land I own at home is a cemetery plot. But I already know what I want engraved on my tombstone: ‘HOME AT LAST!’”

Others’:

“Do you mean to tell me, Katy Scarlett O’Hara, that th’ land means nothin’ to ya? ’Tis the only thing worth workin’ for, fightin’ for, dyin’ for . . . .’Tis the only thing that lasts . . . and to anyone with a drop of Irish [or Southern] blood in them the land they live on is like their mother. . . There’s no gettin’ away from it, this love of the land, not if there’s a drop of Irish blood in ya, and you’re half Irish.” (And so am I!)

—Gerald O’Hara to daughter Scarlett in Gone With the Wind

“Thank you for your remark about Gerald [O’Hara] who ‘recognizes that security can never be found apart from the land.’ No one else picked that up; no one seemed to think about it or notice it. And that depressed me . . . . And I felt . . . that I had utterly failed in getting my ideas over.”

—Margaret Mitchell in a letter to Gilbert Govan in 1936,
from The Irish Roots of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind
by David O’Connell

“Having to live off the land has tied us to it in ways that are hard to measure. But they run deep. The land means to me life. . . . If you don’t have it, you don’t have nothin’. The original Southern people, they were very committed to their land. That may be all they knew, but a lot of them, that’s all they wanted to know. . . . There is just such a connection to the land and nature. In the old days land gave Southerners their livelihood. Our love of the land is what makes us so loyal to Dear Old Dixie.”

—Crowbar Russell in “You Don’t Know Dixie,”
a History Channel documentary

The heart of the Southerner has been in his land, the early richness of which, like the prodigality of his rainfall and climate, he has nonchalantly taken for granted.”

—Howard Odum, c. 1935,
quoted by AnythingSouthern.com, © 2000-2001

“I’ve always felt that land shapes the people who dwell upon it. This [Delta] is powerful land. It just leaps out at you.” (It also seeps deep within you—I ought to know!)

—Willie Morris Mississippi Delta Author

“What greater grief than the loss of one’s native land?”

—Euripides, ancient Greek tragedian

“Without land, a man is nothing; land is a man’s very soul.”

—Irishman Joseph Connally in Ron Howard’s Far and Away

“People’s spirits are inextricable from the land they inhabit.”

—Photographer Jack Kotz in July 2002 issue of
The Southern Register from Ole Miss

“We know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand.”

—Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

“You are the land. The land is you.” (As I say, “I am humus, organic matter, a sack of Arkansas dirt —who yearns to return to the place from which he was dug up and transported to a foreign land!”)

—Merlin Olsen

“Where we are buried is every bit as important as where we are born, for it is then that we are truly one with the land.”

—Quotation in article on family reunions in
Southern Magazine, Little Rock, Arkansas

“Very few people my age who have such a diverse career can come back to see the same trees, the same soil, the same house, the same farm where they evolved as a child.” (I can!)

—Jimmy Carter, quoted in Southern Living magazine in 2001

“ . . . the younger generation doesn’t understand the importance of the land—they’ve been raised far from [it], in cities where they move from house to house. There is permanence, a sense of place, of roots, that comes with owning the land.”

—Alphas Scoggins, former resident of Clow, Arkansas

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings.”

—Hodding Carter

“To a cultural geographer [even an amateur one like Jimmy Peacock] ‘landscape’ means not only the physical terrain but also the historical, socioeconomic, political, and religious features that leave their imprint on a region.” (And on us!)

—Robert W. Hamblin, writing in book review titled,
“William Faulkner and the Southern Landscape,”
The Southern Register, Fall 2009

“You see, land is the only real wealth in this country. If we don’t have any, then we are out of the picture. And they ain’t growing no more land. That’s it.”

—Black Georgia farmer in “Homecoming,”
TV documentary on disappearing black farms

The South’s major challenge for the future is to find ways to save the land from sprawl and industrial pollution . . .”

—Suzanne Pharr, quoted by Jack Schnedler,
“A southern magazine celebrates
25 years of progressive thought,”
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, nd

“If you run out of water, you pray for rain. If you run out of soil, you pray for forgiveness.”

—Gov. Bob Kerrey

“My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.”

—Pat Conroy, quoted by
syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker,
Tulsa World, May 13, 2010

“Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
‘This is my own, my native land.’?”

—Sir Walter Scott

“‘We are children of our landscape,’ wrote novelist Lawrence Durrell. ‘It dictates behavior and even thought in the measure to which we are responsive to it.’”

