By John Meacham
|Table of Contents
Hell, Everybody Was There!
Dubby Does Dolly
Senorita Margarita and the Katfish Ketchers
Bald Nobby Bell and the BB Bee Gun
Big Ben Gets Lucky With the Lady
The Gifts of the Magpies
Honey, He Shrunk My Head
Getting Gobblers From Cluck to Clink
Sitting Buell Rides Again
Carlos Muldoon & the Stolen Traveler's Chick
The Man Who Smelled Like A Dog
The Man Who Modified His Choke
The Committee for the Enlightenment
Good Buy, Two-By, Good Buy!
The Adventure of the Filched Flathead
The Rev. Hartzburger's Morel Dilemma
Fergie Tries the Installment Plan
Big Ben Suspends the Poet's License
Dear Abner Disses a Dodger
The Adventure of the Clubhouse Cover-up
Grumpy Old Sportsmen Can't Dance
from Honey, He Shrunk My Head! and Other Tall Huntin' and Fishin' Tales by John Meacham. Copyright © 2000. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved
As soon as Talbot Taylor answered the telephone, he knew he would get his deer that day, and he knew it would be a buck. A big Buck. A huge buck. A MONSTROUS buck. A buck whose rack would easily surpass the 140 points needed to qualify for the Illinois Big Buck Recognition Program, and probably the 170 needed for the Boone & Crockett record book.
Talbot knew that the buck he would get that day would probably be so big that he would never have to hunt another one. It was in the bag. Or rather, it was in the shop. The phone call was from taxidermist Robbie "Mountain Man" Horner, who told Talbot that his trophy was finished and ready for him to pick up.
"Pick up!" Talbot said. "Are you kidding? As much as I'm paying you, I expect delivery, and I expect it right now!"
Talbot couldn't help chuckling as he slammed down the receiver. He'd been eagerly awaiting this day for nearly three months. Now that he knew his moment of triumph was just minutes away, he knew it would be even more satisfying than he had dreamed.
"When he gets here, I'll have to find some little flaw to complain about," he thought, even he had seen enough of Horner's work to know that the man was truly an artist. "Maybe I'll even demand a discount. Boy, that would really twist the knife in his gut!"
Yes, and Talbot would do it, too, because hurting Horner was the only reason Talbot had hunted this deer, and the only reason he had taken it to Horner to have it mounted. The man had been his bitterest rival since their high school days, when Horner was the quarterback of the football team, and Talbot played flute in the band. When Horner hit home runs and pitched no-hitters for the baseball team, and Talbot carried the bats and balls. When Horner could get a date with any girl he wanted, and Talbot spent Saturday nights with the boys.
"But he cares more about deer hunting than he did all of that put together, so this buck of mine should just about get me even," Talbot thought. He was so excited that he paced the floor as he listened for Horner to drive up the lane. When he finally arrived, Talbot waited until he was on the front steps before telling him to go around to the back.
Horner was carrying the head under a white cloth. Talbot met him at the door and took his own sweet time inviting him in, even though it wasn't exactly sunny and warm on that February day.
"Well, Horner, you certainly took your time with this job," Talbot said. "I suppose you put it off as long as you could, and I can't say that I blame you."
"I didn't take my time, Talbot," Horner replied. "In fact, since this was yours and I knew it was your first deer, I did it ahead of a couple others that came in earlier. You wouldn't believe how busy I've been. I still have bass to mount from last summer."
"Oh, come on, Horner! Don't try to hand me that line of bunk! It broke your heart to mount this deer, and you know it!"
"Why should it have done that, Talbot?"
"You just don't give up, do you!" Talbot said. "You could be man enough to admit that I've whipped you, but since you won't, I'll spell it out for you. I saw your picture in the Kickapoo County Smoke Signal with that record buck you shot in 1995, and I made up my mind to get a bigger one in 1996. I'd never hunted deer or anything else in my life, but I did some homework and found out that Pike County has been one of the best places in the whole country for big bucks over the past few years, so I booked a hunt with George Metcalf on the White Oak Reserve up there. He guided me every step of the way. I outfitted myself with the best equipment money can buy, I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time on opening morning, and you've seen the result for yourself."
