Monday, April 14, 2008



Marion Henry is a friend of mine, but we rarely see each other anymore. He still works and I’m retired, and our lives have gone in different directions. However, I miss him, as I’m sure he does me, because we will always share the memories of our deer scouting and hunting days together.

I must tell you up front that Marion is a black man, a very muscular and handsome black man that always turned women’s heads. I only tell you this because of the circumstances of this story. It was never important to me that Marion was black, because, truth be known, I rarely thought or cared about it.

The fact is that Marion and I scouted and hunted deer in Tennessee counties that have a history of not being very tolerant of “black folks!” However, we did not let that stop us. We would often go into these areas and the woods there well before daylight and come out only after dark.

I did not realize until Marion and I was on our first outing that Marion had never been to most of the areas we visited. He explained that black people just do not get out and roam the back roads of the south, but especially where it is known they were not historically welcome.

Cumberland and Scott Counties are two of those areas in East-Tennessee. As a small child I remember my dad pointing out a sign at the city limits of Crossville, one of the "sundown towns", that plainly stated, “N--ger, don’t let the sun set on you here!”

I felt so sad for Marion not being allowed to enjoy the countryside that I took for granted, and I felt very ashamed. However, he has a great sense of humor and seemed to feel comfortable as long as I was with him. I remember him telling me once, as we sneaked into and out of Oneida, on our way to Big South Fork, that “You know J. Paul, if they catch us, they’ll hang me!”

I had never given that much thought, but realized it was never far from his mind. Well, if they do, I’ll hang with you,” and I meant it!

The whole thing was just something I had never thought about, and I hated that I had to then. But, I did enjoy my time with Marion and teaching him the “ropes!”

I remember encouraging him to buy a Ruger .270, and then inviting him over to try it out. I warned him about how the rifle would recoil and about how to hold the rifle and position the scope so that it did not hit him in the forehead. Unfortunately, he forgot and the powerful rifle “half-mooned” him right between the eyes! After that, I think he was a bit “gun shy” and anticipated the recoil by pushing forward as he shot. Therefore, his aim was not quite what it should have been.

This habit would come back to haunt him later.

Marion loved the woods, dressing up in camo, and spending the day traipsing around looking for deer sign. After pointing out several things he had never noticed, he began calling me “Kemo Sabe!”

He patterned his hunting after me, sitting very still behind camouflaged netting, and the results thrilled him. One day I heard a “whoop and holler” coming from his direction, so I quickly made my way to his stand. A doe had come to his netting, looked him in the eye, and poked it with her nose. Marion could not believe it! You were right Kemo Sabe!” He would not have been happier had he actually killed a deer!

It turned out that when I told him the story of a doe sticking her head over my netting and into my blind that he did not believe me. He never again questioned my advice.

Then there was the day I will always regret. I was almost asleep in my blind when Marion touched off a round about 100 or so yards away. My heart leaped with excitement, anticipating that he had downed his first deer!

When I arrived where Marion stood pacing back and forth, he was beside himself. He was right here J. Paul! He was right here and had a rack…must have been 12 points!”

Did you hit’em? Which way did he go?” My heart was beating as if I had shot at the buck myself.

I don’t know…he ran…he ran that way,” he said pointing!

I combed the area, asking again and again where the buck was standing when he shot. I looked and looked, even down on my hands and knees, but I could not find a blood trail, or the first drop.

Suddenly, I spotted a tuff of white hair and right over from it, in line with Marion’s stand, was a bullet hole in the base of a small tree. My heart sank. I knew immediately what had happened. Marion had anticipated the recoil and pushed the weapon forward, causing the bullet to rake the buck’s underbelly, taking only hair!

How did you find that Kemo Sabe?”

I don’t know…but man, I sure am sorry.”

I got an email from Marion the other day and this was how he remembered that event:

“J. Paul,

You took this picture during one of our scouting trips. It was a cool damp rainy Sunday. I remember you telling me to stand by the tree and blend in.

This was also the general location that I missed that deer that to me looked like a moose. It stomped and snorted from behind me (I was in my camouflaged fabric blind) and I was afraid to turn around for fear that I would spook him. My heart was pounding hard and loud. I am surprised that the pounding of my heart didn’t spook him. All that I could do was turn my head as far as possible and peek out the corner of my eyes to get a look at this beast. He was probably an eight or ten pointer. Then I heard him move on, so I slowly stood and turned, trying to make as little noise as possible and scanned the area, the beast had disappeared. I repositioned myself on my hunting seat and began to relax again, and then out of nowhere the beast reappeared, no more than twenty yards from my stand. My heart began to pound loudly again. I was unable to control my breathing. I watched as the beast of a deer with antlers that looked more like moose antlers walked into an opening directly in my line of sight not more than 20 yards from my blind. I slowly raised my Ruger M-77 Bolt Action .270 (newly purchased) and found the beast in my Charles Daly scope. Buck fever had yet another victim! I could not steady my weapon. My heart was pounding even louder now; my breathing was very erratic and uncontrollable. Knowing that I only had seconds before the beast would move out of the opening and into the wooded area, I aimed slightly behind the right front shoulder and without hesitation squeezed off a round.