—Michael Haddington, “Speaking for the Hills:
Development Is Eroding Arkansas’ Soul,”
Arkansas Times, March 9, 2001

“It doesn’t matter what course you take; it’s just being there [in the Holy Land] that matters.”

—Fr. Ross Jones, former rector,
Trinity Episcopal Church (Tulsa),
speaking of planned study trip to Israel

“If I learned anything during my travels [in the Holy Land], it was this: The Bible is not an abstraction, nor even just a book. It’s a living, breathing entity, undiminished by the passage of time.

“More important, the Bible can be even more meaningful when viewed from the ground. The desert is one of the most profound places on Earth: It makes one feel small; it makes one feel grateful. And it never forgets. Visiting the region today, one realizes these stories of the Bible have never disappeared; they’re just lying beneath the surface, waiting for someone to kick up the dust and lie down on top of them. And when I, for one, lay down on them, I realized the Bible was no longer distant. What happened to those characters was happening to me. I was becoming attached to the land. I was reimagining myself. And, yes, I was drawing closer to God.

“By the end [of my journey through the Holy Land], I came to believe that the essential spirit that animates those places also animates me. If that spirit is God, then I found God in the source of my journey. If that spirit is life, then I found life. Part of me suspects that it’s both, and that neither can exist without the other.

“Either way, what I know for sure is that all I had to do to discover that spirit was not to look or listen or taste or feel. All I had to do was remember; for what I was looking for I somehow already knew.”

—Bruce Feller, “The Bible: Myth or Truth?”
USA Weekend, March 9-11, 2001

“From time to time we should all literally reach down and touch the one and only place that we call home. Someone long ago decided its name, and we continue to share and affirm the dream behind it every time we speak aloud the name of our town, city, country or state. In fact, our imaginative journey should prompt us to recollect that America is a collective dream that is always in progress, reviving its hopes and meanings as it unfolds. Place names provide a record of our evolving self-understanding, and they can be read, therefore, as forms of casual but nonetheless meaningful narrative, akin to the richly allusive brevity of haiku.

“ . . . a map is actually . . . disguised biography. Letting our fingers wander along the . . . map . . . we pause on the place that whispers ‘home,’ and in so doing perhaps we can recapture some faint sense of what first compelled one of our ancestors to choose a name, root it in the soil of a place, and thus invest with meaning and poetry the landscape, himself and his heirs.”

—Robert Neralich, “Poetry of place, the place of poetry,”
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, nd

The cant designation in the Rebel army for a man of Arkansas was ‘Josh.’ This is said to have originated in a jocular attempt to compare Arkansas, Texas, and part of Louisiana to the two tribes and a half who had their possessions beyond Jordan, but went over with Joshua to assist the remaining tribes. Just before the battle of Murfreesboro (the story hath it) the Tennesseeans, seeing a regiment from Arkansas approach, cried out a little confused in their Biblical recollections: ‘Here come the tribes of Joshua, to fight with their brethren!’” (Note: I was not the first to identify the South as the Holy Land! In keeping with this tradition, on one of our semi-annual pilgrimages from Babylon [Oklahoma] to the Holy Land [Arkansas], I baptized our little Okie dog in the Mississippi [Jordan] River to make him an “Arkie of the Covenant.”)

A Treasury of Southern Folklore: Stories, Ballads and Traditions, 1980 edition, Benjamin Botkin, ed., New York, Bonanza Books, MCMLXXVII, p. 42

Quotes on Land and Renewal
from Ken’s Burn’s TV Series on the National Parks

“Discover how, as Americans, we’re not only connected to this land, but connected by it.”

—Ad for the TV series The National Parks
by Ken Burns in Parade magazine,
September 27, 2009

“When we try to pick out anything, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. . . . Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play or pray in.”

—John Muir, American conservationist

“. . . and they [the national parks] remain a refuge for human beings seeking to replenish their spirit, geographies of memory and hope, where countless American families have forged an intimate connection to the land, and then passed it along to their children.”

—Undocumented quote

I think that deep in our DNA is this embedded memory of when we were not separated from the rest of the natural world, but we were part of it. The Bible talks about the Garden of Eden as that experience that we had at the beginnings of our dimmest memories as a species. . . . So when we enter a [national] park we’re entering a place where an attempt at least has been made to keep it like it once was. We cross that boundary and suddenly we are no longer masters of the natural world, we are part of it. And in that sense it’s like we’re going home. It doesn’t matter where we’re from, we’ve come back to a place that is where we came from.”

