Thursday, April 07, 2005

"Flying! With a 93-Year-Old Buddy !

Here is a prescription for folks who are approaching or already IN their seventh or eighth decade, and may be rusting or dulling out or just frazzeling at all the edges in gloom.

Find an old friend you have known for 50 years, who is 93 years old. Get him into the driver’s seat of a brand new Ford pickup.

Then, allow him to tear-ass all over 175 miles of South Carolina’s Savannah River Valley paved and dirt roads and two track paths with green already showing in the thatched middle.

I guarantee that your blood will run hot and gurgly again...and, cold, too at times.

Phil Brousseau was a trainer of pointing dogs I met somewhere around 1950. He quit training and handling pointers in the field trials I wrote about in about 1968, then took up Beagling, and made four AKC field champions in three years. Then he went back to pointers as an amateur.

But this Attleboro, Massachusetts native has never turned his back on his beloved Palmetto State, and now lives in a rural setting in Edgefield County, the "home of ten governors". That would include "Strom" of course.

All the wide open fields that Phil used to train on, and which I visited and rode over (all 17,000 acres) are lost to training dogs and quail, now.

The broom sedge, common lespedeza, vetch, beggarweed, partridge peas and row crops have been replaced by pine trees. Both the U.S. Forest Service and the private landowner / lessor use a method of girdling and injecting lethal juices into all the hardwoods, and planting pines in their place. The pines now mature in about 15 years due to DNA selective recombinant engineering.

Only God and mother Nature will deal with that, eventually.

But, in just a few hours, back in the pond bottoms and hillocks where Phil’s home still stands (A "shack" no more), we saw three deer, two droves of turkeys and the biggest black and tan fox squirrel I have seen since 1975. (Well, I haven’t "seen" much of anything in eleven years, so THIS was something thrilling for me.

Edgefield is the center of Wild Turkey hunting. The International Wild Turkey Federation museum is there, and it is much more impressive than the Bird Dog / Field Trial museum in Grand Junction Tennessee.

There is no "ego" or appeal to some sort of aristocracy in the Wild Turkey museum. It is all historical, ethnically and ecologically authentic and correct.
But it is definitely where it should be. There are more wild turkey sign here than I ever saw in Alabama or Texas, the other two states which lay claim to "saving Ben Franklin’s choice for our National Bird".

Phil made it a remarkable trip, and I want to state, honestly and unequivocally that an ole 93-year-old Frenchman can still teach an 80 year old a few things.
I am not done with my education yet. And, I’ll write some more about this, too.

At night, after poring over Brousseau’s soon-to-be-published memoirs, we went to sleep listening to Mozart, Debussy, some Bach, and string and woodwind ensembles.
Not very many people in the bird dog business ever knew, over the40 years he trained and handled, that Phil was an accomplished woodwind virtuoso--clarinet and oboe-- maestro. But we only drifted off to sleep with the music piped in via a satellite dish.

Mostly, we told lies (a few) and chewed looseleaf tobacco (a lot).

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