Well you know the rest of the story, we found some fur but not blood…I guess I was unable to time my shoot between the erratic breathing and heat pounding. But as you can tell, it was an experience that I will always remember and cherish. I have many experiences that we spent together and they will always be very special to me.”

Anyway, on the out chance the round had passed through the deer without leaving blood, we scouted the area in ever enlarging circles for over an hour, but my first conclusion was exactly what had happened.

However, Marion had a deer tale he could tell his friends, but I don’t think it was ever as important, or as exciting, to him as the doe’s nose!

I miss our time my friend. I love ya!


EC said...

As usual your stories always keep me entertained, even if you are killing Bambi and her family ;)

Hope you are doing well!!

Mushy said...

EC - Long time no see. Uh, Bambi was a he...but that's okay.

Suldog said...

Lovely story, Mushy. I'm not much of a hunter - none at all, really - but I still enjoy the stories because they're human stories, not just the technical aspects of a kill.

Isn't it a shame that we have to have those feelings when a friend of ours just happens to be black or whatever? A couple of my dearest (no pun intended) softball teammates are black, and I always have a small feeling in the back of my mind that they're judging me as a white man. It's irrational to feel that way; they're just good teammates; but it's always there, even if just a little bit. I wish it wasn't.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Great story! very reminiscent of some I could tell. One of these days.

Catmoves said...

Thanks for the story. It wasn't a hunting story truly. It was a story of two men who respected and loved each other platonically and the admiration each carried for the other. And marvellous showing of buck fever. Lots of memories there.

Buck said...

As a small child I remember my dad pointing out a sign at the city limits of Crossville that plainly stated, “N--ger, don’t let the sun set on you here!”

I remember seeing similar signs in rural Georgia in my youth. And I also remember nearly getting my ass kicked for insisting on riding in the back of the (municipal) bus down in Biloxi in 1963/64. I remember the segregation and accompanying racism vividly, and it's something that's affected my perceptions about the Deep South for-frickin'-ever. We were there around the same time, Mushy. Do you remember things the way I do?

BRUNO said...

You didn't have to go too far south, to find prejudice then, and---up to a point---even today. It was,and still IS, alive in the Missouri Bootheel. The biggest exception to TODAY is, it doesn't always follow the lines of COLOR, anymore. Now it tends to follow the "lines" of the $$$dollar$$$ sign, as well.

Todays' "black" isn't always someone of the Negro race. It's yet another type of prejudice, that should be done away with. But as long as there's MONEY---or rather, the lack thereof---in the matter, it will only continue to spread.

But that's just my opinion. We're gettin' too close to politics here, again.....!

*Goddess* said...

I can't deal with the senseless slaughtering of the purdy deer...LOL;)

~Fathairybastard~ said...

How did y'all hide your sent so that those deer came so close? That's all I hear now. Sent blockers this and that.

Mushy said...

FHB - We washed our clothes in scent block detergent and hung them outside until the hunt. Otherwise, we just took baths and didn't wear any poo-poo smelly stuff! We were usually down wind as well.

Goddess - We'll stop hunting as soon as you stop driving cars and trucks! Thus drivers have out killed us!

Buck - Yes, I remember how it was. I also remember flying to an abandon air or army base somewhere in Mississippi as part of Air Police sent there to get some northern protesters and some southern blacks out of the buildings there. The black guys with us really took a lot of abuse for "being on our side!"

Hammer said...

That was a close shot. I bet that deer thought so too!

Lin said...

Well, I LOVE your hunting stories and that one was the bee's knee's with the doe's nose and Marion.

If this really is the last one, I think that you, Marion and the Knights need to head back into the woods this Fall to create some new ones!

Jose said...

Its not that I don't like your deer hunting stories, it's just that I can't relate to them. I have never been hunting in my life and probably never will. But is has been iteresting to experience hunting through your tales. The same goes for your army stories.

david mcmahon said...

Mushy, you had me standing right there beside you.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Bumped into cousin walkin' into work tonight. She's startin' her big road trip tomorrow.

Scott from Oregon said...

We get a few bucks now and then standing in the creek behind the house, eyeing our roses and the grape vineyards opposite...

I think I shall take a few pop shots at them with my bb gun!

Marian Love Phillips said...

Enjoyed reading your hunting story Mushy. It's so nice to have fond memories of long ago. Glad you and your friend Marion had some good times together hunting. By the way, I use a M-77 Bolt Action
.270 Ruger. I have harvested a many a deer with that gun. Would never part with it either. Thanks for sharing your hunting story with us. It was great! Marian :)
PS: Will go back and read your other posts of hunting stories...