"Yes, I've seen it, and it's a nice little deer, Talbot, but ... "
"Little deer! Little! Why, this deer is half again as big as yours!"
"Of course, this deer!" Talbot said. "Which deer do you think we're talking about? This deer right here!"
Talbot whipped the cover off the head Horner had set on the kitchen table and gasped. His jawbone bounced off his big toe as he realized he'd been had.
"Horner, where's my buck?"
"What are you talking about, Talbot? This is it."
"Oh, no, it isn't! My deer was a 12-pointer, and this is a six! My deer had a two-foot spread, and this one is barely half that! My deer's rack was thick and heavy! This one's looks like it's made of toothpicks! You're trying to pull a switch on me, and you're not going to get away with it!"
(The story continues as Talbot suspects his beautiful wife of rekindling her old love affair with his archenemy Horner and Talbot takes his revenge -- with tragic consequences!)
"The Lord knows
I don't know much!"
Description ] [ From the Author
] [ About the Author ]
[ Get to Know the Author
] [ Excerpt from Title Story
[ Order Information ]
"Honey, He Shrunk My Head! and Other Tall Huntin' and Fishin' Tales" is a collection of 21 of John Meacham's humor stories from the pages of River Country Outdoors, Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine and Buckmasters Beards & Spurs.
The title story, which won an award from the Outdoor Writers Association of America, tells what happens when a beautiful woman and a big buck come between two old rivals.
From the Author
"The Lord knows I don't know much!" is the trademark saying of Dub "Lordnose" Nelson, one of my characters, but it also applies to me.
Like another of my cast, Abner von Vanderburen, outdoor writer for the Kickapoo County Smoke Signal, I often feel best qualified to tell folks how NOT to go hunting and fishing. Many of these tall tales are based on the misadventures of people I've known over the years, but a few of these boondoggles also happened to me.
While a good laugh may not help you bag that buck, land that lunker, find that trail or stay out of the poison ivy, it sure beats crying about your tough luck.
About the Author
John Meacham has been a hunter and fisherman for most of his 50-plus years. He grew up pursuing rabbits, squirrels and pheasants and angling for bluegills, catfish and bass in Central Illinois. After earning a degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University, he worked as a reporter, photographer and editor on newspapers in Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee.
He is currently editor of River Country Outdoors, a regional magazine published at Anna, Ill., and his fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine, Buckmasters Beards & Spurs, Petersen's Bowhunting, Petersen's Hunting and Illinois Game & Fish.
to Know the Author
Where are you from? How--if at all--has your sense of place colored your writing?
Meacham: I'm originally from New Holland, which is in Logan County, which is more or less in the middle of Central Illinois. I lived there through high school, and at that time, the population was listed at 350. The last time I checked, it was down to 300. My high school graduating class had 24 members, and only had that many because the district was consolidated with Middletown, about six miles south, when I was in eighth grade.
Needless to say, there wasn't a lot to do in a town that small, but we did things, anyway. For work, we baled hay and cut weeds out of soybeans. For play, we hunted and fished. At that time, there were pheasants and rabbits in all the fields, and a lot of fields were within walking or bike riding distance. So were Sugar, Salt and Prairie creeks, where we fished. Dad always had plenty of dogs, guns and rods and reels around the place.
The town had its share of characters, too, and some of them have found their way into my stories, although they might not even recognize themselves (especially the ones who are dead). For example, a man who a friend told me "regularly changed the air in his tires" and was a great pool shot (even though no one ever saw him play a game) became Big Ben Klock, the luckiest man in Kickapoo County.
After high school, I went to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and graduated in 1970. A couple years in St. Louis reminded me how much I liked small towns, so my wife and I have spent most of our 30 years together in them, in North Carolina, Tennessee and now back here in Southern Illinois, "The Land Between the Rivers."
My characters in the "Kickapoo County Sportsman's Club" might fit in anywhere we've been. On the other hand, I try to make sure they wouldn't exactly be "normal" anywhere!
