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by Russ Lumpkin | Dec 23, 2020 | GUNDOGS, HUNTING | 0 comments
For Places and Times That Never End

Image courtesy of the Internet Archive.


As long as we have the freedoms to hunt and fish, the lessons of life and many stories worth telling are waiting to be experienced—and shared.

Many of my favorite hunting memories aren’t even mine. They are the memories that originated with my father, most of them created long before I was born and always against a backdrop of the Great Depression and the want and hunger that went along with it and lingered decades after it passed. These are the memories I’ve heard him share many times and that became as much a part of me as my actual times afield.

Born 14 months after Black Tuesday and the youngest of 11, my father learned that life is unfair from the very back of the family food line. He grew up hungry, and I’ve heard him say he never had all he wanted to eat at one time ’til he was 37.

How hungry? As a pre-teen, he and a cousin grabbed their single shots and went duck hunting. At a local pond, they killed plenty of waterfowl but without a boat had no way to retrieve them.

Winter days in Rome, Georgia, can be very cold, but my dad, accustomed to hard times and hard work, simply undressed, swam out and gathered all the birds.

The proud hunters returned home only to learn a horrible truth—the birds weren’t ducks at all but “didappers,” better known as grebes. The family had a good laugh at Dad’s expense. He tells the story with a chuckle, but I know he really wanted to help because food was scarce.

For example, a stray English setter took up at the Lumpkin house in the early 1940s. My dad immediately liked the dog, but my grandmother told him that they couldn’t keep it because they didn’t need another mouth to feed.

Instead of complaining and whining, my father set out to find the dog a home. He called a local radio station and asked the folks there to announce that someone had found an English setter. When no one called or came to claim the dog, he tried to run it off but to no avail.

The dog hung around and eventually won my grandmother’s heart the day after it followed my father to a swimming hole. As Dad swam, the dog went off exploring. Soon, a storm came up, and Dad ran home by himself and accidentally left his shirt on the bank. He figured he’d seen the last of the setter.

The following day and under blue skies, he returned to the creek to find the shirt with the dog patiently waiting beside it. When she heard the story, Mama Lumpkin decided they could keep the dog after all.

Dad had named her Queenie and credits her for spurring his desire to bird hunt. “She had a good nose and was a good retriever—and she was a great pet.”

Years later, even as a grown man and after a few years in the army, a professional career with Lockheed, and pastoring several small churches, the weight of the Great Depression and feelings of “waste not, want not” remained.

The stories belonged not only to my dad and the folks he shared them with, but also to places and times that never end.

Consider the time Dad went quail hunting with his friend Guy. They had arranged a picnic with their brides, and during the lunch the two big hunters challenged the ladies to shoot moving targets—each man’s new hunting cap. Guy threw his hat first, and his wife shot and missed. Mom, however, ruined Dad’s cap, which in his mind, wasn’t disposable. To this day, Dad laments, “I never thought she’d hit it.”

As a child, these stories and many others Dad told resonated with me simply because I wanted to share and laugh and experience hunting and fishing with family and friends. I wanted days afield and time on the water. I wanted a special dog.

As I grew older and began creating hunting and angling memories of my own, I concluded that Dad’s stories taught me the courage to laugh at myself; about love in times of need and hardship; the value of sacrifice, even for a dog; and that the joys of hunting and fishing often have little to do with what you kill or catch.

Further, I reckoned from the telling and retelling, the stories belonged not only to my dad and the folks he shared them with, but also to places and times that never end. The place is nearly any field or river. The time is yesterday, today, tomorrow. And as long as we have the freedoms to hunt and fish, and as long as we conserve the habitat for wildlife to flourish, the lessons of life and many stories worth telling are waiting to be experienced—and shared—just outside the front door.
 
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