Archive for May, 2011



  I spent the very early hours of the morning of Memorial  Day in the woods.(In fact, I wrote this blog during that time too.) What a great place to reflect! Of course, my thoughts, as they so often do, drifted back to some early years of my father and I trekking over these same hills and hollows. Further thoughts took me back to the time when my dad pointed out his name on a, long gone, memorial along the street in Elderton, Pennsylvania.  My little chest puffed out with pride! This was a big deal for a five or six year-old as it is today!

      Although, I can’t recall these memories, but, I was told I would stand at attention, when I first could do so, anytime the “Star-Spangled Banner” would be heard.

I am old enough to remember when McArthur and Churchhill passed away. These were a couple of the “big guys” from the WW2 era. I recall hearing of the passing of the last Civil War veteran, as well as the last World War 1 soldier. Now the World war 2 veterans are rapidly aging followed quickly by the Korean and Viet Nam vets!    

Our native Columbine

I remembered some details of war stories from my father. Some of the places he was and the things he witnessed could easily ruin good men. Biblically speaking, there will be a time when all things old and present will be gone and there will be no more war. What a day that will be! The way many things are falling into place I suspect the terrible times coming will not be far off before that time of PEACE.

On Sunday,Pastor Wayne Sawyer of the Kittanning Free Methodist Church had the beginning moments of the film “Saving Private Ryan” shown. I turned my head to avoid watching the man and his family at the gravesite of the captain responsible for his life. I know my results. Powerful!

Song Sparrow


Cherry Run

    Later, Laurie and I will cook some burgers on the grill and I will, no doubt, watch some war movie.In most recent years I would dress in my 18th century apparel and walk the Memorial Day parade. The man in charge of that event too has passed. Another great patriot named Herman Rupert. I had him as a teacher in high school too.

Native Iris-Blue Flag

   I did see a few squirrels and some deer. I saw a woodcock too. I left the woods after 8:00 A. M. The woods were quiet as was I. It was a good morning!

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Memorial Day causes me to ponder on the reasons of war and those involved. My father, Allen K. Smail instilled a deep respect and honor towards are veterans. He was in the European theater during WWll. He saw concentration camps and other many sites most of us would cringe in terror over seeing.

I have been searching for details of my ancestors of the Blystone side of my family who fought in that great and bloody Civil War! Also, this year is the 150th anniversary of that conflict where brothers fought against brothers.(That equals three 50 year life spans. Not very long ago in this comparison!) My grandmother on my father’s side was a Blystone. She married, my grandfather, Alpha Kline Smail. Her father (my great grandfather) was Archibald Blystone.

My great-great grandfather, John Blystone married a full-blooded Seneca (not-confirmed yet) named Anna Fultz. Their lives and their families resided in the Indiana and Armstrong County areas of Pennsylvania. They had 15 children.  Of these six males (possibly seven) were involved in the Civil War.

names on Armstrong County War memorial

Simon Blystone enlisted in 1861 in the 63rd, Company G, Pennsylvania Volunteers. (later that year brothers, William and George enlisted to.) Simon was in Gettysburg. If my memory serves me his name, at least, is on the Pennsylvania monument there at the battlefield. I found information where he was mustered into service in 1864. This confused me for Gettysburg was in 1863. Further searching proved he had renlisted in January 1864. He was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness in May of 1864. He is buried in a mass grave. There is a photo reportedly of Simon Blystone. I have only seen a poor quality reproduction.

William Blystone enlisted in the same outfit as Simon 1861 and , he too, reenlisted in 1864. William was wounded in the leg at Petersburg, Virginia and died during a leg amputation. He is buried in grave # 985 at City point National Cemetery.

George Blystone enlisted in the same outfit as Simon and William. He was wounded in the upper leg and spent the remaining war in various hospitals. He died in a mining accident in 1895.

Henry Blystone was in Company I, 46th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers.  He was with General Sherman’s “March to the Sea.”  There is a photo of an aged, white-bearded Henry in the early 1900 era. He had his uniform on with medals. He, and his descendents used the name Sherman to name sons. He died in 1912.

Henry Blystone is second from left.  (Front row)

Henry Blystone is second from left. (Front row)

John Blystone was in the POT., Company E, 54th regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry.  He is listed as to being in the war only a few months. I would like to know the reasons for this.

Archibald Blystone, as I stated earlier, was my great-grandfather. I have found two reports as his units. One was the 102nd, company H, Pennsylvania Infantry and the other listed as Company K, 107th. He was wounded at Dabney Mills, Virginia. The wound was a bullet graze across the crown of his head. The scar was permanent. He died in 1899.

