As we pack for our final trip of the year, black bear hunting in North Carolina, my mind goes back to the years when Earl Bumgarner, a dear friend of mine, would be waiting at the trappers’ cabin for me.
Earl was one of those people you love to meet — a young man who grew up rough (one of 10 children in the family), but had climbed to the top and left his old life behind although staying close to his brothers and sisters.
Earl was one of those men who never met a stranger nor had an enemy. We hunted together for probably 20 years. He held, and still holds the record for the biggest deer ever killed on my West Virginia farm, a 13-point buck. Earl was a quite man, one who always had a kind word and a smile for everyone. He worked hard, had a fine wife, and raised two fine sons.
As I sat in the trappers’ cabin one day watching Earl make a sandwich, I was amazed at how in his mind he was still growing up with nine other children as he opened the pack of thin-cut ham, removed one thin slice and placed it between two pieces of bread. Although the cabin was filled with more food than any 10 people could eat in a month that was all the meat he used.
My mind also goes back to the Thanksgiving week I was hunting for deer in North Carolina when I learned that my mother had passed away back in Whitesburg. North Carolina holds some good memories for me, but some bad ones as well.
This is my final trip to North Carolina. I started hunting there in 1971, but the miles and years have finally taken their toll on this old hunter as I pull closer to home to hunt. Goodbye to the memories of my mother’s cooking on their little seven-acre farm in their little farmhouse. Mary Meeks Brewer was born June 30, 1921 and passed from this life in 1973, being 52 years of age. Earl Bumgarner, friend and super nice guy, was born December 22, 1969 and passed from this life June 30, 2014. He was 45 years old. Gone but never forgotten. Earl passed on my mothers’ birthday.