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November 24, 2012

Wild turkey caught bare-handed

MERIDIAN —    Men who hear my hunting stories vow never to go hunting with me, so my only hope is an ever-widening circle of new hunting buddies, preferably strangers. For Thanksgiving, here’s a true turkey story about me and my Florida friend named John.

    John was the postmaster in our town. He’d been shot with birdshot by a cousin out in the woods a few years before I met him. He recovered, got his nerve back, but now wore an orange hunting vest anytime he went in the woods. He wore it while hunting, fishing, or trimming trees on his land. He was often tempted to wear it to church board meetings.

    When he invited me to go turkey hunting with him, I was honored because I knew he chose his partners carefully. I didn’t know all the protocol and didn’t have much experience with wild birds. Although I had been raised in the country and was a crack shot with my .22 rifle, I always said that the safest place for any bird on the wing was the end of my shotgun. I couldn’t hit a bird in flight for love nor money.

    John picked me up in his truck early one Saturday morning at 4:30. It was a new experience for me because I’d never stayed up that late before. John coached me how to hunt the great bird of the south; the bird that Benjamin Franklin suggested for America’s national bird. I’m glad the bald eagle won, because turkeys are ugly. Smart, but ugly.

    Wild turkey breast, fresh-killed and deep-fried, is sweet. Nothing is better tasting except smoked mullet netted in the mouth of the Suwannee River and then simmered fresh on a hot grill with butter and lemon. But John was an expert at turkey hunting. In fact, what I was about to see would put him in the category of superhuman turkey hunter!

    “Wait here ‘til daylight and you’ll see some turkeys I roosted last night up in those pines,” he said. “I’ll be yonder in the oaks watching for more.”

    So John headed off and left me in the misty morning chill. As dawn’s early light broke, I could hear the turkeys calling but I couldn’t see them in the branches. They sounded just like John’s turkey call. Against the lightening sky, I saw a wing stretch out. BAM! I knocked him out of the tree with one blast. I ran and grabbed him. I’d broken a wing on a young gobbler.

    John and I began walking toward each other, since now all the turkeys had flown. As we both neared a tall stand of giant palmetto, John said, “Hold my gun. I’m going in there and getting a turkey.” So saying, he smartly dove into the stand of palmetto and a moment later backed out holding a struggling wild turkey by the neck. Amazed, I thought, “What manner of man is this; that catches wild turkeys bare-handed!”

    “Preacher, I wounded this one last night, and he hid under the palmetto. By now a fox should’ve got him, but sure enough, he was alive.” I stood there stunned. John had caught me off guard. That night, both our families enjoyed this funny story along with wonderful fellowship and flavorful turkey, thankful for friends.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

    Ron Wood pastors Trinity Assembly of God.    Visit the church website at www.trinitymeridian.com or call 601-483-8189.

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