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Wednesday, March 25. 2015
Brad had been invited to participate in a live pigeon shoot and mid March 2006 found us driving to east Texas for the event. Brad was still recovering from extensive surgery, radiation and chemotherapy that had removed and treated a stage 4, tumor on his right tonsil. He believed that he was well enough to participate and was looking forward to it! He had been on the Army rifle team, and, for two years had been the Arizona junior trap champion and remains an expert shot with both a rifle and shotgun. Brad had asked me to accompany him, and said, “Why don’t you bring your shotgun along.” I needed no encouragement and accepted the offer. I did not expect to get to shoot, but you never know.
The pigeon shoot, a benefit for Jubalee Junction, a nonprofit organization that provided deer, duck and wild hog hunting for severely injured people who had the desire to be in the field and take part in hunting activities. The founder of this group, David Gates, is a banker in a small East Texas town and a wonderful guy! He was a severely injured victim of an industrial accident but spending time around him you could never tell.
We had dinner at David’s house that night and met there the next morning to begin a thirty minute drive to the shoot that was being held on private land, deep in the Trinity River “bottom”. Pigeon shoots aren’t against the law, but secluded, private locations are necessary to keep “The Friends Of Wildlife” and other “Tree Huggers” out!
Pigeon shoots are conducted on a one hundred yard, half-circle, field with distance markers spaced every twenty yards around the circumference. To be counted as a kill the bird must fall within this half-circle. The shooter stands in a roped off, chalk lined rectangle twenty yards wide and ten yards deep that is placed in the middle of the half circles base and can shoot from anywhere in this rectangle.
In front of the shooter the thrower of the pigeon, the “Colombaire” also has a rectangle the size of the shooters for him to maneuver in. Once he is in position and ready to throw, he says “Listo”, which means he can’t move until throwing the bird. The shooter says, “Pull” and away goes the bird.
To the shooters front, the posts and ropes, ten feet off of the ground, are for the safety of the Colombaire, and when he throws the pigeon, it must clear the ropes to be a legal bird. Since he is throwing the pigeon from in front of the shooter, this gives the Colombaire a margin of safety. However, when the pigeon clears the ropes and then dives back down toward the ground, the Colombaire must hit the ground quickly to avoid being shot. He must be quick and smart!
Brad got three practice shots and moved into the shooters area shouldering his shotgun. “Listo,” says the thrower and Brad counters, “Pull,” and the bird rocketed over the rope climbing for all it’s worth. Pow! The bird folded and Pow, Brad dischargeed the second shot, which is a safety rule. A shooter gets two shots to hit the bird and if successful on the first, must discharge the second into the air.
Brad turned around and said to David, “The gun’s recoil puts too much pressure against the implant in my jaw and I don’t think that I can continue. Is it OK for my Dad to shoot in my place?” David says, “Fine,” and I quickly prepared. I felt somewhat funny with my Browning Superposed “knock off”, a twelve gauge Lanber, a good looking gun made in Spain, but a lot less expensive than a Browning. My opponents all seem to have had Browning’s, Perrottzi’s, Beretta’s and Krieghoff’s, all costing many times more than mine. But, as they said, “The proof will be in the pudding.”
Our Colombaire was a man about fifty years old, left handed, with all the moves of a baseball pitcher, which he was professionally in his youth. “Listo,” he announced right in front of me and I nervously answered, “Pull” and he overhanded a bird right in front of me, it darted low, he hit the ground, and too much movement in my direst front, and Pow, Pow, two clean misses. An inauspicious start!
The second, practice bird cleared the rope and climbed fast to my right and Pow, down he went. The Colombaire said, “Second barrel.” I looked at him. “Second barrel,” a little louder and I remembered to discharge the second shot into the air. Being “tight”, if you hit a bird on the first shot, you didn’t waste the second one. I missed both shots on my last practice bird and thought to myself, this is harder than sporting clays or trap shooting and much worse than shooting mourning doves on a real windy day. I’ll have to crank up my concentration just to compete with the other shooters. Part two continues in five days!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Hunting at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Friday, March 20. 2015
Posted by Jon Bryan in Pictures at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Sunday, March 15. 2015
Last week I was enrolled in the "Son's Of The American Revolution" and I thought it fitting to relate a family story about my 5G Grandfather, William Murrill and an action he was involved in during our Revolutionary War. This event was passed down through the family and recorded in the diary of a 3G Uncle of mine, James Buckner “Buck” Barry, and later copyrighted and published as “Buck Barry, Texas Ranger And Frontiersman”. I have used family history and this book as my references.