—Writer Dayton Duncan

“What emerges in the middle of the nineteenth century is this idea that going back to wild nature [i.e., the land] is restorative. It’s a way of escaping the corruption of urban, civilized life; finding a more innocent self; returning to who you really are.”

—Historian William Cronon

“Writing, [John Muir] said, was like the life of a glacier—one eternal grind. But over the next several years that writing would help articulate for millions of Americans a deep and abiding love of their land.” (That is precisely the goal and purpose of my writing!)

—Historian William Cronon

“What he [John Muir] means is that wildness [i.e., nature, land] is an essential part of ourselves that our ordinary lives tempt us to forget. And by losing touch with that essential part of ourselves, we risk losing our souls. And so for him going out into nature [i.e., back to the land] . . . is how we recover ourselves, remember who we truly are, and reconnect with the core roots of our own identity or our own spirituality, that which is sacred in our experience.” (This is the theme of all my writing! See my earlier post titled “Is It Really True/Requiem.”)

—Historian William Cronon

“If you don’t have a genuine link to nature [i.e., land] in a profound way, you can’t be an American [or at least, you can’t be a true Southerner].”

—Historian Clay Jenkinson

“Our devotion to the flag is inspired by love of country. Patriotism is the religion of the soil.”

—Stephen Mather, American conservationist

“One of the things I think we witness when we go to the [national] parks is the immensity and the intimacy of time. On one hand we witness the immensity of time which is the creation itself. It is the universe unfolding before us. But it is also time shared with the people we visit these places with. . . . We pass [these memories] on to our children [and they to their children], kind of an intimate transmission from generation to generation, the love of place. . . .”

—Historian William Cronon

“They will see what I meant in time. There must be places for human beings to satisfy their souls. Food and drink is not enough; there is the spiritual. In some it is only a germ, of course, but in time it will grow.” (For further insight on this subject of the connection between land and the human spirit, read my earlier post titled “A Summary of My Personal Spirituality and Pilgrimage.”)

—John Muir, American conservationist

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“It’s a Southern thing. You wouldn’t understand.”
—Message on a tee-shirt given to me by Yankee friends—
who asked me what it meant! 

In earlier posts titled “Some Southern Stuff: Parts I-IV” I presented a tribute to Robert E. Lee, some self-quotes and quotes from others on the South, and raised the questions “Are You Southern?” and “Do You Speak Southern?”

In the next two posts I will continue that series of Southern posts by sharing some of the hundreds of quotes that I have composed or collected over the years on the subjects of the Southern sense of place and love of land. Both of these subjects were evident in the previous posts of Keiron’s poems and my own poems about home.

I begin in this post with a section of quotes on the Southern sense—and pride—of place, an integral part of the Southern psyche and the source of Southern self-identification.

Note: Throughout all these quotes I have indicated emphasis by the use of italics. I have also indicated my comments within quotes by placing them in brackets. My comments outside quotes are set in parentheses.

Quotes about a Sense of Place

Mine:

Where you’re from is who you are.”

Others’:

Where you’re from has a lot to do with who you are—how you play.”

—Allen Toussaint
New Orleans Musician

“‘I want people to know how rock music was created,’ he said. ‘It could only have come from the South and from these guys [Carl Perkins from Tennessee, Johnny Cash from Arkansas, Jerry Lee Lewis from Louisiana, Elvis Presley from Mississippi]. They were absorbing everything and creating something truly unique. . . . This was really the first super group of rock.'”

—Colin Escott, quoted by Christopher Blank
in “‘Million-dollar quartet’ comes to Memphis,
where it all happened”: http://www.gomemphis.com/news/2012/feb/09/cover-story-where-quartet-happened/, accessed on February 10, 2012

“We [Deltans] are different from others because of the place we come from.”

—Margaret Jones Bolsterli
Arkansas Delta Author

“I’m just really excited to be back in my element. I didn’t know I had so much Delta left in me.”

—Dr. Charles “Billy” Ball on returning to his native
Southeast Arkansas to practice medicine after retirement

“You can go someplace else, but you are always Southern.”

—Jeff Foxworthy

“The Southerner always thinks of himself as being from somewhere, as belonging to some spot of earth.”

–Richard Weaver
Southern Author

“I feel at least for now, I don’t know how long it will last, that the Southerner . . . has got a character that does stem from his sense of place and from the significance of history and so on. . . . I don’t mean he’s living in the past. I’m not thinking about that. It’s just a sense of continuity that has always characterized us, I think; a knowledge of family stories, that sense of generations and continuity. That gives us an identity.”

