Keeper Of The Stars

Well it is complete. My fourth CD called, “KEEPER OF THE STARS” has finally been arranged and placed onto a CD. I have about  nine months of time utilized for this endeavor. The first step was to find songs to place onto the CD. They need to be songs that my feeble voice can succeed with. I breathe very shallow so my lung capacity isn’t the best. Add asthma issues so singing can be challenging at times due to running out of air at the end of a line.

Once the songs were decided upon,  I needed to find out what key works best for that particular song.  I typed the words and determined the chords and plan an arrangement. Then the recording process begins, track by track!

The digital recorder I have has seven individual tracks. I then take various tracks and bounce them onto two tracks. I, at this time, can add more tracks. However, I will need to erase the bounced tracks. This isn’t the ideal way to record, but that is my current capabilities. Sometimes I wish I still had an erased track to increase volume if needed.  Like I said this isn’t the very best way to record. I have had songs with as many as fifteen individual tracks.

Eventually, the tracks have been completed and bounced onto a special track used to do the final CD. My sister Ruthie Smail Wolfe did the CD designs for me. She did a great job and my friend, mark Hamilton did some steel work on seven of the fourteen songs. Mark is a great friend and fellow musician. I did all vocals and all other instruments…guitars, bass guitar, banjo, keyboards…

This CD is available for a donation of ten dollars for pick up. Add five dollars for shipping if I need to mail. Send check to: Larry A. Smail, 481 Butler Road Kittanning, PA 16201.

On a sad note and after many hours I lost two songs and had recorder issues while trying to redo. Those songs were, Wagon Wheel and Lord Send Me Your Angels.

The songs on this CD include:

  1. Blue Ridge Mountain Blues -This is an old bluegrass number and I do play the 5-string banjo on this song. I used an upbeat arrangement style closer to the John Fogerty arrangement. Fogerty was of the Creedence Clearwater Revival days. he, later, was the band Blue Ridge Rangers where he did all instruments and vocals.
  2.  Keeper Of The Stars– Sung by Tracey Byrd. Laurie, my wife, liked the words and requested I do the song.
  3.  How’s The World Treating You was recorded by many over the years. James Taylor and Alison Kraus may have been the most recent duet to record the song.
  4. Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye has been recorded by many singers over the last decades.
  5.  A Way To Survive was recorded by Ray Price. I loved how is voice worked and I worked to copy his style.
  6. Here Comes My Baby Back Again was written and recorded by Dottie West back in the sixties.
  7. The Little Girl was recorded by John Michael Montgomery and has a powerful Christian message at the end.
  8.  Peaceful Easy Feelings was recorded in the seventies by the Eagles. I worked a long time perfecting the instrumental.
  9.  Life Turned Her That Way was recorded by Ricky Van Shelton.
  10. Some Call It Heaven came about in an interesting way. A friend wanted to do the song for her future. I did the musical tracks in the key of F. She couldn’t do it in that key so I tried it and used it. I redid the song for her in the key of E.
  11. Tulsa Time was recorded by many singers. Don Williams and Eric Clapton made it famous.
  12. Help Me Make It through the Night was another song requested by my wife.
  13.  All I Have To Offer You Is Me was recorded by Charley Pride.
  14.  Take Your Memory With You was recorded by Vince Gill.

The other three CDS are: Songs For My Mother; No Rhyme Or Reason and I Believe. (Gospel music)



Out Of Tags

I heard the first gobble at twenty-minutes after five this morning, but the bird was far off.  At 5:45 A.M. I decided to move towards the gobbler to see where he was gobbling. I suspected he may be across a road and Cherry Run for I had been fooled before at this exact place. The sound seems to carry and distort. Well, to not write a lot, the bird may have been on my side of the hill, but very low or he may have been low across the above-mentioned hollow. Regardless, I would cross the creek and try to find him. I wonder if any birds sounded off after I moved out of the original listening point. I guess I’ll never know.

Eventually, I reached the top of this hill calling trying to locate the bird. I received an answer and moved close before setting up to call. He liked my calls and moved closer to about eighty to a hundred yards.  He went quiet and after waiting some time I checked things out. This woodlands was very open and I believe the gobbler moved to a vantage point to see the mysterious hen (Me) and after a time walked off. Gobblers use their keen eyesight well. I believe the bird became suspicious after not seeing the source of the hen calling and departed. Remember, I stated the woods was very open. I heard some jakes a few hundred yards to my left on the next hill.

Fall-like colors of spring.

I walked to the jeep and deciding what to do  for time was getting short.

I drove a couple of miles south and walked to the top of a hill where a right-a-way cuts across the countryside. The time was almost ten o’clock. My  call received an answer and I moved closer and set up. The gobbler was across a small tributary on the opposite side  of this hill. I heard hen chatter  off to my right. A second gobbler began gobbling to my left.

The second gobbler came in behind me and at about fifteen feet I just couldn’t align the sights because as to how I was leaning in an awkward position. The turkey became suspicious at the movement and moved off. I could have shot the bird with a shotgun pattern, but I let him go. Remember, the other gobbler was moving too.