As heavy gunfire erupted on the other side of the large pond, the 20, man detail of Colonial soldiers from Onslow County, North Carolina, started sprinting towards the skirmish. “Tony stay here and guard the pack horses,” William Murrill shouted as he ran past Tony, a family slave, who was assisting the small unit that was on a prolonged scout, along the coast, for rations and supplies.
The firing grew in intensity and was sustained for, to Tony, it seemed hours, when he saw 2 Redcoats enter the water and swim towards him and the prize of horses and supplies he was guarding. Thinking that William’s unit had been wiped out he quickly hid behind a tree and kept a close watch on the 2 enemy soldiers. When they came within gunshot range of the camp and saw the horses, they ducked behind a log in the water, trying to hide.
Soon William and his victorious unit returned with no prisoners, but they carried the booty from the British camp, which included whiskey and William’s brother, my 5G Uncle, Kemp Murrill proceeded to get himself drunk on the spoils. Tony told William about the Redcoats hiding behind the log in the pond. William immediately ordered them to come up to camp with their hands over their heads.
As they were coming into camp, Kemp and another drunk were going to shoot the prisoners, but William took their guns away preventing a killing. Years later, Tony told Buck Barry, then a young boy, that they kept the prisoners for 2 days but he never saw them again.
Feelings were real hard then!
Authors note. Tony served with William for the duration of the war.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Ancestry at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Tuesday, March 10. 2015
My old neighborhood friend and fishing buddy from West University, Bill Priddy, and I both had jobs with a large computer company in Atlanta and had decided to go after a really big bass. We believed that our best chance at one would be a “pay” lake and we choose Horseshoe Lakes, just outside of Tifton, Georgia, only miles away from where, years earlier, the world record, twenty-two pound large mouth bass had been caught, California excepted.
The dogwoods were blooming spreading their white glory over the hills and hollows, but winter still had its grips on Atlanta as we left on Friday afternoon, March 8, 1979. We spent the night in my camper beside Horseshoe Lake number 1, were up, and on the water before the sun on Saturday.
This place had ten lakes, all stocked with Florida strain largemouth bass. We hadn’t been fishing ten minutes when, “Whamo”, Bill has a jarring strike on a yellow, Piggy Boat. The fish took line and shook its head like a redfish and we couldn’t figure what Bill had tied into. A roll by the boat told us, the high fin giving it away, a channel cat of at least ten pounds. Not the ten-pound bass we were looking for but it would look real good in the skillet!
We fished the first lake hard with spinners, worms and rat-l-traps, but only had the catfish to show for it, so far, not worth the $5.00 fee. We move on to the second lake, by picking up and carrying my twelve foot, Sears, aluminum boat and trolling motor over the levee. A feature I had added to the little boat was three coats of rubberized paint applied to the insides making it nearly soundproof.
The second lake, almost fifty acres, was much like a rice field reservoir along the Texas coast. A deep channel cut all around a square impoundment with about ten feet of shallow water along the sides before the channel dropped off into over six feet of water. The channel, the only structure, was approximately thirty feet wide, sloping up to a large, shallow flat that covered the center of the lake. On both lakes we had not noticed any bass on their spawning beds, but if not today, within the week.
We flipped our casts toward the center of the lake; me a six inch, motor oil colored, worm, rigged Texas style, and Bill, back to his trusty yellow, Piggy Boat, and drug the baits over the shallow water and across, or down, in my case, the drop-off. We finally caught two, three pound, bass, and quickly put both of them back into the water to grow up. Well, we may be onto something, casting toward the middle and working the baits back over the drop-off.
About five minutes after putting the last bass back, I had a jolting strike on my worm. The fish didn’t gently tap-tap-tap, but picked the worm up and “headed south” at full speed. I was using a Mitchell 300, Spinning Reel with ten-pound line and a fairly stiff, six and one half foot spinning rod. I exclaimed to Bill, “I got a big hit Bill, I guess it’s another cat.” I have fished for and hooked a big, blue marlin of over five hundred pounds, a one hundred and twenty pound Pacific sailfish, a sixty pound amberjack (hardest fighter) and a sixty plus pound, kingfish on light tackle, and in comparison, this fish jolted me just like the big ‘uns!
