Family Stories

Besides blogging, I have spent time researching my ancestors and particularly intriguing, was why my 2G Grandfather, John Bryan, sometime prior to 1847, changed his surname from Bryant to Bryan. Having drawn to a dead end trying to trace his forebearers I stumbled onto an old Bryan, family tree, then researching various wills, probates and other family trees, surmised that indeed, he changed his name.

Posting a story on Ancestry about the name change, soon I received a note from Howard Bryan in Virginia thanking me for clearing up a similar problem he had with John’s Father, Benjamin Bryant. It turned out that Howard and I, besides a common ancestry, enjoy hunting.

He sent me two excellent, stories about his turkey hunting exploits with a muzzle loader! Each is a neat story and I want to share the first with everyone.

“Turkey Stories

One year while we were living on our farm in Appomattox County, VA, I was doing taxes on the last day of deer season. Needless to say, it was an irritation. While the old computer was digesting the expenses for the winery we were operating at the time, I was preparing to clean my flintlock rifle so I could put it away until the next year. It still had a charge in the barrel from the previous day’s hunt. As I was about to discharge the weapon to clear it, I decided that taxes could wait for a few minutes, and I walked into the woods about 200 yards from the winery.

I went into the woods a few yards to a small stream and leaned against a tree where I had been seeing deer. In a very few minutes I heard some scratching, and a turkey flew down off a ridge to the South and landed in a tree. She was followed by several more – I counted eleven in all, and all of them were looking at me, in my blue sweater and red shirt. The closest bird was about 110 yards away, which is a very long shot for a flintlock, even one as good as the one I was carrying.

Jim Hash of Appomattox County, had made the rifle for me a few years before, and he had stocked it with part of a wild cherry log from our farm that I had given him. It is a .50-caliber weapon with a 41-inch half round, half octagon barrel rifled for round ball. I have shot 3-shot groups at 50 yards with that rifle that overlapped like a clover leaf. All the mountings are iron except for a thumb piece of coin silver so it is a real hunting rifle, not a flashy thing.

I watched the turkeys for a minute, trying to decide how to sneak up on them while they watched. Finally I decided to be brazen about it, and walked towards them, zig-zagging my path, whistling a tune. I was able to nearly halve the distance before the nearest bird started acting anxious. By the time she started shifting like she was going to fly, I was behind a large poplar that served as a rest for the rifle. I needed that rest, for I was no longer exactly calm.

The 13-lb hen started moving at the flash from the pan, but the ball caught her at the wing roots, and she fell at the base of her pine tree. Needless to say, I went back to the taxes with a better frame of mind once the bird had been cleaned.”