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Through the Seasons

As a child, I would sit at the base of an ancient oak tree, the woods my only refuge from a world in which I didn't fit.
In summer, the green canopy sheltered me from gathering storms, from both the sky above and the soul within.
On autumn evenings, I would watch the squirrels play on the branches above, and my spirits were lifted.
Winter's cold breath did not keep me away, and I didn't fear the ghosts that the trees had become.
When the first leaves appeared in spring, I would be there to witness life renewed, in both the woods and myself.

Passing On the Hunting Tradition

At ten years old, it was nearly impossible to sit still on the cold, hard ground beneath a huge pine tree, beside my dad as he scanned an old hayfield in search of deer. I was bundled up in his old camouflage coveralls—which were big enough to swallow me whole—and the boredom had started to set in by 9 am. I busied myself, playing with sticks and pinecones as I watched the occasional squirrel or songbird that would come to check us out from a safe distance. It was a cold December morning in Greenwood County, South Carolina, and despite the extra layer of clothing and my thermal underwear, I was shivering, hoping that soon my dad would give up and we would retreat to the comfort of the heated cab of his pick-up truck. I sat back against the tree and pulled my blaze orange stocking hat down over my ears, and drew my head inside of the coveralls to warm up. In just a moment, I was jolted by the thundering blast from my dad’s .58 caliber muzzleloader, and I popped my head out just in time…

Her First One

There was a certain air of anticipation that morning as our guide, Captain Charles King, plied the waters beneath us for signs of schooling striped bass. We came to Santee Cooper Country to immerse ourselves in the sportsman's paradise, and explore all the area had to offer. As our boat cut across beautiful Lake Moultrie, the sun was breaking the eastern horizon with a warm, red glow, casting a soft, picturesque light on one of the most beautiful lakes in the South.

The South Carolina Outdoor Press Association (SCOPe) and members of the Georgia Outdoor Writers (GOA) had converged on the Santee Cooper lakes, as they held their annual fall conference at Black's Camp. As part of the group of  writers and photographers that were on the lake that particular morning. My wife, Melissa and I, along with Georgia outdoor writer, Polly Dean, were matched with an experienced guide, a man whose business is to know these waters and the popular game fish that thrive in great numbers there. Ch…

Elderberry Syrup as a Remedy for Cold and Flu

(Originally published in the Backwoodsman, July/August 2018)
In the U.S., the flu season usually runs from October to May, normally peaking sometime in February. Outside of taking an annual flu shot and costly over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, most remedies for the symptoms are, at best, minimally effective.
There is a home remedy, however, proven to work time and time again.


Black elderberries (Sambucus nigra) have long been used in Europe and North America as a medicinal plant, useful for ailments ranging from a diuretic and laxative to a diaphoretic (promotes sweating). Elderberries contain antioxidants and flavonoids, as well as vitamin A, B, and C. The antiviral compounds in elderberries can be effective fighting not only the common cold, but both influenza A and B.

Flu treatment

Research has proven that the compounds found in the black elderberry can lessen the symptoms of the flu virus, and shorten the duration of the sickness. In a double- blind study, it was found that 93% of thos…

Beaver Dam

My craft drifts on the waterlike a birch leaf, downstreamwith the slowed current.This swamp was once a mere trickle, rushing waterthat undercut high banks.As high as I could reach from the creek bed, wasthe leaf litter and tree roots.Now the water is over thebanks, and standing kneedeep, fifty yards each way.As I drift on, the causeof this flooding, the beaverdam, comes into view.Perhaps the largest I haveever seen in these parts, hundred yards or more across.From base of the slopeon either side of the bottomland, this dam stretches.The architects worked tirelessly,spring, summer and fall,to build this great structure.And every time the soundof running water is heard, the call of duty is answered.A builder comes forthfrom the depths of its lair,and repairs the breach.Weaving in more saplingsand packing sticks and mudin the holes, the dam holds.I survey this engineering feat

What's In Your Pocket?