The fish took line and then came to the top and wallowed up, almost into the air and we saw the big mouth. Good heavens, a big, big bass, and all I could do was hang on and hope the hook was set securely in its jaw. Another wallow/jump, the fish was too big to get out of the water all the way, but we could see it more clearly, and it was a whopper! Another short run and my line seemed to be hung up. Guessing the bass had wrapped me around something, I turned on the electric motor and inched toward the point where my line entered the water, Bill saw a motion, a swirl, and the fish had wrapped the line around a snag of some kind.
All in one motion, I cut off the motor, told Bill to stick a paddle into the bottom to hold us, leaned over the side and stuck my arm down into the two and one half foot of cold, water. With my rod held high in my other hand, I ran my hand down the line until feeling the snag. I inched my hand around until I felt the bass, and hoping that I don’t hook myself, tried to lip the fish. No luck. I got a good hold of the snag, pulled it and the fish to the surface and then Bill slipped the net under the huge bass!
We didn’t have a scale, but estimated its weight at over ten pounds. I told Bill, “I felt like I was harvesting rice, reaching down and bringing up the snag, moss and fish, all in one handful. This one is going on the wall.” This was years before you could get a plastic replica of your fish, so we put it on a stringer and kept fishing.
This is THE bass, a 12 pounder, on the hall's wall near my 9 pound trout and my dad's fishing lures.
We caught several more bass, but none even close to the big one, so we decided to find a scale and weigh the fish, then head back home. We found the owner of the lakes who acted as proud as if he had caught the fish himself and his certified scale showed twelve pounds! I couldn’t imagine that I had caught a twelve-pound bass. More pictures were taken, congratulations accepted, the fish was packed in ice and we loaded the boat on top of the camper and headed back.
Back home it seemed like the whole neighborhood came over and the viewing turned into a party. Keeping the fish on ice, on Monday, I took it to the best taxidermist in the Atlanta area in Duluth, Georgia and within a month, my fish was ready. Today, it hangs in the hall of my ranch house, next to a picture box display of my Dad’s old fishing plugs and a replica mount of a nine, pound, speckled trout. But that’s another story.
The Sears, twelve-foot aluminum boat is still providing yeoman service to my son, Randy. He uses it to take his kids bass fishing.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Fishing at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, March 5. 2015
Growing up, my Grandmother, Linnie Ross Sanders Wallace, told me several times (in no uncertain terms) that the Sanders were SCOTS-Irish, with the emphasis on "Scots". I heard her and remembered it, but like all youth, I didn’t realize the importance of it later.
Digging through the Sanders’ family’s genealogy, I’ve come across a mystery of sorts. The mystery being was William and/or Lewis Sanders involved in the capture and slaying of Edward Teach, better known as, Black Beard the Pirate. Lewis Sanders was my 6G Grandfather and William was my 6G Uncle.
The plot started when I read an old letter, written in 1895 by Thomas Bailey Saunders and sent to one of his nephews. The letter was posted on Gary B. Sanders website, “Sanders, of Randolph and Montgomery Counties, North Carolina, and Jackson County, Alabama, and other counties in Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas”, and I quote,
"There were two Saunders brothers who came from England long before the Revolutionary war. At that time the pirates were very bad on the North Carolina coast. The governor of Virginia outfitted a vessel to catch them, and in making up the crew he took one of these brothers, and they caught old Black Beard, the pirate, and hung him to the mast arm. The crew got a good deal of money, and when that brother came back he left the U out of his name. This is the reason so many spell their names Sanders”.
Spending a good deal of time researching the events, I was surprised that, actually, the Governor of North Carolina was in league with Black Beard. In fact his Secretary was captured and convicted of accepting funds from the pirate. In reality, the Governor of Virginia gave two unarmed sloops, Ranger and Jane, to Lt. Maynard of the Royal Navy.
