By Bradley Robertson
Sheppy-boy and I have a bedtime tradition that began when he was 4 years old. He was never one to sit still and look at word books like his older brother, so I began telling him made-up stories that I pulled out of thin air.
The stories began as a way to get his attention and to get him to be still, but story by story, night by night, it became something much greater. We were capping off our night, me and my boy, with more adventure and fun than one can imagine.
To top it off, every story was about a boy named Shep.
Turkey season is upon us, and seeing as we are a farm family, inclusive of outdoor life, I thought I’d try out a “Shep Story” with all of you. It is fiction of course, but then again, knowing Shep, it could really happen.
We are southerners, and by nature that makes us excellent storytellers. I hope this story draws a sweet and funny picture for you or takes you back in time, but more, I hope it opens up a story in your soul to share with the people you love too.
Once upon a time there was a good little boy who lived on a farm. He loved tractors, he loved anything in the dirt and he loved learning new things with his dad, the Farmer.
One night when the boy was getting ready for bed, the father came in and said, “Hey buddy, Daddy is going to shoot a turkey in the morning, you think you might want to come with me?”
The little fella grinned the biggest grin in days, for he had been waiting years for his father to invite him on a real hunt. “Really, Daddy?” he asked, with a defined southern drawl.
“You bet!” replied the father, and so the two laid out all their camo and hunting gear and quickly went to bed. For to catch a turkey, one must rise way before the sun and greet the creature in its path.
The next morning, an hour before daylight, the father woke the boy.
“Hey buddy, are you ready to go catch a turkey?”
Within minutes, they were dressed head to toe in camouflage and walking out the door. The father and the boy each carried a gun on their shoulder. The father knew the experience was not only about the kill of a turkey, but about teaching his son the ways of life.
Under black skies and cold, frosty air, the boy followed his father across the pasture, quiet as a mouse. He could barely see in front of himself, but he kept both eyes on his father’s boots to direct his own foot path. The father had told the boy of the quiet and still needed to catch a turkey, and as the boy was an excellent listener, he walked in complete silence to the forest.
Five minutes passed, and the two came upon the wood line of the forest. The father began to weave in and out of tall trees, brush and bushes, looking for the perfect spot to sit still and wait for Mr. Turkey. The boy’s steps crackled over leaves and briars, but soon the thicket opened to a clear stand of plantation pines.
The father stopped at a pair of pine trees and motioned to the boy to sit down. The boy’s breath was seen clearly in front of his little nose as he and the father sat down, side by side, backs leaned against the trees. The father positioned the guns just so, and the two began to wait.
In the silence of the forest, far in the distance, the boy began to hear a low gobble. At first it scared him, and the boy looked to his father for assurance. The gentle dad grinned back in satisfaction, placing his finger in front of his mouth and making the “shh” sign with his lips.
The gobble of the turkey, as well as its footsteps, came closer and closer. The boy’s eyes were darting back and forth trying to find the source of the sound in the grey light. The father tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to their far right, and just beyond the tenth tree, within 16 paces, was Mr. Turkey.
The boy could not believe his eyes. It was there, slowly walking directly in front of them. The two sat still as statues, the boy waiting on his father to make the next move.
In seconds, the turkey just 12 feet in front of the boy, the father lifted his gun and aimed to shoot. The boy could not believe what was happening, and naturally, he picked up his arms as to cover his ears from the sound of his father’s gun.
At that very moment a wooly, red fox darted out from behind the boy and made a beeline to the turkey. The father had not yet pulled the trigger, and the quick fox bounced toward the turkey, hoping for his own morning meal. However, Mr. Turkey, being able to fly, darted into the air and quickly disappeared into the dark branches of the early morning.
The father and son sat in disbelief. Without even a minute to evaluate what to do next, another turkey, larger and closer than the one before, walked right up into view, coming from the father’s left side.
He stood still as could be, just four feet away, perhaps having no clue of the action that just took place in his very own woods.
“Is this really happening?” the boy thought to himself.
Would they catch this turkey?
And with no hesitation, the fun of the moment overcame both father and son. They looked eye to eye and burst into laughter causing their prize turkey to run away. The boy was falling over in belly laughs, and the father was right alongside him, soaking up every second of joy and goodness found in his son.
The two sat at the pine trees for what seemed like endless time, recalling what happened, both adding in bits and pieces of the story as they saw it, chuckling and grinning and sharing a moment they both knew they would never forget.
They finally stood to make the trek back to the house, guns in tow, light beginning to creep up over the horizon.
The father patted his son on the head at the top of the hill, in full view of their farm and this sweet place they call home.
“You’re my turkey ticket, Shep,” he said. “All I need is you and all the good stories will fly right to us wherever we go.”