Brunswick Stew And Mud-Slinging Tires How Not To Impress the Ladies

Every year as the Thanksgiving weekend approaches, I start thinking about the tradition we started but never finished. It can’t happen now as I’m the only remaining member of the first of what was going to be the Annual Riverside Camping / Hunting trip. I can’t imagine any 17-year-old boy with a work situation as good as mine. It only paid $2.50 an afternoon, but it got me out of school at noon, and since I worked seven days a week, that netted me $17.50 a week. The only expenses I had was some 19 cents a gallon gas and Saturday night date night. My job? I was a horse and dog trainer. Well, assistant horse and dog trainer.

George’s Jeep

My boss, Bobby Stewart, had a way with animals. He sold insurance by making appointments in the morning and meeting with his prospects at night. That left the afternoons for training show horses a big part of the year and bird dogs in the fall after horse show season was over. Are you getting this? I rode horses and hunted with bird dogs and got paid for it. George Lovelady was a life-long friend of Bobby’s, and he owned a horse we worked so he could show him. Billy Ray Lea helped Bobby sell insurance. We all had something in common. We loved guns, trucks and the outdoors. That’s what kicked off the idea of a five-day adventure when practically everything was in season.

David’s Ford F1

Bobby knew the place and when he told us about it, there was no question how we were going to get there. Every man on his own. Bobby had a new Ford Bronco. I’m talking about the little one, and I think it was the first year they were sold. George had a CJ-5 with a winch on the front bumper. Billy Ray had one of those International Harvester Scouts that were popular back in the 60s. My truck was the only one that wasn’t four-wheel drive, but it was quite capable of keeping up with the others. It was a 1949 Ford F1 with wide mud tires, plenty of ground clearance and lots of torque. My utility box had chains and a come-along just in case I needed to help pull one of those guys out of the mud. It was rare for me to need a tow. As long as I chose my way carefully over the rough stuff, my truck would get me there.

 We left on Wednesday morning. Bobby and his son Mike were in front with the rest of us following. Bobby’s vehicle was the newest, and naturally he would prove to the rest of us it was the best by leading us through places that would get at least one of us stuck. That’s how we played the game and why we were all in separate vehicles. He who has the best truck wins. I was in my favorite place at the rear of our little convoy. There was no question they each had the advantage of four-wheel drive, but my truck had been around a long time and seemed to know its way through the muddiest of passages. I learned a lot about driving from that old truck.

Billy Ray’s Scout

There had been recent rains, and Bobby made sure we all did a lot slipping and sliding as we turned off a gravel road and headed north past Bagley Lake toward the Tallahatchie River. About an hour, maybe two off the county road, we pulled up at a place called Riverside where we found an open area on a high bank overlooking the river. Behind us and spreading out for several miles in all directions was public land, part of the Holly Springs National Forest. It was a week early for deer season, but duck, dove, quail, rabbits and squirrels were all in season, and we planned to take our share of feathers and fur from the immediate surroundings. I had both my guns with me, the 16-gauge, full choke Winchester Model 12 my Dad had given me and the bolt action .22 Remington 514 I’d bought from the Boy Scout Camp for $2. Mike had a 20-gauge Franchi and a Marlin .22. His dad’s Browning autoloader was the envy of all of us because he could use it to bring down quail like you wouldn’t believe. Billy Ray had a Remington version of that same design, and George had a double barrel 12 gauge.

We made camp and relaxed that first afternoon, taking advantage of some food we had packed in. An hour before sunset, we spread out around a nearby field and popped a few doves. Bobby got a teal as it flew up off the river. That shot with his cylinder bore Browning autoloader impressed me. Hitting a teal on the fly is always a challenge, and he did it with a quail gun.

We dressed the duck and the doves and tossed them into an ice chest. Billy Ray and Bobby set up a tripod from which they hung an iron caldron. Mike and I, being the youngest, foraged for firewood. George found some rocks to bed up the fire. Before we bedded down for the night, the caldron had been filled with water, a nice fire built beneath it and the doves and duck put into it to simmer.

