Gone To Texas

The Royal Hare never knew what hit him. It was feeding on the tender shoots of new spring grass, 50 feet upwind of the hunter and never noticed the threat approaching. Boom, the shotgun belched out a cloud of foul smelling smoke, blowing it right back on Shaw Wallace and as it cleared, he saw the hare flopping on the ground.

Hunting on his Father’s land in County Derry, Ireland, it never occurred to Shaw that the large rabbit would be anything but a fine dinner for his family. His Father, Jesse, was a well to do farmer and head of Clan Wallace in Ireland, a post Shaw would one day hold.

What Shaw did know, but paid little attention to, was that he had just committed a crime against the Crown. He was only 19 years old and enjoying an afternoon hunt, but in 1842, the King of England owned all of the wild game in Ireland and it was a crime, punishable by death, to kill a Royal Hare!

Shaw’s family, the Wallace’s, were originally Orangemen who came over from Scotland in 1608 to conquer and repopulate England’s Plantation, Ireland. The battle had been going on for over 200 years and a practical stalemate had emerged, with the Protestants dominating Ulster, a northern Province, and the Catholics the southern three. The British Government’s first attempt at apartheid was well underway!

Shaw hefted the hare over his shoulder, loosely carrying the shotgun in his other hand, and began his walk back home. The next thing he knew was, “Hold it right there, you poacher, you’re under arrest. You red headed scum, you think you can kill the King’s game and get away with it”, the Royal Game Warden barked at him. Startled, Shaw backed up, but the Warden said, “I’m taking you in and within a week you’ll get a taste of the King’s justice, a noose around that thick neck of yours.”

Shaw knew he was in trouble and without thinking, dropped the hare, distracting the Warden, raised the shotgun to hip level, cocked the left barrel and in one motion, fired, Boom, knocking the Warden back and down. The smoke cleared and the warden was dead! Not reloading the gun, he picked up the hare and started running home.

His mother, Margaret’s sobs and wailing almost drowned out his father’s calm analysis of the situation. “Boy, you’ll surely hang if we don’t get you out of the country fast” and before Shaw could reply, his father continued, “Up quick, kiss your mother and brothers and sisters goodbye. We’re saddling the horses and heading to Lee Wallace’s warehouse in Derry to try and get you out of Ireland.”

Lee, Shaw’s Uncle, had an import export business in Derry and was familiar with swift British justice. He recommended putting Shaw in a barrel, marked pickles, and “shipping” him to the United States. He had a Captain friend that was sailing for New Orleans in 2 days and Shaw could get “comfortable” in his barrel until then.

Shaw knew he would likely not ever see his father, uncle or family again. With teary eyes he hugged each man, told them goodbye and prepared for, what he knew would be a long ordeal.

Two days later, Uncle Lee, with a straight face, paid his friend for shipping the pickles to New Orleans. The hoist groaned lifting the heavy pickle barrel and it was stowed in the forward hold and Shaw was on his way to the “New World”.

The ship left on the afternoon tide and by the following afternoon the headlands at Ballygorman were behind them and Shaw could tell from the roll and pitch of the schooner, they were on the open sea and that turning around and handing him over to the authorities was out of the question.

The First Mate found him making his escape from his barrel and roughly grabbed him hissing, “A stowaway! I’m a good mind to pitch you over the side.” The man’s strange accent, obviously from the United States, startled him, but Shaw gathered up his courage and said in as strong a voice as he could muster, “Take me to the Captain!”

The Captain, Captain Allen, proved to be another rough customer with a strange accent, and barked at him, “Pickles? You smell like horse droppings! Lee Wallace paid for a barrel of pickles to New Orleans, and what do I get, but a thick necked, red headed, kid.” He added, “You must have killed somebody for them to go to all this trouble sneaking you out?” Shaw answered, “Yes Sir, Captain Sir, I killed an English Game Warden. It was him or the gallows for me!” Shaw continued, “Uncle Lee paid for shipping pickles, but I’m strong and could work my way across.” “Very well”, Captain Allen closed the discussion, telling the First Mate, “Get him cleaned up and set him to scrubbing the decks.

Turning back, Captain Allen asked, “Boy what’s your name and what will you do in my country?” Shaw stood up straight and said, “Sir, my name is Shaw Wallace, and Uncle Lee said that I should get to The Republic of Texas as soon as I could!” Hiding his smile, the Captain turned and walked away.