—Eudora Welty
Mississippi Author

“[Eudora] Welty’s interests as a writer and as a [photographer] cohered. She was interested in place, in the point of view of the observer, in the fluidity of time—how the passage of time also implies a past.”

—Joan Wylie Hall in book review published
in the Summer 2009 issue of The Southern Register

“Place, for [Eudora] Welty and many other Southern writers [like Jimmy Peacock], is more than geographical, and she cautions against dismissing such works as ‘regionalism.’ Instead, ‘place’ is memory-laden, full of associations and connections with the past. ‘It is by knowing where you stand,’ says Welty, ‘that you grow able to judge who you are.’ (1998, 792). . . .

“Throughout Delta Wedding the Mississippi Delta is no mere backdrop. Instead, it is both the catalyst for and the arena against which many significant and complicated battles take place . . . . Additionally, conflict between the past and the present—so important to both Southern literature and culture—also pervades the novel.”

—Lisa Cade Wieland, “Cracks in the Wall:
Change and Conflict in Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding,”
a book review in the Arkansas Journal, a Review of Delta Studies

“. . . how do you explain a sense of place to someone so unburdened (and unblessed) by one? It is more than a geographical designation, a sense of place. It has to do with identity, with roots sunk deep not just in the land but in the language and look and feel, and maybe death, of a place.” (You don’t explain it, because you can’t. See the opening quote to this post.)

—Paul Greenberg, “Above all, a sense of place,”
Tulsa World, March 6, 2011

“But though we are what we do, what we do is not all of what we are. We are also products of place. Where we grew up and how we experienced the physical environment of our formation are also a part of who we are.”

—Kathleen Parker, “The nominee’s gender, geography,”
Tulsa World, May 13, 2010

“He [an English professor] helped me to see that to read them [writers of Southern fiction]—as a Southerner—is in part an exercise in self and regional identification that provides a place to stand, and as Eudora Welty said, ‘It is by knowing where you stand that you are able to judge where you are [and I would say, who you are].’

“Ralph Ellison’s protagonist in Invisible Man said, ‘To lose a sense of where you are [and I would add, where you come from] implies the danger of losing a sense of who you are.’ To be ‘from somewhere’ and to know it, and to know one’s place within that culture, then makes it possible to see and know others more fully.

“The obverse is also true, as Flannery O’Connor wryly remarked when viewing a rack of mass-market books: ‘You know what’s the matter with them? They’re not from anywhere.’”

–G. Lee Ramsey Jr., Preachers and Misfits, Profits and Thieves:
The Minister in Southern Fiction

“Knowing from whence you came helps better prepare you for the future.”

—Martin Sheen, who, like me is half Irish,
explaining his search for his ancestors

“The right place must be in focus before we start. How can we get there if we don’t know where we are going?”

—Joyce Hifler, Think on These Things, Tulsa World, nd

“By the time I got to the right place, I was the wrong age.” (That will be my experience in getting back home!)

—Frank and Ernest cartoon, Tulsa World

“Sooner or later every Southerner goes home [back to his place of origin], if only in a pine box.” (As I say, “One of these days I’m going home if it has to be feet first–which it probably will be!”)

—Truman Capote
Southern Author

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“My goal used to be to get back home to live. Then it became to get back home to die. Now it’s just to get back home to be buried. But just my luck the hearse bearing my body will probably wreck and burn between here and Fort Smith, and my ashes will be scattered over the lone prairie by the danged Oklahoma wind!”
—Jimmy Peacock

“According to the Bible, when Jesus returns to this earth He’s gonna land on Mount Olivet in Jerusalem, Judea, in Israel. But when I rise to meet Him I’m comin’ up outta Mount Tabor (Methodist Church Cemetery) in Selma, Arkansas!”
—Jimmy Peacock

In this week’s post I offer two poems that I wrote ten years apart in 1970 and 1980 in response to the popular quotation by Southern author Thomas Wolfe, “You can’t go home again.”

Each of these poems relates specifically to the question of whether I, an exiled Arkie of the Covenant, can ever go home again.

Is it really true that you can’t go home?
Will those golden days never come again,
When that barefoot boy ran joyfully
Down a country road in the April rain,
To that two-room school where he learned to dream,
While the raindrops beat on the windowpane,
Till the sun on high
Drives the clouds on by
And the lark sings in the lane?

