This past weekend both made me sad and let the memories flow. You see, when I was growing up in McRoberts, the Labor Day weekend was the time we planned for all year, the time hunters left Letcher County and headed to Pulaski to squirrel hunt in the Daniel Boone National Forest, then named the Cumberland National Forest.
Memories were made that still endure to this day. Friendships were made and never lost. I could type for a week and never name everyone who hunted with us.
Some of my fondest thoughts are of those men, their stories, and the bonds we made. Mr. Henry Sword, my next-door neighbor and my dad’s best friend, taught me so much about hunting. To this day I have never lost the meaning of his saying, “Son, it is not about the kill it is about life. What we do here will long outlive the game we take to eat.” He was so right.
There was also Tom Fleming, another best friend of my dad. Tom was the first person to come through the door of the church as Dad lay in state.
And there were Clyde Maggard, one of the finest men I have ever known, and Jim Polly, who had a rattlesnake get in his sleeping bag one night. Jim, like a brother to me, had only one arm, but could shoot a pump shotgun as fast as anyone with two arms. His family members are still like my sisters, and I love them.
I could go on forever writing about my hunting friends, many of whom have crossed The Silent River. The friendships we made with the ones that are still alive go forward, and the ones that have crossed will never be forgotten.
The annual trip to Pulaski County ended in 1999 and has never been relived again. In my mind I am there with the “gang”, squirrel hunting, listening to their stories, and enjoying the campfire with some simple, down-to-earth coal miners.