So, in 1842, Shaw Wallace, one of my great grandfathers, found his way to Texas!

A Glass Of Buttermilk

My dad told me the following story about him and about my family’s past association with the Klan, yes the Ku Klux Klan. It all began on the hot, dusty, smoke covered battlefield of Chickamauga, where our Southern, Army of Tennessee, routed the Union forces, driving them out of Georgia, back across the Tennessee River and into Chattanooga.

In early 1862, my Great Grandfather, Brinson Murrill Bryan, had been in Sumpter County, Alabama, visiting relatives when he enlisted in the 40th Alabama Infantry Regiment. He was a sharpshooter and was attached to and later permanently assigned to the 10th Texas Cavalry Regiment (Dismounted), and finished the war with them.

During the opening morning of the battle of Chickamauga, Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, became separated from his cavalry division and assumed command of Ectors’ Brigade (Texas), the 10th Texas Cavalry, Brinson’s unit, being part of this Brigade. They held a key bridge over a creek and prevented Union reinforcements from reaching the main breach in the Union lines. The tenacity and courage of the Texans excited Forrest, who later said, “When the Texans charged at Chickamauga, it excited my admiration.”

One year later, during Gen. Hood’s disastrous retreat from Nashville, Forrest was assigned to command the rear guard. His choice of troops for this grinding, week long battle was a Texas Cavalry Brigade and two Texas regiments of dismounted cavalry, the10th being one. The Texans won each battle and skirmish and was even recognized by Union Gen. Thomas, who said, “Hood’s Army on the retreat from Tennessee was a bunch of disorganized rabble. But the rear guard, however, was undaunted and firm, and did its work bravely to the last.”

After the war ended, the South was in chaos, Reconstruction was beginning, noticeably absent was law and order and influential Southern leaders, Forrest being one, joined together and formed a protective association that grew into the Ku Klux Klan. Brinson, who had “Rode With Forrest”, returned to Alabama to marry, and, if Bedford Forrest was a founder, that was all Brinson needed, and he joined this new association and for a time was an active member. My dad told me that my grandfather, Peyton Bryan, had also been a member.

When my dad was 19, he joined the Klan in Falls County, Texas, and his first assignment was to take part in a Klan rally and march in a parade through the town of Marlin. My Dad put on his sheet and joined in the rally and parade. After the parade was over, the Klansmen removed their hoods and sheets and retired to the local saloon.

Soon the Sheriff entered the saloon and said, “There was no parade permit issued so I’m arresting everyone who took part in it! Everybody line up against the wall!” My Dad, being smart, said, “Sheriff, I have been standing at this bar during the parade, drinking this cold glass of butter milk and I’m not guilty of anything.”

Grabbing him by the arm, the Sheriff escorted him bodily to the wall and said to him, “Johnny, my boy, your boots are dusty. They didn’t get that way from standing at the bar! You’re under arrest!”

After spending the night in the Falls County Jail, the “paraders” were released and my Dad resigned from the Klan. He didn’t even get to finish his cold, buttermilk.

Gut Check Time

One Sunday afternoon in late April of 1970, we were down at our beach house in Jamaica Beach, on the west end of Galveston Island, and, Norman Shelter and I decided to take a run out to the Galveston Jetties to try and hook up with some white, sea trout or sand trout, Cynoscion arenarius. These are fine eating fish, but because of their soft texture they are difficult to freeze. The best way to try and keep them for any length of time is to freeze them in water and be sure to squeeze the air out.

With a light wind out of the southeast and big, 10, foot swells rolling over both the north and south jetties, it was a strange day and I had never seen anything remotely resembling it before. Both jetties served their purpose well and broke the big swells, but as Norman and I rounded the end of the north jetty, it was gut check time. We should have gone through the boat cut in the north jetty, but decided that the shortest way to the fish was to go around the end. So, at an angle, I raced up the side of 2 big swells got my timing, then sped down the front of the next one and, just like that, we were safely into the calm water.

Anchoring up, we bated our lines with fresh, dead shrimp and cast back toward the rocks. We were fishing on the bottom, right among the rocks, about 35 feet down, with 6-1/2 foot, popping rods, red, Ambassaduer reels, loaded with 15 pound line. Both of our casts were met with solid strikes and after short battles, we boated a couple of nice, sand trout, 2 pounders. Good fish, since the bigger ones like this were usually caught miles, off shore. Both fish had a mouth full of small teeth, no spots like speckled trout and a pretty, a bluish hue covering their heads.

