Turkey hunters and poets love April

G. Sam Piatt - PDT Columnist

Comes an April daybreak and the turkeys are gobbling.

One of Jesse’s Stuart’s books is titled “Hold April,” after a poem appearing in it by that title:

“Hold on to April; never let her pass!

Another year before she comes again

To bring us wind as clean as polished glass

And apple blossoms in soft, silver rain.”

Turkey hunting is not a sport favored by the late sleeper. Most want to get out of bed early enough to drive 30 or 40 miles across back roads and still use a flashlight to enter the woods and make it to their set-up location.

That way they’re near the roost when the big gobblers fly down, and these springtime wild and edgy birds have something more on their minds than breakfast as they begin gathering in their harem.

The thrill is almost indescribable when you produce a few soft yelps on your box call that brings an instant and nearby response. The moments after that first thunderous gobble are some of the most nerve-wracking, tension-laden you’ll ever experience. As he comes closer, the anticipation is delicious, and the knee supporting your shotgun seems to dance just a little.

Fellow writer Wade Bourne once described the gobbler as “a package of boundless suspicion and pent-up energy wrapped in feathers.”

But the successful turkey hunter doesn’t have to get out of bed when the whippoorwills are still calling. Garrett Vanderpool, 13 at the time, along with his father, Shannon, and caller Gary Sparks, once hit the woods at daybreak, but their early morning efforts were fruitless. They went back for an evening hunt and it was about 5 p.m. when Garrett got his 24-pound gobbler! That’s about as big as Old Tom gets.


I apologize to relatives of Jim McKenzie, former standout basketball player at Boyd County High School and Rio Grande College. In last week’s column about The Great Stall, how my Cedarville Yellow Jackets had hoped to pull out a win against Bevo Francis, freshman phenomenon for Rio Grande, by freezing the ball, I misidentified Jim as Bob.

Bevo had scored 116 points in a game against Ashland Junior College and was averaging just over 50 points after 22 games during the 1952-53 season.

Jim, famous for his no-look passes, was the guard who fed Bevo for many of his shots. If assists had been a statistic kept track of in those days, he might have set some kind of record for the category.

Sadly, both Jim and Jack Gossitt, who played his high school ball at Ashland Holy Family and was also a player on Bevo’s team, have both passed.

Bevo, too, is gone, having died in January 2016. His coach at Rio Grande, Newt Oliver, is still living at age 91 or 92, as is his wife, Maxine.

A couple of other mistakes I made in last week’s column: Bevo stood 6-9, not 6-8 as I reported. Also, I said he was a farm boy from just outside Rio Grande. He was from Wellsville, Ohio, in the northeastern corner of the state. He played just one year of high school ball there. Newt Oliver was his coach. He brought Bevo south with him when he took the coaching job at Rio Grande.

Several readers wondered what happed to Bevo after that freshman season. He played another year at Rio Grande. After that, he and Oliver formed a team and went on a barnstorming tour for a while. Bevo also played on the team opposing the Harlem Globe Trotters in their exhibition games.

In those days, a college player could not play in the professional leagues until after the year his class would have graduated from college.

Bevo was eventually drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors. But, according to Gene Brushart, who played on the junior varsity at Rio Grande during Bevo’s freshman year, by that time Bevo had a wife and two children, and wanted nothing more than to return home.

“He really was a farm boy, who loved the outdoors,” Brushart said. “He loved coon hunting and rabbit hunting with his beagles.”

Gene, who led Piketon High School in Pike County, Ohio, in scoring during his senior year, was recruited by Floyd Rees to attend Rio Grande.

Rees was coach there at the time, but quit to take the job at Cedarville.

“Newt honored my agreement at Rio Grande,” said Brushart, who went on to graduate there before beginning a coaching/teaching career in Ohio.

Yes, Jesse, we want to hold onto April as though it were a bar of purist gold.


G. Sam Piatt

PDT Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.