ARTICLE: THE OLD MAN GOES HOME by David L. Falconer
The Old Man’s house felt empty without him there as the young man sat near the Old Man’s recliner. He used to sit in it all the time as a kid, but he couldn’t bring himself to sit in it today.
The young man looked across the room at the picture of Old Will, a vibrant English Setter the Old Man owned that had won the coveted title of National Shooting Dog or some such thing back in the day. The young man wished he had paid attention to it more, but he had always been proud of the Old Man’s accomplishments when it came to his bird dogs.
The young man got up and walked around, looking at the plaques and trophies of various field trials won, a picture of the old man holding a dog in a row of men holding dogs and his old whistle hanging from the nail driven into the support post. He could hear it in his mind and he took it from the nail and blew it, smiling as the whistle tasted faintly of tobacco. The smell of tobacco and coffee together was a comforting smell to him that went back to when he was a little boy.
Standing in front of the turkey tail fan picture of his grandma and grandpa together, he smiled while touching the bronze feathers that belonged to a long beard gobbler. He remembered the time that some men from the National Wild Turkey Federation asked the old man to guide some of their celebrity hunters. Grandpa was to guide General "Stormin'" Norman Schwarzkopf. The weekend of that hunt found the Old Man and myself on the edge of a clear cut in the Oklahoma Mountains near Red Oak Oklahoma.
"Wasn’t you supposed to be doing your celebrity hunt this weekend Grandpa?" I asked.
The Old Man was looking across the clear cut with his binoculars. "I told them I wasn’t going to do it," he said succinctly.
Half laughing, I said,"“You could have been hunting with Stormin' Norman!"
He put the binoculars down to his chest, a pair of artillery field glasses he took from a German Officer in Czechoslovakia in World War 2. His eyes met mine. "I would rather hunt with you."
I did not realize until I was a young man myself that the Old Man was my best friend and I was a little older than that when I realized I was his too. I mean Grandma was really his best friend and their marriage showed it, but he and I hunted everywhere together. We discussed books and the old man had read more than anyone I knew. We discussed movies because the old man said I had watched more than anyone he knew! I have read a few books myself.
I was there when he knocked down 5 quail on a covey rise in LB Lowe’s pasture with that light-weight Browning Auto-5 20 gauge.
I was there when he knocked down the quail in Kansas with a 40 mile an hour wind behind its tail.
We have stood together on a mountain ridge with rain dying down around us as a storm moved out, braving the elements to be among the turkey when it broke. I killed the longest bearded gobbler we ever killed that morning. Of course the Old Man called it in.
I was there crawling beside him as we crawled Indian fashion up on a strutting gobbler and half a dozen hens along a ravine that angled across the edge of a dry gas well location -- and he let me shoot the gobbler. Turkey hunters know that is no easy trick.
He taught me that watching someone you loved take game under your guidance was actually a bigger trophy than taking it yourself. He taught me that the time we spent in the woods and the field was truly some of the best times of my life and worth more than gold or treasure. He taught me honesty and integrity was something you lived and not just some words you said.
He was my mentor, the man I admired most in the world, the example I did my best to follow, my grandpa and my best friend. Some people want to win the lottery. I already did when I was Perry Falconer’s grandson.
I willingly spent my entire life in his shadow and all I ever wanted to be was him.
As I stood over the table I looked at his last will and testament and I chuckled. It basically said he left everything to me to keep or distribute as I saw fit. I had been shocked when he showed me the will.
"Grandpa, you said you were going to be specific about things," I said.
His voice a little hoarse, he said, "Property I put in transfer upon death deeds so that’s taken care of." He nodded towards the will. "The rest of that is personal property. I told you how I wanted it." With a devilish old grin, he added, "This made it easier on me. Less writing."
I held it in my hands and he could see I had a hard time with it.
"Aw I guess if you wanted you could just keep it all to yourself and make it easy on you. It won’t matter to me, I’ll be gone," he commented, his face kind of emotionless.
I looked him in the eye. "You raised me. I gave you my word Grandpa. It don’t die when you do. It dies when I do."
The old man grinned, his eyes moist. "Then it’s done. You’ll take care of it."
There is no one like the old man though I know some men who walk in the same kind of boots. Until we meet again old man, I am lucky to be your grandson.