I began hammering on the call and the gobbler became excited. The gobbler went quiet.

In moments the full fanned tail appeared. The gobbler was coming in and fast. I leveled the shotgun and when a clear shot visualized the boom of the shotgun disturbed the silence.

I immediately realized this bird was bigger than last week’s kill. I weighed him at home and he was twenty-one and a half pounds. The broom-like beard was over ten inches and each spur was one inch long.

One of several deer I had seen these last two hunts.

I tagged him and off I went back towards the jeep. I felt blessed to witness the beauty of the spring woods and to top it all off with a nice gobbler.

I stopped by to see the landowner for I saw his car on site. I couldn’t talk him in to butchering the gobbler. The task had to be by me again.

I carried a tripod to set up the camera with delayed timer.








Dwarf Ginseng






The sneezing was inevitable. It happens every year. However, most of the morning was sneeze-free.

I found the pre-dawn venture along a township road to be pleasurable. I could hear the Spring Peepers peeping and the bubbling tributary as I walked along the calm and cool morning. After a jaunt of approximately 1200 feet I crossed that stream and began the trek uphill to listen for gobblers. I have taken around twelve birds, both spring and fall,  from this very place I was heading. Thoughts began crossing my brainwaves. Was a nearby timbering operation going to effect gobbling? Would that same issue help keep hunters coming in from that direction?

I sat down to await the morning events while listening to the growing sounds of the warblers and other birds. they were happy this foggy morning. Would the gobblers be happy? Apparently not!

I failed to hear any birds at all. After six and I moved along the ridge and called in an area where I have often been successful and getting response. I heard him way across a big basin. Off I went. As I moved diagonally downhill I crossed a right-of-way and called again. he answered.

Eventually, I found myself along a bench where I had bagged a tom about six years ago. I called and he answered and was close. I believed he may have still been on the roost, but I set up and called again. Gil-obble was the reply. he would only answer my calls for I allowed much silence between calls. two geese flew over and he answered them.  He ceased answering my calls and I decided to allow the bird some time and exited the area and went uphill to search for Morel Mushrooms.  He never called again and I moved back the way I came to try to stir up another bird with the idea of returning later in the morning.

I was closing back to the original calling site when I could hear a lot of commotion down over. the farmer, apparently, had some cows out of the fence. I could hear bellowing cattle, ATV  and two voices hollering. I moved into the woods and received no calling back to my calls. Did the commotion have him move on and deeper into this woods half of which is posted and timbered?  I set up and called and waited when I could hear some hen talk above me. I waited and watched and assumed it to be of another hunter. For safety sake I moved on.

   I returned to the jeep a little after eleven o’clock wondering what to do with the next hunt.

I enjoyed the morning for the woods appeared so fresh, clean and new.                                                                

Lots To Do


I haven’t hunted since last Monday when I bagged a nice gobbler.  I had plenty of things to do, so I elected to wait for some time to pursue filling my second spring gobbler tag. Some of the tasks at hand were to complete my fourth CD. I was to work on a painting that is close to being done. However, I failed to accomplish these goals. I had some issues with the digital recorder causing the loss of two songs. That was very frustrating, but even more frustrating were the many hours redoing the one song only to have the recorded stop. These facts caused me to rethink the CD song amounts. There will now be only fourteen songs on this CD…so there!

Also, I had to do music at two places. However, I did spend some time in the woods this past Thursday. I was, and am, still hoping to discover a mess of morel mushrooms. I haven’t had any success to date.

As one might expect of me I did do a lot of photography mainly with wildflowers. I take photos every year of those beautiful species.

Virginia Bluebells


Wild Geranium


Golden Ragwort


Sweet William


Greek Valerian


Yellow Violet


Mayapple (No blossoms yet.)


Old stomping grounds




Purple Trillium


Rue Anemone


White Trillium


Spring Beauty


Dutchman’s Breeches


Blue Violet



The second morning  of the Pennsylvania Spring Gobbler Season found me working in Indian stealth up a shallow hollow ending on a flat ridge. I enjoyed watching the morning awaken while listening for a gobbler sounding off near to me.

I heard two gobblers, but both were off in the distance. The closest was a twenty minute move. The second was barely audible somewhere far away in some distant treetop. I elected to stay put having confidence a gobbler would be near. I did hear a hen cackle about a hundred yards to my right. I waited for half an hour expecting to hear a gobbler along with her.

I eventually moved to the area I believed the closest gobbler may have gobbled. I did not receive any response. I crossed a hollow and went up on the next ridgeline. I called and heard nothing. However, once I went up and over I saw a hunter about seventy yards setting next to a tree. I waved and left the area.