When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Meacham: I can vaguely recall writing stories when I was in second or third grade and torturing my classmates with them. Fortunately, none of these have survived, even in my memory. The same can be said for a "play" called "The Death of Smiley Riley." Then in high school, believe it or not, I turned out "Why I Want to Be A Fire Engine When I Grow Up" and "Santa Claus on the Chisholm Trail." The less said about these masterpieces, the better.
I majored in journalism in college and always had outdoor writing in the back of my mind. There wasn't much opportunity for it at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, where I first went to work, but I had a column called Inside the Outdoors and wrote some hunting and fishing features for the Daily & Sunday Herald in Roanoke Rapids, N.C. I began writing what I call "attempted humor" stories for Southern Illinois Outdoors in 1990. The publication later became River Country Outdoors, and I'm now the editor.
My first big break came when I sent some stories to Russell Thornberry of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine, and he liked them. The title story of my book was published in the magazine in 1997 and placed second in the humor contest sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? What books have most influenced your life?
Meacham: As a boy, I remember listening to the old radio shows like "Sergeant Preston," "Sky King," "The Lone Ranger," "The Life of Riley" and "Amos 'n Andy," which were full of action and humor expressed in words, music and sound effects. TV added pictures, and I loved "The Andy Griffith Show," "The Beverly Hillbillies" (the early episodes, at least) and "Green Acres." They were corny, but a kid couldn't go too far wrong taking Andy, Jed Clampett or Oliver Wendell Douglas for a role model.
In terms of humor, I have three favorite books -- "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" by Ol' What's His Name (Mick Twang, or something like that), "Baja Oklahoma" by Dan Jenkins and "The Redneck Bride" by John Fergus Ryan. Each of these has the combination that makes me laugh -- colorful characters and outrageous situations. If I could write half as well as these three authors, I'd be a whole lot happier than I am (and probably a whole lot richer).
What is the most romantic book you've ever read? The scariest? The funniest?
Meacham: I've never read a romantic book, and if I had, I wouldn't admit it, so that answers that. I'm going to name one book -- "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" -- as both the scariest and the funniest, and I know that will take some explaining.
I suppose everybody can understand why the history of Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany would send shivers down one's spine, but how in the world could anyone laugh while reading it?
Well, no one could, and I don't either, unless I can imagine for a moment that the book is fiction and Hitler and his fellow monsters only existed on its pages. Then the Nazis' ideas were so ridiculous and absurd that they should have been laughed off the face of the earth, or put away in lunatic asylums.
But, of course, they were real and they were taken seriously, so we're back to horror again -- especially when we remember that people sooner or later tend to repeat their mistakes.
What music, if any, most inspires you to write? What do you like to listen to while writing?
Meacham: I hadn't thought much about this before, but the music I love is traditional country, folk and bluegrass, and I suppose that fits in well with the kind of stories I write. My favorite performers (not necessarily in this order) are Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, Mac Wiseman, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, my son Matt and an uncle and some cousins on my mother's side of the family. They sing about the kind of pepole that I know and sometimes think I understand.
What are you reading now? What CD is currently in your stereo?
Meacham: To be honest about it, I've been too busy (or too lazy) to read much lately. The last book I remember finishing was "The Lost Continent" by Bill Bryson. It was funny, and I recommend it.
I don't have a CD in a stereo, but I do have a tape in a casette player. It's "At the End of A Long Hard Day" by The Gordons, some friends from Sparta, Ill. who are just beginning to get the recognition they've deserved for a long time. I recommend it, too.
What are you working on?
Meacham: It seems like I've been so busy writing nonfiction lately that I haven't had time to think much about humor stories -- but again, that's probably due more to laziness than overwork. I did start a story a while back about a supermodel who comes to Kickapoo County to pose for a deer hunting calendar, but I haven't figured out yet where I'm going with this idea.
Of course, I often don't know until I'm nearly finished, and even then I sometimes go back and change the ending.
Meacham: No one who doesn't buy at least six copies of "Honey, He Shrunk My Head! and Other Tall Huntin' and Fishin' Tales" stands the slightest chance of going to Heaven -- and shouldn't!