Thursday, August 11, 2011

As Tough as They Come

There are some people who are just tough.  They don’t always have to be hulking big, or have a menacing look.  But when you see them, you respect them immediately.
My granddad was one of these people.  When I worked for him in my teens, he often told me if I could work for him, I could work for anyone.  By far, he was the toughest boss I had.  He was not necessarily mean, just tough.  He walked with a John Wayne pigeon toed swagger.  He also told me once that I should never expect someone else to do something that I would not do myself.  When he told me that, he was elbow deep in a sewer trying to clean out a pipe.  I respected that.  I carried that lesson over to my managerial career.
His last year of school was the sixth grade.  His wisdom and intelligence surpassed any person I know.  If you talked to him for just a few minutes, he could teach you a lifelong lesson.  He was opinionated.  That was ok.  He could teach you anything you ever wanted to know about religion, politics, business, or the outdoors.  He was in inventor and entrepreneur.  He once told me the only way you would ever make what you are worth is by going into business for yourself.  With only an elementary education, he was a successful builder, trucker, and eventually manufacturer.  He also was a lay minister with Peace Church for many years.
During the late 70’s and 80’s, he began hunting big game with a passion.  He bird hunted, mainly quail in his younger days, but with the success of his business, he was able to fulfill one of his dreams.  Traveling the world in search of large game, his stories could keep me in a trance for hours.  He was successful in taking over 90 big game animals that would qualify for either Boone and Crockett or Safari Club record books.  His videos of Alaska (on 8mm film), pictures of Northern Canada, and mementoes from various countries in Africa were mesmerizing.  I never passed up a chance to invite a friend over to Papa’s house to tour his trophy room, featuring elephant, Kodiak bear, hippo, caribou, moose, and Cape buffalo.
One story in particular showed just how tough of a man he was.  He was hunting rhino in Africa.  The land is exactly as you would picture it in your mind; Orange sand with no water and a few trees sticking up here and there.  His guide had several hands helping with the hunt.  Papa and the guide spotted a large rhino about 100 yards away across a dried river bed.  They glassed the monster, and the decision was made to take a shot.  Papa was using a Weatherby .460 WM.  To give you an idea of how big the cartridge is, hold up your pinky finger.  It is about the same diameter, but twice as long.  When were sighting the gun in, Papa allowed me to shoot it once.  It was during the summer.  I stopped feeling the pain in my shoulder when the following baseball season came around.
Anyway, back to the story.  Papa took the shot and placed it nicely.  The angry rhino turned toward the blast seeing the mob of humans.  In just a few moments, the rhino charged straight to Papa, going through the riverbed.  Papa held his ground, methodically throwing the bolt to chamber the next round and firing.  Seven times Papa shot the rhino, all in mortal locations, when the deadly game ended a mere 15 yards from him.  A large rhino, a cloud of dust filtering from the rushed steps of the beast, and the guide and his men scattering was the end result.  One of the tribesmen assisting on the hunt took a series of pictures.  The first showed Papa taking the first shot.  The rest were a little fuzzy and off center, as you could see everyone but Papa turning and running.  You could make out the head of the rhino in several of the photos with a cloud of orange dirt nearly 20 feet high trailing it.  Papa stood his ground.
William J. Howard Sr. (Aug 24, 1919 – Oct 27, 2005) and his trophy rhinoceros.
I was only fortunate enough to hunt with Papa one time.  My dad, a friend of mine, Bobby, and I went on an opening day dove hunt.  While I will always cherish that one day, I wish I had pictures to forever memorialize the occasion.  I make sure when my son, dad and I hunt now, I get plenty of shots.  Another bit of wisdom from Papa was he does not know when the end will be, but he knows every day is another day closer.  Papa would have been 92 years old on August 24th.
Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.

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