Selma Elementary School during my childhood

Selma Elementary School, now gone, as it looked in the 1980s

  ‘Neath the old oak tree by the front yard gate,
How many hours did he spend?
In the dust and dirt making farms and roads,
Playing cars and trucks with a laughing friend,
While the sun sinks down and the cattle low,
The night birds call and the shadows creep,
And the evening breeze
Sighing through the trees
Lulls a happy boy to sleep? 

My birthplace

My birthplace as it looked in the 1980s

‘Cross a dusty road from the general store
Sat a plain white church in a shady grove,
Where the old folks sang that sweet refrain
That told so well of a Father’s love,
And a gentle lad gave his heart to God
When he felt the touch of a Mighty Hand,
While the years go by,
And the old folks die,
And the lad becomes a man.

Selma general store at it looked in the 1980s

Selma general store (now gone) as it looked in the 1980s

Selma Baptist Church as it look in the 1980s

Selma Baptist Church as it looked in the 1980s

 In a photograph a tender face,
Rosy cheeks and a dimpled chin,
Curly hair and trusting eyes,
And a sweet and bashful grin.
Was that really me?
Did he really live?
When did that simple lad become this man?
If it’s really true that you can’t go home,
Can I ever be me again? 

Me at about age nine

Me at about age nine in Selma

If it’s really true, and I can’t go home,
Can I ever find me again?

 Jimmy Peacock
October 29, 1970

Me (center) with my brothers Joe (left) and Adrian (right) on the steps of my birthplace

Me as a child (center) with my brothers Joe (left) and Adrian (right) and our family dog Old Shep sitting on the steps of my Selma birthplace (to magnify, click on the photo)

The poem above, which I wrote in 1970, won honorable mention in a Tulsa City-County Library poetry contest. I wrote the following poem in response ten years later while living in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

Requiem

Yes, you can go home,
 You just can’t go back.
Time never runs in reverse.
The things that are past,
Are done and passed,
For better or for worse.

 So, I must go on,
I must press on,
Time and tide wait for no man.
Through the tears and the strife,
For the rest of my life,
I must do the best that I can.

Ah, but some sweet day,
Some glorious day,
I believe when I get to heaven,
That I will find me,
For there it will be—
Selma, Arkansas, 1947!

Jimmy Peacock
October 29, 1980

Selma Gym

A meeting in the Selma gym in about 1947. (Click on the photo to magnify it.) I am the boy in the checkered shirt standing right behind the man in the white shirt who is addressing the crowd in the bleachers. My father is the tall, slim man dressed in a gray suit and standing just to the left of me in the photo, partially hidden behind the speaker. Part of my mother's face can be seen behind the speaker's head.

My birthplace as it looks today

A fairly recent aerial view of my Selma birthplace (with modern additions on the right and in back, and minus the screened front porch, the yard fence, the barn, corral, original detached "car shed," smokehouse, outside toilet, etc.)

Old Barn

An old barn somewhat like the one that has disappeared forever from my birthplace in Selma, Arkansas

To view the online source of this old barn photo, click here. To view a nostalgic musical slideshow presentation of old barns like the one that has now gone from my birthplace, click here.

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“Without land, a man is nothing; land is a man’s very soul.”
—Irishman Joseph Connally in Ron Howard’s film Far and Away
set in Ireland and Oklahoma

In my previous post I reintroduced our younger son Keiron and some of his writings, mostly poems. There was also a dedication, a Peacock family genealogy, and a table of contents for the first set of poems on the subject of the Peacock Seed.

In this second and last part of Keiron’s writings I offer the table of contents for his “huntin’ poems,” which also include a couple about his grandfather Grover Williams and Keiron’s view of the computer age.

III. Huntin’ Poems

This Place Will Be OK
How Wild Turkeys Came to Yelp
It’s That Time Again
Turkey Hunter Attitude
Heckuva Handy Tool
Ramblin’ Mood
Up There with Ole Grover
Ode to the Computer Age

 This Place Will Be OK

Slap my face and hush my mouth,
why did they take me from the deep Deep South,
and move me here where all these Okies stay?

When I was young, I often fought ‘em,
until I saw the Deep Fork bottoms,
and realized maybe this will be OK.

Yes, maybe this place will be OK.
I’ve got two young’uns here, so I reckon I’ll stay.
Deer and turkey? It’s damn sure got ‘em.
They’re runnin’ ‘round the Deep Fork bottoms,
And I’ll teach my boys to hunt ‘em there some day.

bow09

Keiron with the bow he used to kill the deer on the four-wheeler

South Arkansas was my home.
Down in the Delta where the gators roam
will always be a special place to me.

Where all the folks still say y’all,
and the Rebel flag still flies tall.
I’ll think of there when I hear “Dixie.”

