Before I begin telling you about the Gathering, let me give you some background on what brought me to this place in time. I was born, raised, and schooled in Phenix City, Alabama. My hobbies were water skiing, hunting and fishing. My father (Bob) was born and raised in up-state New York, a country boy raised on a dairy farm. My mom (Selma Jackson) loved to fish but was raised a city girl. In 1959 the family bought some land and built a cabin on Pine Lake just west of Historic Whitesville, Ga. in Harris County. My teen years were all I could wish for: Callaway Gardens 8 miles east, Lake Harding 5 miles west, Lagrange 12 miles north, and Columbus 18 miles south. Woodlands, farm’s, lakes and farm ponds; for my hobbies I found a gold mine! In 1974, I bought land ,built a house, and 30+ years later I’m still happy here with my friends and family. There are still a lot of trophy bucks and bass in Harris County!
The Gathering part 1
My dear friend and fellow firefighter, CIII had started (what became a tradition) a father/son deer hunt on the family 4,000 ac. farm. For one three day weekend in November, fathers and sons dropped what they were doing to spend time together. This was a great learning experience for both father and son. Respect for wildlife, the land, and other people was learned by all. Rules of the hunt, shooting skills, and hunting technics were both demonstrated and learned. Safety is the main concern! The deer stands had been placed and checked each able to handle both father and son . The location they would hunt would not be known till after the drawing of stand numbers from the hat just before the morning hunt began. A large aerial photograph of the farm was hanging on the wall that had numbers marking all stand locations, including the stands being used on this hunt. Men and boys alike cambered as dreams and hopes of the hunt began to be voiced. Nightfall is here and dinner is being served. Everyone takes his seat at the large oak table; Grace is said.
After dinner is over, each father and son received instructions to go out on the porch together and bring back one fire log from the stack next to the oyster cooler, and place it in the large hearth of the fire place in the family room. Each father and son jointly do this, to symbolize their gift of fuel for the fire of friendship. The fire is then lit. The Hunt Master (CIII) then enters to room pushing a roll cart full of goblets and two bottles; wearing his old beaten leather hat with a hat band made from the skin of a copper head snake. Men and boys alike received a goblet with a touch of the grape (wine for the men and sparkling grape juice for the boys). The Hunt Master then leads the gathering in a toast to good friends and a good hunt. He then reminded each hunter of the rules. [no loaded gun allowed unless you are in the stand, unload before you get out of the stand. Do Not leave the stand or track a hit deer. The pickup man will drop you off and will pick you up. We’ll track hit deer after all hunters are back to the lodge]. The Gathering teaches Safety first! The morning hunt started early, so most now prepared for bed.
Tradition of the Gathering lives on; over the next two days father and son both will be building memories and adventures, that will be spoken of all through their lives and even into the next generation!