For two days we hunted, explored and rested as it suited us. When hunting, we shot anything that was in season. Mike and I spent most of our time hunting with our .22 rifles going after squirrels and rabbits. We didn’t have a dog with us, so dove were the primary feathered target. Bobby did manage to add a few quail to our simmering pot by walking them up from the edge of a field. Billy Ray seemed to be on his game for ducks, and George shot a lot but didn’t bring much game to the pot. We all felt bad for him, but it did give the older guys something to rib him about. Mike and I were kids, so of course we were respectful.

Brunswick Stew – simmering for two days and ready to eat.

Although our pot was simmering with game we’d killed, we ate from the food supplies we’d brought with us. Saturday morning we cleaned our guns and straightened up the campsite. Bobby took charge of cooking for the evening meal, the rest of us helping under his direction. We moved the caldron away from the fire and strained it, removing all the bones. The meat had been cooked so tender it literally fell away from the bones making our job easier. When Bobby was satisfied all the bones were gone, we added the vegetables we’d kept on ice—green beans, corn, carrots, celery, onions and tomatoes. Bobby added some flour and various seasonings. We placed the caldron back over the fire and stoked it up to let the stew boil awhile. When the fire died down later, the stew continued simmering.

After lunch, we were all looking at our watches and getting restless. It was time to get the womenfolk. We made sure the fire was banked well and that none of our guns or other valuables were left lying about, then piled into the vehicles and hit the trail. The ride back to civilization was just as competitive as the one in, but this time we were more about getting somewhere than putting our vehicles to the test. We were on gravel by 3:00 p.m. and pavement a few minutes later. We cut across Woodson Ridge Road and from there to Little John’s Grocery on Highway 30 for the rendezvous.

We made it to Little John’s before the women were scheduled to arrive, so we bought some cold drinks and snacks and sat on my tailgate to enjoy them. The women showed up close to 4:30—Bobby’s wife Joanne, Billy Ray’s wife Terri, George’s young cousin Vicki who was visiting from Philadelphia, and my girlfriend Peggy, all riding together in Joanne’s Galaxie. After greeting them appropriately, we climbed into our vehicles, each with his own woman to impress (or not!) and headed back to Riverside.

The ride back to the campsite was a little rougher than normal because we plowed into the rough spots fast enough for some tire-twisting, gut-wrenching action—boys showing off. Today, girls drive Jeeps. The girls with us were not impressed with our bouncing, spinning and mud-slinging. But they were impressed when we served up dinner.

It was Brunswick Stew, as good as it gets—wild game cooked over an open fire. We sat around the campfire talking and reliving our hunting experiences for the girls. I don’t remember now, but I’m pretty sure there was some embellishment here or there. After a while, I got out my guitar and we sang a few songs. Then we got quiet and listened to the night sounds. Even the girls agreed we would make this an annual affair. All too soon it was time to take the women back to their car.

This time we used just two vehicles, Bobby’s Bronco and Billy Ray’s Scout. Peggy and I rode with Bobby and Joanne, George and Vicki rode with Billy Ray and Terri. After depositing the women at Little Johns, we went back to our campsite and enjoyed another night of “roughing it.”

By the time the next year rolled around, I was in college, Billy Ray had moved away and George was running his family’s convenience store. There just seemed to be too much conflict to pull off a five-day event that year. We never had a second annual Riverside Hunting Trip, and by the time what would have been the third one rolled around, I think I was the only one thinking about it. A year later I was in flight school and after that Vietnam. Funny how we let living get in the way of life. Maybe this year I can go. Get one of my sons to go with me. I’ve been back to Riverside once. The Forest Service made a real road right up to the river there and built an actual campground on that bluff overlooking the river. I can see all of this on Google Earth. But I can never sit around the campfire with Bobby, Mike, George and Billy Ray. Not here, anyway. Maybe there’s a Riverside Campground in heaven. If you think you and your friends should have a special hunting weekend, don’t put it off. Go make some great memories.e made camp and relaxed that first afternoon, taking advantage of some food we had packed in. An hour before sunset, we spread out around a nearby field and popped a few doves. Bobby got a teal as it flew up off the river. That shot with his cylinder bore Browning autoloader impressed me. Hitting a teal on the fly is always a challenge, and he did it with a quail gun.