Yes, maybe this place will be OK.
I got two young’uns here, so I reckon I’ll stay.
Deer and turkey? It’s damn sure got’ em.
They’re runnin’ ‘round the Deep Fork bottoms,
and I’ll teach my boys to hunt ‘em there some day.

Levi deer

Levi and the deer he killed

I’m here in Oklahoma now,
where the oil pump jack and ole moo cow
are right out in the fields where you can see.

I’m still south of the Mason-Dixon line,
I’m huntin’ deer and doin’ fine.
I’ll bring that Southern feelin’ here to me.

Yes, maybe this place will be OK.
Confederate flag once flew here, by the way.
Deer and turkey? It’s damn sure got ‘em.
They’re runnin’ ‘round the Deep Fork bottoms,
and I’ll teach my boys to hunt ‘em there some day.

Ben in hunting gear

Ben in his hunting gear

The old folks had a plan for me,
but it wasn’t meant to be,
for years I didn’t understand.

By no means am I down and out,
I’m just taking a slightly different route.
It’s time for this ole boy to buy more land.

Yes, maybe this place will be OK,
‘least that’s what Mama tells me anyway.
Deer and turkey? It’s damn sure got ‘em.
They’re runnin’ ‘round the Deep Fork bottoms,
and I’ll teach my boys to hunt ‘em there some day.

 How Wild Turkeys Came to Yelp

Way back when, many years ago,
There were very few sounds the wild turkey did know.
They knew how to gobble, and sure they could cluck.
You might hear one purr, and now and then puck,
But yelping was something they just didn’t do.
Like to know how they learned? I’ll be glad to tell you.

It started with a hunter named Percy McVest,
Of all turkey hunters, ole Percy was best.
He mastered all calls, but given a choice,
He’d leave them at home and use his own voice.
His clucks and his purrs would bring toms within range,
And as for Percy, to miss something was real strange.

But as good a man as ole Percy could be,
He had a side that was mean and nasty.
He ignored all bag limits, and hunted every day.
“Who cares what the warden says? I’ll hunt my own way!”
He would grumble in the morning as he loaded his gun,
“If you’re a tom turkey, you’d best be on the run!”

One day the toms just had enough,
They decided that they’d put an end to his stuff.
So they all got together and came up with a plan,
Exactly how they would take care of this man.
After dark, near Percy, they flew up on a limb.
When he returned in the morning, they’d be waiting on him.

Percy showed up well before light,
And headed to where they had roosted last night.
Moving ever so slowly and keeping his noises low,
He leaned his gun against a tree, and set his decoys just so.
Since it was dark and he couldn’t see,
He decided he’d catch a short nap by the tree.

For some time now, the toms had been up.
They’d followed Percy since he’d left his truck.
I know it sounds strange, but I wouldn’t lie to y’all,
Two brave toms began to low crawl.
As they got close, his eyes they were checkin’,
And they slowly but surely eased away Percy’s weapon.

After that time Percy started to stir,
And as those toms got ready their spurs,
Percy kinda twitched but continued to rest.
The poor toms’ hearts nearly came out of their chest!
Then those two turkeys, without even once stopping,
Filled Percy’s barrel full of tom turkey droppings.

One stood on the other to put the gun by the tree.
As they crawled away, they were happy to see,
Ole Percy still resting; he had not arose.
The stench of their job had not reached his nose.
Soon they were safe and out of his reach.
It was now lesson time, the toms’ turn to teach.

Percy awoke to the thunderous sounds,
Of tom turkeys gobblin’ and wings flappin’ down.
He didn’t see one, but he just knew,
A few calls, a good shot, and his hunt would be through.
But despite his best efforts, and all his good calls,
He didn’t see one turkey on his side of the draw.

Oh, he saw lots of turkeys,
But they all stayed away.
Made Percy so mad,
He was heard to say,
“I’ll keep my behind planted firmly in earth,
‘Till I get a tom, or it gets dark; whichever comes first!”

This was all happening around the first of May,
And it got pretty hot that day.
So it didn’t really come as much surprise,
That Percy could barely keep open his eyes.
As he napped, to the tom’s full intent,
Those dropping in his barrel set up like cement.

Percy’s eyes opened to turkeys in flight.
Two landed before him and started to fight.
As he reached for his shotgun, he whispered this boast,
“I’ll aim in betwixt ’em and I’ll kill ‘em both!”
When he squeezed his trigger to touch off the load,
That turkey cement made the barrel explode!