There's always that sinking feeling you get when you end up in an adverse situation, only to realize you are unprepared, not having critical tools you need to perform the task at hand. You may be at work, stuck in traffic on the interstate, or even in the middle of an apocalypse, when you discover that you are SCREWED, that you went against everything you were taught in the Scouts, or on those survival reality shows on TV. You vow to God, yourself, and Bear Grylls that next time you won't be so careless. That you'll never leave home without it again. 
Next time, you tell yourself, you will be able to cut that length of rope needed to repel down the waterfall, use a flashlight to signal the rescue chopper once you have located a group of lost children in the gorge, or open that beer that you thought had the twist-off cap.
There seems to be a trend in preparedness going on right now referred to as Everyday Carry, or EDC. This simply means that the participants in this subcultu…

The Opinel Knife

This is a departure from the regular content on this blog, but when I find something of quality, I want to pass it along to you.
Quality craftsmanship and affordability are what I look for in outdoor gear. I found out a long time ago that you get what you pay for. While this may be true, there are reasonably priced products out there, if you know where to look. That's how I discovered the Opinel knife.

I was looking for a knife that was durable, hard working, and that looked nice. Also, it would be great if it was easy on the wallet. I purchased my Opinel No. 8 at Mast General Store for $15. The simple beauty of this knife caught my eye, and the fact that is was a traditional working man's knife made in France for over one hundred years, convinced me to make the purchase.

In 1890, Joseph Opinel began making his wooden-handled folding knives in Savoie, France, selling them to farmers, herdsmen, and paysans-vignerons ( peasant winemakers). Soon, the knife became popular with railro…

Morning Camp

This morning I christen my Coleman stove with bacon grease at first light. The songbirds of the Smokies begin their first chorus against the white noise of frying meat. I let the first couple of pieces get maybe too done in my grandma's black iron frying pan, but that's how I like it. I turn down the fire and the rest of the thick- cut bacon comes out perfect. I save some of the grease in the bottom of the pan for eggs.
I break six eggs in a large paper cup and stir in some half and half from the cooler. I mix them well into a creamy light yellow and pour them into the dark grease in the frying pan. As the eggs cook, they take on some of the dark color from the black pan and burned bacon pieces, but they turn out well.
Bringing water to boil on the other eye, I throw in a heaping handful of good ground coffee into the French press. I pour in the water and press the plunger down, watching the dark liquid swirl into a creamy head. The first sip from my cup has the aroma and flavo…

Dad's Fish

My dad caught the biggest rainbow trout of his life, and he was so excited that he threw his fishing rod down and clamored up the riverbank and put the fish in the trunk and said, Come on, let's go.
I said, What about your rod? and he said, I won't be needing that anymore. After catching a fish like this, what's the point?
We drove into town and turned on a side street, then pulled up in front of a sign that read, Taxidermy. My dad told the man inside that he wanted the fish mounted no matter how much it cost, and the man grinned and said, Give me two weeks.
Dad was a wreck for the two long weeks of waiting. As the estimated time drew closer, he didn't eat nor sleep, he just paced the floor, waiting for the telephone to ring, with a voice on the other end saying, Come pick up your fish. Finally, that call came, and when it did, my dad ran out the door and dove in his old car, and liked to have lost it as he tore out of our yard on two wheels.
When he returned home, not a …

The Beginner

My son had to leave the family gathering at Lake Robinson early, and he left behind his most expensive bass fishing rods, propped against the wall of the picnic shelter, thinking that I would grab them for him because he was in a hurry. I noticed the rods standing there as we were gathering our things at the end. I complained to my wife about his lack of responsibility, and snatched the rods up.
As I turned to leave the shelter, this kid tapped me on the back. “I was kinda wanting to go fishing,” the boy said, “but I don't have anything to fish with.”
The boy went on to tell me that he had fished a time or two before, but he didn't know much about it. I looked down at my son's rods and said, “Let's go buddy, we'll use these, if it's OK with your mom and dad.”
The boy followed me to the dock, and when we got out there, I asked which one he wanted to use: the spinning reel, or baitcaster. I was a little relieved that he chose the former, because I could envision a …

A Rural Life

I grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, in a community that believed in hard work and family, as well as a close tie to the land. We grew our own vegetables and raised animals, and we helped our neighbors whenever they needed it.
When we planted our gardens in spring, we always planted more than we needed, and so did our friends and neighbors. When harvest time arrived, we shared with people in the community. I remember my dad delivering corn, tomatoes, green beans and squash to a few of the older members of our community, or families in need.
We all did our share of the work, from plowing and planting, to weeding, fertilizing and harvesting. The agricultural practices in our community were never for profit, it was always about sustenance for our families and friends.
I remember going after school to help get up hay, or put up fences, or do simple repairs on neighbors homes. In summer, I would help other people do their work in their gardens, or take care of their animals.
We would…

