The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Flawed Replacement

By John Winfield Spangler, ADCS USN (Ret) © 1990

Issue: January, 1990

(The following story was told to me by the late Ben Earnhart in 1966 at Navel Air Station Glenview, Illinois. His sidekick, one Gordon Patterson, testified to the truthfulness of the story, as both were once stationed at NAS Atlanta. Ben returned to the Atlanta area after his retirement and became a fireman and I believe Gordon also has left the Chicago area for Georgia. He was originally from Indiana (I think) but married a Georgia peach.)

Two sailors from NAS Atlanta had met an old farmer in northern Georgia, and returned each year to bird hunt on his property. They didn't have any contact with him any other time of the year.

One fall they drove up and the old fellow, who had been watching for them, met them at the gate. After the "howdys" had been exchanged, he continued.

"Afraid I've got bad news for you fellows," he said. "My old dog just up and died a few days back."

"Do you mean," one of the sailors exclaimed, "that we came all the way up here and ain't gonna get to bird hunt?"

"Nope! Nope!" said the old man shaking his head vigorously, "I didn't say that. Actually I've got an old mule out there in the barn that can point birds as well as that dog ever could!"

Grinning from ear to ear the two sailors exchanged winks. The farmer saw this, and headed for the barn, with the still grinning sailors tagging along.

The mule was turned out in a nearby pasture, which was partly covered by patches of brush and briars. About halfway across, he came to a point and they flushed up a terrific flock of game birds. The sailors were somewhat nervous (or poor shots), and nearly all the birds escaped down the hill and across the river, where they settled in another field.

"Let's see if we can get across the river and flush that bunch up again," the two sailors told each other excitedly.

"Nope! Nope! Can't do that," put in the old farmer.

"Well, why not?" they chimed in unison. "You own that field too, don't you?"

"Yeah", he agreed. "I do. But if you get near that river, you done lost that mule. He'd a heckova lot rather fish than hunt!"