My outdoor writer friend, John E. Phillips, has contacted me on at least two occasions with information that has left an impact.
About this time twenty years ago, Phillips called to invite me to hunt wild turkeys in Alabama; it would be my first attempt at turkey hunting.
Phillips had everything arranged; a place to stay, air fare, all the equipment I'd need and a guide.
Phillips had instructed me to look for my guide in the baggage claim area. His name, I was told, was "Skinny" Hallmark. While I was searching for whom I assumed would be a tall thin fellow, I was approached by a guy in camo who must have tipped the scales at over 300 pounds. He thrust out his meaty fist and declared, "Hi, I'm Skinny."
Thus began a relationship that not only resulted in my downing my first gobbler; it also cemented a relationship that lasted through the years. I was left breathless when Hallmark called in a gobbling, strutting Coosa County longbeard to my gun and I was in that seminal moment forever hooked on chasing wild turkeys.
"I've been a big fellow all my life and I've been called 'Skinny' since I was a kid. I wouldn't have it any other way; 'Skinny' is who I am and it's given me an identity," the big fellow laughed, slapping me on the back.
Since that first meeting in April 1992, Hallmark and I became close friends and I returned to Alabama for a number of years on my own to chase gobblers with the guy who taught me from the get-go how to call, when to call, how to set up on a gobbler. I bagged several more gobblers in Alabama hunting with my buddy whose heart was as big as his torso. Virtually everything I knew at the outset about hunting wild turkeys I learned from my Alabama friend.
I have lost contact with Skinny over the past few years and although my intentions have been to give him a call and maybe plan another Alabama hunt, I never got around to it. That's why John Phillips' message to me last week hit me in the pit of my stomach. John's message was simple...."Skinny passed away this morning".
After getting this message, my memory went into rewind as I recalled some special moments Skinny and I shared over the years.
Our hunting headquarters for several years was a cozy little cottage Hallmark had constructed miles away from civilization on a high hill near Rockford, AL. There was no water or power; it was about as "back to nature" as you could get. I remember the dogwoods, the brilliance of the stars in the pre-dawn sky each morning as we set out to hunt. I remember the first gobbler I ever heard and it sends chills down my spine today recalling that sound.
Walking down the hill in the dark from the little cabin, Hallmark stopped and mimicked the hooting of a barred owl. A gobbler impulsively sounded off in response and we hurried through to woods to get set up.
"Sit here next to this tree and rest your gun on your knee; I'll set up behind you," my guide whispered. He began calling, the gobbler responded and within moments, I was looking at my first strutting turkey gobbler. I still get giddy recalling that scene and the one that followed when it strutted into my sight picture and I squeezed the trigger.
Skinny Hallmark has passed on but memories of this rotund Alabama good ole boy will be in my mind when the next longbeard responds to my calls. After all, much of what I learned early on about hunting wild turkeys, he taught me.
Rest in peace Skinny, my friend and my mentor.
Glynn Harris Outdoors is proudly sponsored by DSK, Ltd. of Minden.