Walter Blystone is the man with some unknowns. He died of typhoid fever either while joining the war effort or after. His date of death is listed at one site as “around 1860”.  Another site claims his death to be in 1861.There is one report discovered stating three of the Blystones boys died in the Civil war. Walter may be, indeed, the third.

I am humbled and proud of these ancestors. Although I may never be able to pull enough information together to tell their complete stories I intend to look for details.


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Dandelion seeds ready for a wind

   I took Bob out to another area to hunt. I described the hike to the top would be a long and gradual climb. He was OK with the effort. We reached the field’s edge at 5:20A.M. and shortly heard a distant gobble. Within the next five minutes we heard 5, possibly seven,  different gobblers. At least, several were way across the hollows and roads. This is a most deceiving area to hunt. Turkey hunters know how a bird half a mile or more away can sometimes sound much closer in such circumstances.

We set up and one gobbler and within a few minutes the birds were all silent. Occasionally, for the next ten minutes or so, a distant gobbler was heard.

We began a quick tour of  the area and within a few more minutes all was silent. Although, I had taken allergy meds I began having symptoms in my eyes. the top of this hill had a large hay-field.

   Bob was becoming admittedly tired and we were both very wet from the high wet fields and steady light rain. I suggested we quit early and he was in agreement.  I did hear two gobbles upon leaving on a very distant ridge.

We saw a couple of deer and a great blue heron. I, also, stopped along the Cherry Run Road to remove and relocate a box turtle from the road. This turtle would be the second box turtle I have seen this spring.

Readers of my blog recognize that Bob is my step father of a couple of years now. He did say to me this morning if he would have had his own son he would have hoped he would have been like me.  Wow! I thanked him!!!

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   I continued the elevation along the hill until I entered a gas line. I called and was immediately answered by a gobbler up on top of the grade. I walked up and called prior to going up and over the crest. He answered again and much closer. I searched for a good set up place and finding none I squatted low among the ferns and limbs, shotgun ready. I called again and an answer. I visualised the event as my friend Kip Feroce always says to do.

Shortly, I could hear the drumming sounds of a gobbler in strut. Hearing these sounds means one thing to the turkey hunter. ..HE’S CLOSE! I could see the fanned-tail at the crest of the hill. The bird continued looking and strutting.  The sights were aligned and the gobbler was harvested. Laurie has turkey for her famous meatball recipe again!

   The shot was at 26 yards. the bird was over twenty pounds with a beard length of eleven and three-fourth inches. The pointed 7/8 inch spurs told me he was a three-year old gobbler.

However, the day up to this time, had some issues. I set up on a gobbler at another hunting site. I was approximately 100-125 yards from the roosted bird. The woodlands were relatively open and I was on the same plateau as he was. All seemed good. His last gobble, still from the tree, was at 7:00. His next gobbles (three of them) was across the hollow and towards the top. I figured had to be a female (hen) involved somehow.

I edged along the side listening up and over when suddenly the coughing associated with asthma began to occur. I muffled the first series. I eased up over to look across an open woods and just as I began to call the second phase hit me and hit hard. I coughed loudly and saw a hen and gobbler running. The third series forced me to throw up some phlegm. After that I was tired. frustrated, and not sure what to do. I laid down for a sleep and later wrote down some writings for future ideas.

Bob thought it was a grouse!

  At 9:30, I decide to head to another spot. I felt the need to get away from these hills and hollows. I have been concentrating at these areas for Bob’s sake. It is fairly easy for him to walk about across the hollow. (Bob saw several turkeys and a deer smelling his decoy.)

I returned to the car to see a feather on the wiper. This is cousin Donnie and my way of communicating a kill. He called in two 2-year old gobblers and bagged one.

I arrived  about a mile away and crossed Cherry Run and began the climb to the top. The rest of the story is above!!!

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    The wait proved fruitless for gobbling activity until I heard a turkey clear across the hollow. I circled and set up and he answered. Oh Boy I thought then a silence I couldn’t explain. Later I learned the following. I called my mom to see if Bob was hunting . He wasn’t but he came out immediately when I said the gobbler was at the spot he spends a lot of time at. I didn’t know this until later. A heavy fog covered the area until after 8:00.

Bob walked up and saw a turkey at the field. The bird saw him too! After 8:00 I heard two gobbles across the hollow where I had come from. (no surprise here) I trekked back across and heard nothing until a helicopter flew nearby. the bird shocked gobbled and was only 150 yards or less from me. My calls and patience did not produce another gobble.

Heavy A.M. fog

   I worked back across and saw Bob’s car. Later, as I approached Bob’s big tree, I could see a gobbler in the field where he had gobbled earlier. I searched for Bob came back to the tree and could see the bird laying in the high grass. I searched more and realized h, like Elvis,e had left the building. Later the bird was gone. Bob told me he had seen 4 turkeys in that field at one point of time.

