I felt a little better after I walked up on the highest place I could find in the Wolf Hills and plopped down.
Don't ask me why they call it that. This little collection of rough ridges and steep hollows is much like anywhere else in the Appalachian Mountains. There were probably wolves here at one time, but that would have been a long time ago, so maybe it was named back then and the name stuck.
When I look at this area on the map it always seems, if anything, to be even more scrambled up than a lot of this country. I know it's crazy, but I always think God might have taken an electric mixer and scrambled all this up while it was wet and then let it dry.
Now that I was up here, I had a pretty good view of my make-believe kingdom. I could sit and survey the world and think that it was all mine, which in a way it was, but not really. Not another soul was around that I could tell; I almost never saw any other intruders here. The thousands of acres I was in the middle of belong (on paper) to some big company somewhere, but for now and for today, I could make believe otherwise.
The why for, as to what I am doing here today, is central to our story. It has to do chiefly with turkeys, of course, and I can see most of you out there shaking your head as if to say "Yeah, I figured." It is almost a month till the game warden says you can hunt turkeys in the spring. But I am here because as I have for at least the past 40 years (or longer) felt the need to get out and look around, to look for and scout for turkeys. It is what I have come to call "The Pull." In this midterm — after the winter hunting seasons but before the spring gobbler madness starts — there is a pull I feel to get out and check things out, to look into new places and get reacquainted with the old.
I know, it probably doesn't make much sense to a lot of you out there. I don't blame you; it doesn't make sense to me sometimes. But for today, and for this hour, I decide to soak up all the early spring sunshine I can while I sit at what the map says is 3,280 feet above sea level.
It is 38 degrees this morning, and the sun gaining strength feels great. There is not much wind, and I know if I sit here very long I will probably get drowsy, but that is OK. A little snooze as I sit propped up against an ancient chestnut stump sounds pretty good right now.
First, I must take stock of what is going on around me. A gray squirrel runs the length of a log 30 yards below me, and I think about how just a few weeks ago the little cur dog and I would have been after him. A big pileated woodpecker flies past and begins hammering a dead branch on a locust tree nearby. I have always liked watching them. They are so big and striking in color and sound, and their weird, unearthly call seems to carry a great distance and in fact will often make a turkey gobble.
Thinking about turkeys now, I wonder about the presence of any in this immediate area of late. I saw a little bit of old winter scratching walking up here, but it was not very encouraging. I think about an old turkey hunter I knew, now long gone, who would say when it came to turkey scratching, "It's awful hard to make gravy out of scratching!"
I know there could be turkeys in this general area, but this is rough mountain country. This isn't the same as what I consider farmland turkeys. They won't be congregated here for a lush food supply, and they won't be lounging most of the day in green fields where you can see them. These are mountain turkeys: They live by their wits, food is usually not overly plentiful, and they travel a lot. Hence they are just harder to find.
As often happens, just about the time I am getting sleepy and about to go over the edge of the abyss into dreamland, I think I hear a muted, distant gobble. I jolt awake, and my mind races about all the possibilities. Was it a gobble? What direction did it come from? Did you just imagine it? Why didn't you stay awake? I sit quiet for several minutes and contemplate all of this, hoping against hope to hear another gobble.
Finally, just when I am ready to move and get up and try to ease aching joints and posterior, I hear it. The wild, lonesome gobble of a wild turkey. He is not close and would be hard to get to, but I heard it and he is at least in my general zip code.
Even though I don't consider myself quite the hunter I used to be, I think about the tenacity and optimism of a turkey hunter.
That one distant yodel from a stubborn old reprobate of a gobbler will be enough to bring me back to this wild place. I may never hear from him or his kin again. I may never see them or even their big three-toed prints in a mud hole. But I will be back to look for them and motivate across these rock-strewn ridges the best I can.
I have to go when I feel "The Pull."
"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at email@example.com.