Percy was hit hard, and as he laid on the ground.
All of the wild turkeys gathered around.
Now, killing humans just wasn’t their style,
But Percy’d crossed the line, by more than a mile.
Realizing their success, they started to grin.
When turkeys come out on top, they really rub it in.

Percy hollered “help,” that was all he could do.
To prove their point, the turkeys did too!
As if this wasn’t enough a disgrace,
Turkeys have a speech problem; they can’t pronounce “H.”
Instead of saying “help,” like we all do,
It came out “yelp,” and all this is true.

Percy got weaker as this noise filled the wood.
He had hung on to life as long as he could.
The last thing he heard as he departed this world,
Was the turkeys yelping -– both the boys and the girls.
It was on that afternoon in early May,
That wild turkeys started yelping, and they still do today.

So, if you’re a turkey hunter, and you think it’s cool,
To do what you want, and make your own rules,
If killing more than your limit gives you a boost,
Or maybe you’ve been known to slip one off the roost,
Then let those yelps be a reminder to you.
If those turkeys get your number, brother, you’re through! 

It’s That Time Again

“On no! It must be that time again,”
The young wife thought as she looked at his chin.
“When he starts growing whiskers, there can be but one reason.
It must be close to whitetail deer season.”

A glance at the calendar confirmed her worst fears,
A note by “October” read “Deer season’s here!”
For this hunting widow, the dreaded day
Was barely more than three weeks away.

This time he’d seemed like he really did care,
But she thought she had noticed the blank empty stare.
“The call of the wild,” he had referred to the look,
More like the call of the empty checkbook!

She wondered if she could somehow get this to stop,
He had spent half his check at the archery shop!
Mail orders too, and even so,
He drove to Springfield, Missouri, to see the “Fall Hunting Show”!

He had bought a new muzzleloader, and that really got ‘er,
“Now I need musket caps, Baby, ‘cause they’re four times hotter.
And Bill Jordan’s introduced a new line of Realtree,
I need a new deer stand, my old one’s squeaky.

“And new rubber boots, my others are torn.
New hunting socks, my old ones are worn.
And if left up to you I’d be the only soul
In deer camp this year without a two-way radio!

“Just how do you expect me to retrieve a nice buck
Without a new ATV in the back of my truck?
Those deer will smell me, and leave me lookin’ like a dope,
If I don’t wash my clothes in Scent Away Soap!”

Doe pee, climbing steps, and the latest grunt call,
He’d spend more than ten of her trips to the mall!
When she’s dressed for dinner, and ready to go,
He’s in a pair of shorts out shooting his bow.

Scouting or shooting, the one trait they share
Is that it takes lots of money to get anywhere.
He told her, “I ain’t gettin’ these things just to be neat,
I’m goin’ to be bringin’ home lots of deer meat!”

Because she loves him, she won’t say aloud,
“For the cost of your toys, we could buy a herd of cows!
A farm on which to keep them, and hay to feed, too!
But I guess ‘you can’t take it with you.’”

He is as happy as a kid on Christmas Eve,
And when he does get a deer, you wouldn’t believe
The way he comes home, so tall and so proud,
His eyes wide open, his voice gets so loud.

Although loneliness and boredom will soon be her big foes,
She’ll stay strong, spending his paychecks at craft shows!

Turkey Hunter Attitude

All received an increase in pay,
All, except me,
‘Cause I skipped work on opening day
To hunt a tom tur-key.

My nineteen-pound Rio Tom,
He had a nine-inch beard.
And what I’m going to tell you next
To some will sound plain weird.

But if I could choose tomorrow
Between a tom turkey and a raise in pay,
I’d wake my boys at four a.m.,
And whisper, “Boys, we’re goin’ huntin’ today.”

Keir, Levi, and turkey

Keiron, Levi, and their turkey

And years from now, when I am old,
One raise I won’t even recall.
But my bald head will wrinkle, and my false teeth will shine,
As I grin at that beard on my wall.

Heckuva Handy Tool 

I was nervous when I bought it.
I was a lot to owe.
It barely fit in my tuck.
Almost too much to tow.

I made all the payments,
Like workin’ boys will do.
And now I’m proud to say it,
I own a heckuva handy tool.

I don’t live in the country,
But I own land there.
And it’s always ready to go,
Anytime, anywhere.

It’s hauled deer from my back corner.
It’s hauled deer out of state.
It’s been used to tear up food plots,
With a heavy homemade rake.

It’s pulled away trees I’ve felled.
It’s towed my old john boat.
It’s been climbed like a scaffold.
It’s been loaded with tools to tote.