     The woods became very warm as the noon hour occurred. I left the woods at 1:15.

While sleeping by a pine tree I was awakened by toe on bark noises. A red squirrel was directly behind me and actually jumped upon my head. I couldn’t hold the laughter in!

Box turtle

   I saw a red fox; squirrels; several deer, including one inquisitive doe and one gobbler. I, also, found a box turtle.                                              

Swallowtail pals!

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Wild Geranium

   The gobble exploded only 80-120 yards below me. I had crept in quietly prior to 5:00A.M. to await this exact moment. My plan was right on thus far. I was close and above the gobbler, the forest was open and obstacle-free. The turkey was outside of the posted land.

As the minutes continued on towards daybreak I softly called and was answered! Soon a jake exploded  his presence. Fifteen minutes later a hen began to chirp too. My heart sank as I heard her calls. The woods became silent. The longbeard only gobbled 10-12 times all morning.


  Suddenly, I saw it.. a turkey tail only about 60 yards away. These birds were closer than I had believed. The foliage had slightly muffled the sounds. Two birds flew out and dropped down behind the posted line.  A third bird followed. I had the shotgun across my knee in anticipation. Two more birds departed the roost. A saw three of the five birds land.

The wait was long and none of the turkeys came up towards me. I expected the hen (s) lead the gobblers deeper into the posted land. They had all landed just behind a slight rise in the land so I couldn’t see them on the ground. This is something hens often do. They don’t want the competition of the heard but not seen hen…me!. I began to call excitedly in hopes of angering her for a return. The plan failed.

Whay's causing this on the mayapples?

   I later departed  to another hunting site. I had walked and called about one mile from my vehicle when it started…an allergy attack! What misery I felt. I had the itchy, burning, swollen eyes. I had sinus swelling with the need to blow my nose often. I was sneezing. I had red, itchy welts on my arms; neck, upper chest and forehead. What torment!

I started the long and miserable hike towards the car. Fortunately, the symptoms abated as the distance was closed. I was at te car at 10:00. As I type this, I am completely exhausted with swollen and watery eyes. The other symptoms are gone for the moment. I have slept for over two hours. Tomorrow, if I hunt turkeys I will be medicated as a precaution. How did people manage without pills 100 years ago?

I saw many squirrels and several deer including two different bucks. Of course, I saw three turkeys out of five. I, also, saw one adult and one red fox kit.


One of the Orginal 200

    Another box call from my collection is “One of the Original 22” from Kicking Bird Game Calls. This is a gift for doing their art and logo some years ago. Tim Murphy is the owner and Howard Meyers is the founder. Their site is: http://kickingbirds.com

Wayne Williams call

  This aluminum call was a gift. The late Wayne Williams made and signed this call. Wayne passed away in 2008. great siounding call!

The box call shown here is one of many I have from the Dale and Jody “Putt”Rohm.  This call is personlized by Dale Rohm. A great looking and great sounding box call.   

Personalized Rohm Box call

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Interesting tree

  The stars and moon shone bright as I slowly walked towards a listening point.  By 5:35 A.M. I heard gobbling clear across the big hollow. I went towards the sounds and discovered two gobbling birds within posted grounds. I set up, once again, to attempt to lure one of the birds to my calling.

Scarlet tanager

   One bird om my side of a hollow left the roost and walked almost out of hearing before coming back towards me. He was approximately 400+ yards away, I estimated. The other bird was across this hollow and about 200 yards from me.  I had to try. The closer bird flew out from his roost and I got a glimpse through the foliage. He went silent. Later I heard some hen chatter in his direction.

The other, and distant, bird heard my very loud calling . Eventually he became silent after gobbling for over one and a half hours. I became chilled, since I dressed light, and went up and over the edge of the hill. I called and a gobble followed by another stopped me. The bird still in posted land was just over 100 yards. I hurriedly set up. The bird went quiet. Did he see me setting up to call?


  After a wait, I went across the hollow and road to check on Bob. While we were talking a gobbler blasted us from the hill I just left. I crept back and spent the morning  without any luck. I had to begin leave the woods at 10:00 since I was expected to be at the museum later this day. I found leaving the woods this morning difficult. I know something would have happened later on.

I saw a number of deer and squirrels. I, also, saw a baby woodcock.


The Lucky Clucker

   Sometime ago, my friend, the late, Frank Piper called me for a  get-together  with wives for a meal out. He surprised me with a wooden box filled with turkey calls and other things related to turkey hunting. The box’s lid had one of my ink illustrations on it. Frank, at that time, was the owner of Penn’s Woods Calls. (His nephews now own the company.) Frank was a super great guy!!!! One of the calls in the box was the Lucky Clucker. it is great call for clucks; putts and purrs! Their site is: http://www.pennswoods.com

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