I crossed the road only to see a friend’s pick up parked near to my jeep. I surmised where he may have went to hunt and went in another direction. The winds had picked up a lot and I walked and called loudly at various spots. Eventually I worked down over a hillside and called and heard a gobble several hundred yards away. I picked up the pace and crossed a gulley and moved halfway up the opposite hillside. I called again and heard another blast of turkey testosterone. The gobbler was much closer. I quickly set up before calling again. GIL-OBBLE-OBBLE -OBBLE was the reply and only about a hundred yards away.

I waited now breathing forcibly out the left side of the mouth for my steam was trying to fog up my glasses. Eventually everything seemed to be stabilizing as for the steam because my glasses weren’t fogging up anymore.

The Turkey Tote made for me. I sent a fellow a bunch of deer antlers. This was one of antlers cut and painted for me. as a tote.

Suddenly I saw the white crown at about forty yards. I sat patiently when to my surprise a second gobbler appeared a little closer. The two birds moved even closer, but very slowly. Both were around twenty-eight to thirty yards, but I couldn’t get a clean shot due to many small tree trunks throughout. All the lead bird needed to do was take about two steps and be in the open, but he turned and walked in front of the second bird. The second gobbler  moved ahead a little and offered me a shot, but not as open as I would like, but I was on him with sight alignment.

BOOM!!!!!!!!  The bird was down and flopping as I saw two gobblers run away. I never saw the third gobbler prior to the shot.

The tom turkey weighed exactly twenty pounds. One spur was one inch and the second spur was seven/eighths of an inch. The beard was just shy of ten inches. Now I had the long walk back to the jeep. The turkey tote that was given to me made the weight somewhat easier to handle.

I stopped and placed feathers on my cousin Donnie’s truck wiper, as per our tradition, but he saw me. I later stopped at my step-father’s home to see him.

Beautiful morning. The gobbler was on that distant hill.

It seems like only last year we had a similar event. The walk to a listening vantage point was quite calm. However, just prior to six in the morning a could feel the winds picking up. In a short time the winds were howling.

I could hear the hooting of a Barred Owl below me. A little after six o’clock I heard a gobble across the hollow from where I was listening. the bird was around one hundred and fifty yards or so. I moved down slope to get closer. I was fearful of moving to his side of the hill since this early in the season the leaves were sparse allowing the bird to possibly see my approach.

I could still hear the owl and then some hen talk. Could a hunter have moved in below me with these calls? I decided to walk away from this gobbler. The bird only gobbled four times in a half an hour. I walked back up and over the flats calling occasionally, but searching for the elusive morels.

Eventually I worked back and near the area where I had heard the gobbler. I called and received an answer. I  didn’t hear any hunters or see any tracks on a muddy gas well road. After a brief time I could see the dark form of a gobbler in the brush. I soon realized this bird was a yearling. (Jake) I left him walk. he came within twenty to twenty-two feet from me. I wished I had my camera in hand, but I kept the shotgun on alert for I hoped a second bird might appear.

I exited the area and crossed the road. I did a walk and call tour despite the howling noise from the wind. NO luck! I returned to the jeep a little before ten o’clock and called loudly and received an answer. Off I went to circle the bird. I closed in to around one hundred and fifty yards from the gobbler and called. He responded.  After a pause he answered my call again and that was it. I circled around and walked uphill close to a large lease land. I thought a change in position may find the bird up on top and call him back. I sat down and after a wait I noticed turkey movement about a hundred yards out. Could that turkey be the gobbler? No a hen showed up above me. She became quite vocal after I called again to her. She worked to about twenty-five feet from me. Again, the photo ops I had, but I was hoping the gobbler might show up.

I returned to the jeep only to see turkey feathers in my wipers. Cousin Donnie had scored this first morning hence the feather. This has been a tradition for us for a long time. I stopped to see him at the house while he cleaned the gobbler.

The Turkey Vulture

I do not remember when I saw my first Turkey Vulture. (Turkey Buzzard) I know I was extremely interested with the bird once I learned proper identification. The wide-span, wing-spread aids with making the bird seem much larger than it is. Identifying the bird in flight is possible through two primary methods. The birds soar with a shallow-v appearance. They hold their long wings out and may soar for long periods of time without any wingbeats. This is possible through the use of their finger-like wing feathers located at the end of their upper primary feathers and the thermal wind drifts. So look for the finger-like wing tips and the shallow-v. They often wobble while soaring.

  The bird itself is close in size to a Canada Goose.  They appear dark-bodied, but actually have shades of brown included in their color.

The vulture is a bird that feeds on carrion. They are a scavenger. They have keen eyesight and a sense of smell. The birds can locate dead things via scent.

They like to nest in rocky areas.  Many years ago I was exploring steep rocky ledges. I pulled myself up to peer into the depths of some rocks and was immediately met with an adult vulture. The bird instantly came towards me and flew past my head as I ducked down to keep from meeting with a collision. Their were two eggs in the rocks which is normal. The adults soared close to me until I exited the area.

The little vultures are fed through the adults regurgiatatiing the carrion they have eaten. Yummy! They can fly in about nine to ten weeks.

Watch for the Turkey Vulture and enjoy with amazement their flight abilities.