It’s been a seat at camp,
While lunch was being ate.
It’s why I took off early.
It’s why I came home late.

It yanks deer stands up in trees,
Using a pulley and a cable.
It stays out in the shed,
No need for hay or stables.

Roy Rogers had Trigger.
My great-grandpa had a mule.
I have a Honda Fourtrax.
It’s a heckuva handy tool.

Keiron, Ben, and their deer on the fourwheeler

Keiron, Ben, and their deer on Keiron's four-wheeler

Ramblin’ Mood 

Don’t cry when I leave, Boys,
‘Cause I’ll be coming home.
The strong love of family
Ensures I can’t stay gone.

But near Marion, Kentucky,
There are whitetails on the move.
I’ve been thinkin’ I’d go get one.
I’m in a ramblin’ mood.

Keiron with eight-point buck

Keiron with eight-point buck

Mennonite wagons cut the roads
On a tract of land I know.
In November there’s a chance
To see a big buck chase a doe.

And, Boys, you know it’s wrong,
When the signs of spring I see;
All I hear in my head
Are gobbles in Tennessee.

On a ridge I was introduced
To a big tom’s attitude.
I’d like to have a rematch.
I’m in a ramblin’ mood.

Levi with tom turkey

Levi with tom turkey

Sometimes I see the old ways.
I hear whispers in the trees.
I know my forefathers smile,
When they look down on me.

Could the urge be in my blood,
Handed down through the years?
Did my ancestors ramble
In search of turkey and deer?

Or is it that side of me,
That just awoke one day,
Submerged myself in hunting
And decided, there, to stay?

I think it comes from heaven.
God sends the ramblin’ mood.
“Go and see, My son.
I made the place for you.”

Up There with Ole Grover 

On the day my sons were born
I held them up for all to see.
And with a tear in my eye
I said, “These boys will hunt turkey.”

When the sun comes up tomorrow,
I’ll give my grunt call a blow.
I’ll be up, Lord, in a tree stand,
Huntin’ whitetail deer with a bow.

And in the Spring, if you go lookin’,
You know where I’ll be found?
Making calls to ole tom turkey,
Listenin’ for that gobblin’ sound.

When I die and go to heaven,
Don’t you cry for me.
I’ve had myself a good time,
Huntin’ deer and wild turkey.

Four-wheeler goes down a dirt trail.
John boat slips up a creek.
Deer stand hangs in a red oak.
Bow draws back to your cheek.

Ramrod shoved down a barrel.
Flashlight so you can see.
Doe scent sprayed on a drag line.
New buck rub on a tree.

Twelve-gauge loaded with magnums.
Your behind set down by a tree.
Who-who-who like a hoot owl.
Tom gobbles back at me.

Box call used when I’m yelpin’,
Slate call when I cut.
Your heart jumps in your throat,
When you see that big tom strut.

When I die and go to heaven,
Don’t you cry for me.
I’ve had myself a good time,
Huntin’ deer and wild turkey.

When He calls me back up yonder,
And it’s time for me to go.
Give my boys my shotgun.
Teach them how to shoot a bow.

And to my boys, my two sons,
I’ll make one last request:
“Go chase those deer and turkey,
Wearin’ Daddy’s huntin’ vest.”

Keiron and boys with trophy

Keiron and boys with trophy

When I’ve passed those pearly gates,
I’ll be freed from the burdens of man.
I will ask my heavenly Father,
“Where can I go hang my deer stand?”

When I die and go to heaven,
Don’t you cry for me.
I’ll be up there with my grandpa,
Huntin’ deer and wild turkey.

Yes, I’ll be up there with ole Grover,
Huntin’ deer and wild turkey.

Ode to the Computer Age 

You can keep your PC and your new CD-ROM,
The high-speed internet, your mouse and dot-com.

I’d rather hear a beagle sound off on a trial
Than sit at desk and check my e-mail.

Spending money ‘cause your computer is slow?
I’m looking for places to hunt with a bow.

Browsing the web, investing hours of life?
I’ll break out my whetstones and sharpen my knife.

Impressing your friends with computer tricks?
I shoot two-inch groups with a thirty-ought-six.

Happy your software is up to date?
I’m happy when I hear my striker hit slate.

Sure, your intelligence just grows and grows,
The problem is, you can’t see your toes.

When you see that you’ve gained more than you should,
Get away from “the net” and back to the woods.

The place is not important, there are woods everywhere.
Just don’t be surprised if you find God there.

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