This was repeated over and over until out 88, quart cooler was full of fish (and ice). Then, Norman said the famous last words, “I’ll just make one more cast.” He cast out toward the open gulf, the bait had no more hit the water and he was greeted with a savage, strike! The fury of the strike identified the fish, hurling the king mackerel 10 feet or more out of the water then the king ran, stopped, but on the light tackle, began another run! Rasslin’ with the anchor, it finally pulled loose and I started the motor. As I came about, the king, a nice one, 40 pounds or more, spooled Norman, hit the end of the line and the line gave a popping sound as it separated from the reel.

Since our cooler was full and our anchor was up, we decided to go on back in, we headed back to the yacht basin to take the boat out, but this time we smartly chose to use the boat cut! Anyway, we didn’t have room for the kingfish!

Turkey Hunting Bust

No turkey hunting Wednesday afternoon, having just driven to northeast Texas from my place in Goldthwaite, however, Wesley, my grandson, was playing Pony League baseball that evening, he’s 13 now and one of the stars on his team (and in the league too)! The team is blessed with good coaches, young guys that really know their stuff, they put this all together for a win Wednesday and Wesley was scheduled to pitch on Friday night, but that’s another story.

Thursday morning, a very beautiful morning, Paul Culbertson and I went out to his place for a try at an eastern turkey, “a try” was the key words. We arrived about 5 minutes late, the sun was just peeking over the horizon and the big birds had already left their roosts. Hurriedly we built a ground blind, settled in it and even though we were a tad late, let out 3 crow caws, but no turkey response!

We saw, nor heard a turkey and sat in the blind until around 9:30 AM, then went back to his cabin for a bite of breakfast. Our hunger satisfied, at 11:30 we went back out to the ground blind, the turkeys usually coming to the feeder around noon, but again, no turkeys, they picked this morning not to come around. However all was not lost, we still had Friday morning and our plans were to be out before sun up, improve our blind a little, then entice a bird to come in.

Thursday afternoon and evening were spent watching my grandson, Will, play Little League baseball, Will’s 9, really just learning, but he has a lot of fun and he will be a good one too! Friday morning, 5:30 AM, thunder blaring, Suzanne woke me with, “Dad, it’s raining, thundering and lightning. What about today’s hunt?” “Wake me at 6:30 and we’ll see”, was my sleepy reply. The thunder rumbled, rain poured down, then down came dime size hail, this ended our mornings hunt, north wind blowing 15-20 MPH, almost 2 inches of rain, this also rained out Wesley’s game.

All was not lost, because Suzanne, Paul and I, ate Mexican food for lunch, spent Friday afternoon shopping and the boys and I packed up and headed for Plano, where Layla was running a Senior Softball tournament. Both boys will work and help her with the tournament and Sunday afternoon Suzanne will pick them up.

No turkeys Thursday, rain, hail and lightning Friday, a definite bust, but there’ll be other chances too!

Walkin’ The Dog

“Walkin’ the dog” is the term used for a specific type of fishing lure retrieval – twitch the rod tip and then reel one turn of the reel handle, then twitch and reel, twitch and reel, for the entire retrieve. The lure is moved along slowly, twitching to each side, resembling a small, injured fish.  My dad taught me this long ago and it is still a most favored retrieve for almost all types of fishing!

This was the technique used by my dad and our neighbor and fishing partner, Dub Middleton the past weekend when they had caught and released 2 big tarpon, probably 75 to 80 pounders!  Both fish were caught on red and white Zara Spooks, wooden, top water plugs “walked” past schools of surfacing, rolling fish.

One more point, these monster fish were caught on light, split Calcutta, cane, popping rods and Shakespeare Criterion reels, loaded with 15 or 17 pound, braided line. On the left is Dad’s old, circa 1933, reel with the original braided line still on it! The reel had no drag system, but to control the fish pressure was applied by using the angler’s thumb and among fishermen, blisters were common!

The next weekend, in the spring of 1953, was my first encounter with a tarpon.  Dad took Bobby Baldwin, and me to fish for them near the mouth of the New River, near Freeport, Texas. The New River channel of the Brazos was manmade to create a safe harbor for Freeport. What this created was a 5, mile long fish haven, frequented by tarpon in the spring prior to their beach runs of the summer.