We dressed the duck and the doves and tossed them into an ice chest. Billy Ray and Bobby set up a tripod from which they hung an iron caldron. Mike and I, being the youngest, foraged for firewood. George found some rocks to bed up the fire. Before we bedded down for the night, the caldron had been filled with water, a nice fire built beneath it and the doves and duck put into it to simmer.

For two days we hunted, explored and rested as it suited us. When hunting, we shot anything that was in season. Mike and I spent most of our time hunting with our .22 rifles going after squirrels and rabbits. We didn’t have a dog with us, so dove were the primary feathered target. Bobby did manage to add a few quail to our simmering pot by walking them up from the edge of a field. Billy Ray seemed to be on his game for ducks, and George shot a lot but didn’t bring much game to the pot. We all felt bad for him, but it did give the older guys something to rib him about. Mike and I were kids, so of course we were respectful.

Although our pot was simmering with game we’d killed, we ate from the food supplies we’d brought with us. Saturday morning we cleaned our guns and straightened up the campsite. Bobby took charge of cooking for the evening meal, the rest of us helping under his direction. We moved the caldron away from the fire and strained it, removing all the bones. The meat had been cooked so tender it literally fell away from the bones making our job easier. When Bobby was satisfied all the bones were gone, we added the vegetables we’d kept on ice—green beans, corn, carrots, celery, onions and tomatoes. Bobby added some flour and various seasonings. We placed the caldron back over the fire and stoked it up to let the stew boil awhile. When the fire died down later, the stew continued simmering.

After lunch, we were all looking at our watches and getting restless. It was time to get the womenfolk. We made sure the fire was banked well and that none of our guns or other valuables were left lying about, then piled into the vehicles and hit the trail. The ride back to civilization was just as competitive as the one in, but this time we were more about getting somewhere than putting our vehicles to the test. We were on gravel by 3:00 p.m. and pavement a few minutes later. We cut across Woodson Ridge Road and from there to Little John’s Grocery on Highway 30 for the rendezvous.

We made it to Little John’s before the women were scheduled to arrive, so we bought some cold drinks and snacks and sat on my tailgate to enjoy them. The women showed up close to 4:30—Bobby’s wife Joanne, Billy Ray’s wife Terri, George’s young cousin Vicki who was visiting from Philadelphia, and my girlfriend Peggy, all riding together in Joanne’s Galaxie. After greeting them appropriately, we climbed into our vehicles, each with his own woman to impress (or not!) and headed back to Riverside.

The ride back to the campsite was a little rougher than normal because we plowed into the rough spots fast enough for some tire-twisting, gut-wrenching action—boys showing off. Today, girls drive Jeeps. The girls with us were not impressed with our bouncing, spinning and mud-slinging. But they were impressed when we served up dinner.

It was Brunswick Stew, as good as it gets—wild game cooked over an open fire. We sat around the campfire talking and reliving our hunting experiences for the girls. I don’t remember now, but I’m pretty sure there was some embellishment here or there. After a while, I got out my guitar and we sang a few songs. Then we got quiet and listened to the night sounds. Even the girls agreed we would make this an annual affair. All too soon it was time to take the women back to their car.

This time we used just two vehicles, Bobby’s Bronco and Billy Ray’s Scout. Peggy and I rode with Bobby and Joanne, George and Vicki rode with Billy Ray and Terri. After depositing the women at Little Johns, we went back to our campsite and enjoyed another night of “roughing it.”

By the time the next year rolled around, I was in college, Billy Ray had moved away and George was running his family’s convenience store. There just seemed to be too much conflict to pull off a five-day event that year. We never had a second annual Riverside Hunting Trip, and by the time what would have been the third one rolled around, I think I was the only one thinking about it. A year later I was in flight school and after that Vietnam. Funny how we let living get in the way of life. Maybe this year I can go. Get one of my sons to go with me. I’ve been back to Riverside once. The Forest Service made a real road right up to the river there and built an actual campground on that bluff overlooking the river. I can see all of this on Google Earth. But I can never sit around the campfire with Bobby, Mike, George and Billy Ray. Not here, anyway. Maybe there’s a Riverside Campground in heaven. If you think you and your friends should have a special hunting weekend, don’t put it off. Go make some great memories.

Author: David Freeman

Professional dedicated to training and equipping people to live safely in a dangerous world.

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