A tale of two cedars
My first affiliation with the two cedar trees alongside Billy Lagle’s driveway was well over 20 years ago. They were smaller trees then, not much larger than a church-sized Christmas tree, and bush-hogged grass that now surrounds the area that was then covered with blackberry briars, nettles, broomsedge and weeds. There was a rusty barbed wire fence with ancient looking cedar posts, some of which had rotted off at the base and were then hanging on the fence rather than supporting it. It was only a year or two after Billy Lagle purchased Windy Ridge Acres and the farm had pretty much gone to seed.
That first day between those two cedars, I chose the spot because it seemed the best ones were taken. Other than the two cedars, there was little cover other than blackberry briars and high weeds. The fence was an impediment because every bird I shot heading east was on the other side of the fence and I had to cross it. I squatted in the side ditch and watched for birds. The field in front and to my west was cleared but behind me, the field was a mine field of nettles, briars, beggar lice and potential yellow jacket nests.
I did shoot a bunch of doves though, and it was my first dove hunt in about 15 years. I don’t remember for sure but I believe I got a limit that day. I do remember the ones that fell in the wilderness were hard to find and I remembered the value of a dove stool by the end of the afternoon. That difficulty helped me in the conviction that I needed a good retriever in my life, but that’s another story.
Since that day, I’ve hunted between those cedars many times. They’re much bigger now and Billy has trimmed the lower limbs so they actually provide shade. The field to the east is now a hayfield and the grass is cut about 20 yards to the East and there are no more nettles and briars. I have no idea how many doves I’ve shot from that spot but it’s well into the hundreds and perhaps a thousand or more. I’ve hunted there in heat and sun, cold and rain, maybe once in snow. I’ve shared that spot with two grandsons, my wife, Cherie, various other friends including three great friends now passed from this world, Jack Leonard, Charlie Lauer and Bob Craft. Of course it was a place where Ernie, the dog of my life, and I spent many a pleasant morning or afternoon. Right now, a photo of Bob and my sweet old Ernie, are the screen saver image on my computer, as they have been several times during this season.
This week, I hunted that same spot again for the first time in two or three years. It was a great dove hunt, with the birds flying well enough that I managed to get my limit within the length of a single corona cigar. Before you criticize me for smoking a cigar, please understand that the cigar was required to keep the gnats from bothering me. Well, it helped, anyway.
Even though the birds were flying well, I couldn’t help but reminisce about those hunts twenty something years ago. In those days, we sat under the same oak trees a little further down Billy’s driveway until it cooled off a little and the birds got to flying well. We did the same thing this year except Billy’s Uncle Bob was no longer with us. Like Jack, Charlie and Bob Craft, he has also gone on to another world but his old red Dodge pickup was still there, this time driven by his grandson, Gavin. Uncle Bob wasn’t there but Billy’s kids Sadie Bess and Trey are grown and almost grown and they were hunting like true Lagles. I know Trey’s limited out before, but this was the first year I witnessed him doing it. He’s seventeen now, and a strapping six feet tall. Sadie’s a charming and grown up young lady now, but I remember the year we postponed the season opener because Sadie was born on opening day. I’ve never quite forgiven her for that. There were several other young people, wholesome country kids hanging around, too, some for the hunting and some just for the celebration. Just like years in the past, Billy’s wife, Aurelia, visited the oak tree gathering but spent most of her time at the house in the kitchen getting everything ready for the post hunt feast.
This year, we had homemade ice cream as an appetizer for the hunt and filtered out into the field around 4:00 p.m. By about 6:30 p.m. we were all back under the oaks, and assembling for supper. Those early years, we had Keaton’s barbequed chicken for the post hunt feast. This year, after the birds were cleaned and in freezer bags, we celebrated over a table of finger foods with everyone bringing something and several boxes of chicken wings to provide an anchor entrée. The blessing was said with everyone joining hands, as has been the tradition for all these years, and as we repeated the traditional Moravian blessing, I counted my blessings.
To have friends like this, wonderful, loving, honest, people, to live in a time of plenty and comfort, to have been born in the United States of America, and to have had my life enriched by men like Uncle Bob Lagle, Charlie Lauer, and Bob Craft, all this passed through my mind through that blessing and meal out on the back deck.
Billy Lagle and his family have been a blessing in my life since 1989 and they continue share their friendship and hospitality. I’ve said many times before, a Carolina dove hunt is more than a hunt. It’s a celebration of life in the South, and the values we hold dear. Like those two cedar trees where I’ve hunted all these years, our families and friendships have grown over the years.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He’s a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at email@example.com