On November 22, 1718, Black Beard engaged the two, unarmed sloops in Oracoke Inlet off the coast of North Carolina and opening fire on them with his cannons, he almost destroyed both ships. Teach closed in on Maynard's ship, Ranger, boarded it and engaged Maynard personally in combat. Maynard shot him and both men swung their cutlasses, Teach's shattering Maynard’s and as Teach was going to deliver the death blow, according to an Autumn, 1992 article in the "Colonial Williamsburg", magazine, now online, his throat was slashed by a stout Scot among Maynard's crew.
To claim the reward Maynard cut off Teach's head. Returning to his home port of Hampton, as a warning to other pirates, Teach's head was placed on a stake near the mouth of the Hampton River.
Another quote from Gary B. Sanders website, further whetted my appetite for intrigue, “… I think it's likely that William Sanders of Anson County, North Carolina may be the brother of Lewis Sanders of Fairfax County, Virginia. William and Lewis appear to be of the same generation. DNA tests show William was related to Lewis. These two may well be the two emigrant brothers described in a somewhat jokingly fashion in the 1890's letter of Thomas Bailey Saunders."
Being left with questions that, in all probability, will never be answered, I can only make some assumptions and ask a few more questions. Both brothers were of Scots-Irish ancestry. Both brothers also took the "U" out of Saunders. Was one of the Saunders boy’s a part of Maynard’s crew? Was one of them the “stout, Scot”?
What if the old story is really true?
Posted by Jon Bryan in Ancestry at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Saturday, February 28. 2015
It was the second day of our hunt and we had collected only one hog. It was late February and the cold front, ‘norther’ in Texan, hit just before sun up with the wind howling from the north and the temperature dropping like a rock. We had been dressed and eating breakfast when it hit so this required a quick addition of long johns to our apparel.
Out into the teeth of the storm we went and set up our ambush and waited for the hogs. Our wait was a short one and the hogs, probably 10 or more, exploded from the bait and scattered, headed toward the northwest, except for one that was headed our way.
Brad and I were about 5 yards apart and here came a hog, a 200 pounder, right at me and I was square in the middle of his path of escape. Brad couldn’t swing on it for fear of hitting me and all I could do was get ready. The hog charged closer and I put the sight on its nose, tracked down with its movement and the .223 cal., Boomed and the hog rolled right at my feet! The shot hit right above the hog’s eyes and thinking back, I would have gotten “rolled up” by him if I had missed!
After another chase, Brad collected a nice one out of the bunch and we called it a day. With the “norther” howling, we cleaned the 2 and then loaded all three on to the luggage rack of the Suburban, tied them down securely for the almost 300 mile drive to Houston, bid Rick a fond good bye and headed out.
We had a tail wind all the way home, but the cold followed us and turned into sleet and rain by the time we arrived at my northwest Houston home and found to our surprise that our hogs were frozen solid. Hopefully, we’d process them the next day.
I even had a water pipe freeze that night!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Hunting at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, February 18. 2015
Putting together a collection of my stories about all of the storms and natural disasters I have been in, one comes to the fore and shows how conditions can quickly move past hazardous and become deadly!
In the early spring of 2005, several months before I retired, I had planned to get an early start on a Saturday morning and drive to Goldthwaite and arrive before lunch. Living in Bayou Vista, Texas, right on the Gulf Coast, I had a 4 plus, hour drive awaiting me.
Setting my clock for 5:30 AM, I awoke with a start at 6:00 AM. I hadn’t turned “On” the alarm. So much for a real early start! Rushing and getting dressed I looked outside toward my boat dock and notice that it was foggy, not unusual for this time of the year.
Nothing to load up so I climbed into my 4WD, Suburban and headed out noticing that there was about 200 yards of visibility, again not strange. I surmised that the farther I went inland, the lighter the fog will be.
Heading north on I-45 the traffic, yes traffic at 6:20 AM on a Saturday was moving along about 45 MPH and the farther inland I got, it seemed the fog was getting thicker. Seventeen miles from downtown Houston, Beltway 8, a toll road, runs east and west. As I was exiting, going toward the toll road, it seemed that the fog almost touched the Suburban”s top!
Clicking on my blinkers, the traffic report came on, every 20 minutes on weekends, instead of the 10 minutes on workdays, and reports of heavy fog on Beltway 8 around Texas 288, The Nolan Ryan Expressway, 5 miles ahead, was daunting Slow going for a ways!