Right after sun up we arrived at the fishing spot, then walked about 100 yards to the river’s bank. The walk, smells and all, seemed like a walk through a garbage dump!  The area was littered with the remains of tarpon, the big fish scattered about in various stages of decomposition.  Back then, I knew that tarpon weren’t a food fish and common sense said they should be returned live to the water, but these fish were caught, killed, I’m sure pictures were taken, smiles and all, and then simply left to rot. What a waste of a fine fishing resource!

After passing through the stench of rotting fish, we started fishing, casting to rolling schools of tarpon. They were everywhere along the river and, up and down you could hear folks holler when a fish was hooked. Being teenagers, we watched the show and then my dad, under his breath, let out a “Hmmpf”, his rod bowed and a silvery/green tarpon cleared the water, then haded upstream toward Rosenberg! “Did you see that? Wow”, we shouted as Dad fought the fish and all at once, the hook pulled out, leaving my dad with a sore thumb!

By the early 1960’s the tarpon had left New River. I’m sure useless killing of fish played a role in their disappearance, but the main culprit, thought by most fisherman, were the huge chemical complexes sprouting up around Freeport.

I have my Dad’s scarred up, Zara Spook in a picture box display, along with all of his fishing plugs. The old plug must be almost 90 years old!  No more tarpon that day and not another one until 1998.

More Outdoors Pictures, April 14, 2012

After a successful hunt with Mickey Donahoo at his hunting lease, I returned to Goldthwaite and, I guess because of the shots in each knee, was able to resume my morning walks.  My first walk was this past Monday, nothing showed up unusual or picture worthy, but as I was walking back to the house, I noticed, on the other side of the road, turkey tracks and I took this picture.  Turkey movement around here was exciting to me!

Somehow, the date and time on the game camera has messed up and it reset, maybe lightning hit it?  Anyway, the camera was working and on the afternoon of April 9th, this nice gobbler was feeding.

The next day a gobbler and an unidentified turkey, maybe a jake, more likely a hen, but last year was so bad I don’t think any broods were successful!  Around here, bucks have lost their horns and these 2 young ones were feeding and paying no attention the turkeys walking along and browsing.
Eastern gobbler season opens in east Texas this Sunday, April 15th see my post “[Turkey Hunting]” on March 21, 2012.  Weather forecasts are horrible for northeast Texas, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, clearing on Monday, but hopefully, Monday or Tuesday morning I’ll be opening this season too!

More Outdoors Pictures, April 11, 2012

After shooting the turkey, Mickey and I decided, even though it was after 4:30 PM, that we’d go to another feeder and try for a javelina.  We went back to the ranch house, picked up his .204, rifle, stuck the turkey into the fridge, drove back to the new spot and hurriedly built us a spacious ground blind.

Not long after completion, out walked a gobbler displaying his fan, not strutting, just showing off.

The first gobbler was still walking around showing off his fan, shortly he was joined by another gobbler, this one more wary.

The second bird, more wary, barely nibbled at the corn and protein, then walked toward our ground blind.  Mickey, softly calling with a box call, had this one’s interest and as the big bird moved close to us, I snapped this picture.

Here’s a picture of an unusual bird, a bearded hen, only 10 to 20% of hens will have beards, and yes, they can lay eggs and raise poults.

We stayed around until dark seeing lots of turkeys, gobblers and hens, but no javelinas even though we were sure we’d see some.  Up before the sun on Friday morning and back to the spacious ground blind.  We could hear the gobblers coming down from the roost, gobble, gobble, gobble and knew they would head our way, but first up was this young doe.  She spent several minutes trying to figure out who, and what, we were.

Finally the doe eased off, then the turkeys showed up.  This picture shows a gobbler and a hen feeding, while another gobbler stands guard.

We came home, back to Goldthwaite, Friday afternoon celebrating a real good turkey hunt and some real good pictures!

Turkey Hunting, April 8, 2012

This past Thursday, Mickey Donahoo and I drove out to his hunting lease 35 miles south of Sonora, Texas and as soon as we got there, we ate a sandwich, unloaded our gear, changed into our camo and headed out for a go at a turkey, all of this by 12:30 PM!  We used a ground blind that Mickey had made the week before, the turkey hunting season opened a week before ours, north zone, south zone you see, then we set up our decoy, got into the blind and proceeded to wait for some action.

The blind was under a cedar tree, it was almost hot except when a breeze came through, it was hard to keep our eyes open, we each nodded several times, but about 1:00 PM a hen showed up, just nibbling along, walking toward the decoy.  She passed up the water trough shown in the picture and came on toward the decoy.