Working Together

My dad passed away on this date, three years ago . I'll admit that I still have a hard time with it, knowing that I'll never see him again or talk to him in this lifetime. You always hear that time heals the heart, and the pain has faded some, but you never truly get over losing a loved one. What I am left with are the memories, for better or for worse. In my head, I can faintly see his face, can almost make out the sound of his voice among the the many others that have stayed with me through the years. Sometimes I try to remember certain things he said, and when I can't, it drives me crazy. There are things that I have wanted to tell him since he passed, but can't. I have questions about things that only he would know the answer to, but I am left wondering now for the rest of my life, with no access to that answer. I've ran into trouble with a car engine, or air conditioning unit, or electrical panel, and my life- line that was always just a phone call away, is no…

After Dark

I stayed up way too late last night. Chase called on his way home from work and told me that we were going catfishing. That's usually how things like this begin.

My brand new son- in- law Bryan was going too, although my daughter wasn't crazy about the idea. No worries though, she would stay at our house and await his return. She ended up asleep on my side of the bed until we got back. Apparently, their agreed upon curfew was 11:30, and he did his best to keep it despite Chase's nudging him to stay longer. My son has no concept of time when it comes to fish, whether they are biting or not.

So there we stood in the dark, on a bridge that crosses the Tyger  River. Every creature that flies or creepeth upon the ground was out. The noise from insects and frogs in the surrounding swamp was deafening. Chase was our catfish guide. He'd brought all the rods, bait and any tackle we might need. Chase's bait of choice was chunks of chicken breast marinated in his secret formu…

Hear That Lonesome Whippoorwill

This is something I wrote in my journal five years ago. I wish I had started a blog back then. Maybe I would know what I am doing by now. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read it.


One of the best things about living in the country is the unfolding of the seasons before you. I imagine that in the big city, one season just blend into the next, with the only noticeable difference being the temperature. I imagine that the sound of traffic drowns out the mockingbirds on May afternoons, and the sound of owls after dark. Having the great fortune of coming up in a rural setting, I learned at an early age to appreciate the simple things in life the most. Sunrises, sunsets, the trilling of the tree frogs, and of course, the whippoorwills song in late evening.

Each spring, one sure sign that nature is alive and well is the lonesome sound, floating through the valley, hanging on the breeze. Many a night has been spent around a campfire, listening to the haunting dirge from deep in the woods.…

Be Aware, But Not Afraid of Snakes

Spend enough time outside in the summer months, and it is likely you will encounter a snake. Our first impulse is to get away, or perhaps if the snake is near our home, neutralizing the perceived threat by having the snake removed or killed. Our ignorance sometimes causes us to make rash decisions like this, mostly because we cannot identify the snake or its potentiality to be a dangerous reptile.

There are only four types of poisonous snakes in the southeastern U.S.

RattlesnakesCopperheadsCottonmouth Water MoccasinsCoral Snakes Though it is possible to see a non- venomous snake almost anywhere, most people will never encounter a poisonous one in their lifetime. Learning more about snakes can alleviate some of the fear and anxiety people have, and give them an understanding of how snakes are an important part of our natural world. The presence of a snake-- even a venomous one--  is a good sign of a healthy and balanced ecosystem.

Snakes keep the rodent population in check, which in tur…

Lately...

I am a coffee fanatic. Nothing pleases me more than a French press full of freshly ground fair trade, organic coffee from somewhere halfway across the globe. Sumatra has been my favorite for quite some time now: the humid, earthy aroma, with a hint of high mountain rainforest in each sip, a perfect campfire coffee, as I sit and watch he fog lift from the surface of some remote trout river. Or, if you prefer an espresso drink, a nice grande flat white with heavy whipping cream, served by a caffeine jacked hipster with a face full of metal at the local Starbucks. Coffee is always my fuel of choice, wherever I find myself, but lately, I have become obsessed with tea.

My favorite so far is the old standard Earl Grey, which is black tea flavored with the unique spicy citrus flavor of bergamot oil from the Mediterranean. The caffeine content from tea is milder than in coffee, but it provides a nice pick- me- up, and doesn't give me the jitters after a few cups like my other dark drug doe…