On the “Raceway”, er Beltway, posted speed is 65 MPH, which is ignored, and most motorist clip along a 75 or 80, but today we’re down to 40 and nearing 288, traffic slowed dramatically, red lights glaring, hazard lights blinking and we entered a white world. The radio blared, “There has been a series of major accident on Beltway 8 between Hillcroft and Cullen, and reports from the scene say the Beltway was closed.”
Closed it was and the fog was so thick I could barely make out the reflections of the car’s lights to my front. I have never seen, or even imagined, that fog could be so heavy! Behind me I heard a grinding CRASH, and braced for a hit that never came.
We’re stopped and nothing to do but listen to the radio, that is now getting a better report from the authorities. The Beltway is closed both ways and at least 100 cars are involved in the chain reaction accident on the inbound side and around 1,000 cars are stuck and fogged in. Deaths and injuries are reported and we are still 2 to 3 miles from the accident site.
Sirens were blaring from every direction as police and sheriff’s officers begin to arrive all along the Beltway. They begin moving cars off of the Beltway and soon I’m on the access road, still heading west, but stopped. We creepped along and in some places the fog seems so thick that it must be impenetrable.
After about an hour, we begin creeping along side the scene of the most deadly accidents and then, the fog lifted, just like that! Cars are piled into each other and resemble accordions, reminding me of scenes from “The Highway Of Death” in Kuwait; some cars are upside down on the grades leading up the overpasses, with radiator fluid, gasoline and oil pooled on the road surface, people are milling around stunned and law officers are everywhere. We continued our creep for 600 or 700 yards and up ahead I saw the law directing us back on to the Beltway, in bright sunshine!
We couldn’t get out of our vehicles and help since we were being herded along. All I could do was say a prayer for those involved and thank the Lord that I was 15 minutes late. If I had been on time, I would have been right in the middle of it.
Final tally was 110, cars and trucks involved, with 7 deaths and a myriad of injured.
I was in Houston last year and traveled along this stretch of the Beltway (at 75 MPH) and there are still skid marks on the road surface and on the median attesting to the speed and violence of the crashes!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Weather at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, February 12. 2015
The fishing in El Golfo out from Mazatlan was terrific and a fall trip yielded dorado, sailfish and a white marlin, but the truly memorable event was the most unusual duck hunt I had ever been on. I had been hunting ducks for over 25 years, sneaking stock tanks, decoying them in flooded rice fields and timber, pass shooting and shooting them over goose spreads, but I never imagined a hunt like this one.
Norman Shelter, a Houston friend of mine, and I were standing on the bank of a tidal lagoon north of Mazatlan, as our guide and his two helpers loaded our guns and shells into 2 flat bottomed, aluminum boats with no visible means of propulsion. Across the lagoon, probably 600 yards away was our objective, where we could see ducks coming in, some landing on the water and some landing in the trees! Hard to sneak up on!
Our guide told us to each to get into a boat and his helpers started pushing us into the lagoon. More instructions from the guide, “Load your guns and lay down in the bottom of the boat and be still and they will push both of you into shooting range and the rest is up to you.” Our helpers didn’t “habla Englais”, but each got behind the boat and hid his head behind the gunnels and started pushing.
Soon we were across the lagoon and both of us rose up and commenced firing at the ducks getting up off the water and the ones coming out of the trees. Ducks flushed wildly as we reloaded and shot some more. The ducks then circled and flew right back over us and we unloaded on them again, which chased them off for good.
As one helper retrieved the ducks the other held the boat and soon we were looking a very different kind of duck. Long neck and webfeet with toenail like things on each foot. A beige breast, black back and a white stripe down the side led to our tentative identification, fulvous tree ducks, fulvous whistling ducks or Mexican squealers, but officially they are, Dendrocygna Bicolor. We took 4 home for supper and gave the rest to the helpers along with a generous tip to which they replied, almost in unison, “Muchas gracias, Jefe!”
Norman and I were a sight when we strolled through the lobby of the El Cid Hotel, muddy, wet and carrying the ducks. We weren’t sure if the Chef would cook them for us, but later at supper, the Duck L’Orange, which we never expected in Mazatlan, was a fitting close to a different kind of duck hunt.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Hunting at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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