Another hour, nothing, this blind, made for Doris, Mickey’s wife, her being all of 4 foot 11, at the most, was really uncomfortable to me, no way to stretch my legs out and yesterday I had gotten a shot in each knee, really uncomfortable!  Around 4:00 PM, 2 gobblers came up to get water, since they were both shooters, no pictures.  Right away I hefted my shotgun to my shoulder, ready for a shot, but the 2 big birds were more interested in getting a drink. It seemed like an hour, my shotgun ready, then I started getting the shakes, never having had them before shooting, the more I held the gun, the more my heart started beating, faster, faster, I thought I would hyperventilate, finally the one with the best beard separated from the other.  Boom and down the gobbler went!

The picture shows me with the Rio Grande gobbler, my shotgun and a big smile.  Right after this picture, we went back to the camp, got my rifle and headed out to the blind where I shot the javalina in January, see my post “[The Shortest Hunt]” on January 17, 2012.  At this spot, we had the opportunity to take some great pictures that I’ll post on April 11th.



Lucky for me the skunk, 10 feet up wind, didn’t smell or see me, lying prone on the ground patiently waiting in ambush between a small turkey roost and a freshly plowed field. Hoping that both the skunk would move on, which it did, and some turkeys would move our way, which, minutes later, 4 hens did, made this apparent foolishness worthwhile. Lucky the skunk missed Rick Haney too, who was in ambush about 40 yards to my right.

We were enjoying the opening morning of spring turkey season on Rick’s ranch, near Abilene, Texas. We had scouted the roost the previous evening and guessed it held about a dozen birds. It had been eerie, in the pitch dark, walking along a ranch road and listening to the night sounds and then hearing the unmistakable sounds of the turkey’s “snoring”, a peculiar sawing or sighing sound, difficult to describe.

Lucky, because the hens, as we lay still as rocks, walked within 30 feet of us! We hoped they would draw a tom, or 2, close enough for us to get a shot. They walked on to the edge of the plowed ground and began nibbling away, and always, at least one would have its head up alertly scanning for danger or maybe a boyfriend, and they all were making soft, purring, hen sounds. Sure enough, from our right oblique we heard the gobbles of several toms announcing they were off the roost, and soon, still gobbling, we saw them and they were an exciting sight, gobbling and strutting, wings dragging and tension building in us!

They came to within 60 yards of us and stopped for a moment, then came on and about, 40 to 50 yards, laying down, it was hard to tell exactly, Rick jumped up and boom, boom, his 12 gauge barked twice as the turkeys took wing, luckily, right over me. Picking one out, swinging and covering the bird’s head, boom and it crumpled. Then acquiring another, putting the bead on its nose, boom and down it went a double on turkeys, both of them flying! Having hunted for a long time and many times, having doubled on doves, quail, ducks and geese, this was a first, and probably, a last for me too, a thrilling, unusual situation!

Rick scored once and we got a lot of mind pictures, but of course, no cameras or pictures of this feat, but at least, I didn’t lead the big, birds too far!

Turkey Hunting, April 2, 2012

Up and out before sun up on Saturday morning, after repeated calls, no answering gobbles greeted me.  Moving to another spot, still no answering gobbles, so after 9:00 AM I packed it in.  Saturday afternoon was filled with picture taking and poses for Colton’s senior/junior prom.  It’s hard to believe that he will be graduating and going on to Texas A&M, despite 2 all-state years, no football in his plans, just graduating, then going into business.  The first picture is of Colton, MaMaw and me, the second is MaMaw and Mikayla, her group of sophomores will act as servers for the juniors and seniors and the final is a picture of Colton and his date, Darien.
Sunday morning, Palm Sunday, was spent in church, Sunday afternoon finishing up with our income taxes, in preparation for another turkey hunt Monday.  Monday morning, big wind blowing, found me on a friend’s ranch, hunkered down in a hide between 2 cedar trees.
Calling, calling, still no answering gobbles, then 2 hours later packing it in and heading home.

Maybe the wind has something to do with the lack of gobblers, maybe the hens are all bred and nesting, maybe the toms have moved back toward the river, who knows, but the our local paper said that prospects were good for Mills County and central Texas?  However, I’ll keep after the turkeys, in fact, Mickey Donahoo and I are going out to his hunting lease on Thursday for a 2 day hunt for the big birds.