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Original Issue


Last Easter my neighbor George Turlow (as I shall call him) and his family sat down to eat a holiday turkey. It was no supermarket bird, but one shot by Turlow a few weeks earlier on a chilly March morning in Louisiana—just 15 minutes after he got out of his Jeep and crossed the river into the woods, with his Browning shotgun and a pocket full of shells. The turkey, a fair-sized torn, was nonchalantly feeding in the tall bulrushes by the river's edge. It was almost as though the turkey was waiting to be found by Turlow. I was behind him fumbling for a Kleenex when he got his bird. It seems I'm always just a step behind Turlow. His day's hunt completed while the morning fog still lay thick in the woods' low places, Turlow carried his bird back to the Jeep, drank hot coffee, balanced his checkbook and dozed. I returned at noon, my lips chapped from five hours of turkey calling. It wasn't a good morning. I had only got the attention of five hunting dogs, a curious raccoon, a coyote, a wild rooster and a snickering game warden. Turlow shrugged his shoulders and smiled. He's always shrugging his shoulders and smiling.

Last deer season there was but one buck taken by a member of the Full Moon Hunting Club. It was Turlow's deer, all six points of it. On that cold December morning Turlow had just sat down to his usual camp breakfast of hot grits and orange juice when the deer showed up outside the door of the shack. Turlow, dressed in underwear and black cowboy boots, dispatched the deer and was back at his breakfast before his grits had cooled. I went into the woods 39 days last year, leaving most mornings before dawn and without benefit of breakfast, subsisting instead on a Spartan diet of cold coffee and cheese crackers, and came out of the woods at winter's end with blisters, leg cramps and a nagging cough that for weeks threatened to turn into pneumonia.

When we went up into the mountains looking to fill our creels with trout, Turlow contentedly fished a small section of a mountain stream that supposedly had been fished out years ago. By noon Turlow had a two-pound trout frying in his black skillet and was resting comfortably beneath a willow tree, thumbing through several outdoor catalogs. I was down to my last fly and hadn't even latched on to a good-size tree limb all morning. Moody and sunburned, I drove into town for a McDonald's fish sandwich.

Turlow makes his own duck calls out of thin pieces of mahogany, rubber bands and glue. He keeps three on hand at all times, never knowing when a skein might fly overhead, and the ducks respond to his calls with almost gleeful enthusiasm, all but jumping into his game bag. There seems to be no fowl with which he cannot strike up a conversation. I hunted ducks with Turlow one day last year. He took his limit of birds in 20 minutes.

I like Turlow, but, honestly, I have my suspicions about the guy. After all, it's hard to completely trust a man who, in 28 years as an outdoorsman, has never so much as had his cap knocked off by a stray branch, tripped headfirst into a slough with his brand-new shotgun, lost his best hunting dog (the one with the inbred, infallible homing instinct), of lied to his friends about the size of his first deer or his last fish. Turlow never misplaces his rod and reel, puts his hunting license through the wash, or spills maple syrup over the stock of his deer rifle. His fishing tackle never snaps; his shotgun never jams; his waders never tear or leak. Turlow's wife has never used his best monofilament line to tie up the tomatoes and peas. Indeed, Turlow's wife tolerates his love of sport and the outdoors and willingly spends her weekends washing and polishing his Jeep, Scotchgarding his clothes, steam-drying his flies and renewing his subscriptions to outdoor magazines. While his children mend his tent, mine use ours for a playhouse; it now has finger-painted walls and extra doors.

There is something just plain unnatural about Turlow. Nobody is supposed to have it that good. Most men live lives that are at best tossed salads, a mixture of good times and bad. An ordinary man might spend any number of cold winter mornings sitting stiff-backed 20 feet up in a beech tree munching cheese crackers just in the hope of seeing a big buck take shape out of the fog at the river's edge. Turlow never gets stiff; his luck goes on and on. What's worse, none of it seems to rub off, no matter how close you stay to him. I have followed him into the same beanfield, armed with the identical shotgun and shells, dressed in the same brand of pants, shirt and boots, chewing the same brand of bubble gum, wearing a baseball cap with the same logo on it, smelling of the same after-shave lotion, and have matched him shot for shot. And at day's end I have helped Turlow carry his limit of birds out of the same field, the better able to do so because I have bagged none.

Turlow is pretty closemouthed about his luck; he says only that he's always been sort of lucky, always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and that he thinks "it all has something to do with being born under a full hunter's moon." Some members of the Full Moon Hunting Club are out to get Turlow, to turn his luck sour. There's talk of letting the air out of his Jeep tires, of punching holes in his mosquito netting, of diluting his bug dope with sugar water. Instead, I've decided to stick close to Turlow, never let him out of my sight, no matter how many trout streams, beanfields and forests I have to follow him into.