EPILOGUE—The Pilgrimage Dr. Herbert L. Lunday, July 2017
Part II / Conclusion
I began sharing stories.... I was already a freshman at Arkansas Tech. I was going home for a Saturday hunt at the end of the November season. I knew I was going to harvest my first buck. It was neither excitement nor mere confidence. I KNEW I was going to harvest a buck. (In the history of Buckeye, no one had ever harvested a buck on the last day of the season. Saturday was the day for breaking camp.) My dad placed me on his old #5 stand before daylight Saturday morning, November 14, 1964. Soon, I heard a hound yapping a long way down the bend. It wasn’t a hot chase, but it was something more than a cold trail.
I scanned the thick woods even more intently now. Moments later I saw movement and soon recognized it was a deer. As the deer jogged slowly up the bend, I saw the glint of antlers and whispered softly to myself, “a buck.” I braced my 1894 model Winchester 30-30 rifle against a tree and followed the buck’s journey through the open sights. The buck continued a slow, but steady pace as he began easing up on my left side. The trees were so thick and the distance so great I had no chance at a shot, but I kept the deer in my sights as he bobbed in and out from behind trees. When he was perfectly even with me, he suddenly stopped and stood still. Maybe he caught my scent; maybe he was being cautious; maybe he just wanted to check the yapping frequency of the old hound down the bend. Whatever the reason may have been, he stopped in the only opening where I had a shot.
I took careful aim behind and high on the left shoulder and fired a single shot. The buck dropped straight down in his tracks. I yelled for help, and my dad and brother, Larry, came running from the adjacent stand. Dad stepped off the shot. It was exactly 70 yards. Later at camp, Dr. Frank (see photo) was admiring the deer as it hung on the camp pole affixed horizontally about eight feet up between two trees. He said, “You hit him a little high, didn’t you?” I responded, “No, sir! That’s exactly where I aimed, and he dropped immediately.” In spite of his serious tone, Dr. Frank knew, and I knew, that this highly respected mentor of mine was mighty proud.
As Aaron, Brock, Cooper and I walked down the trail back toward the boat, I spotted a huge flattened mass of black rubber, partly covered by leaves and soil, lying on the ground. It was the old rubber pontoon the men removed from beneath the cook shack after they pulled it onto the river bank and secured it with stacks of concrete block piers. The floodwaters had spared it all those years, sliding right over the smooth membrane. It was another good memory.
My dad showed me the good places and taught me best practices of hunting and fishing. He instilled in me safety and good sportsmanship. His friends were my friends. He and I were forever moving from one adventure to another. We were buddies. Dad passed the torch to me, and I’ve now passed it on to my son, Aaron. He, in turn, will one day pass the torch to his son, Henry, as will Brock pass Buckeye to Cooper.
The 50-horse Mercury started with a gentle purr and was eager for the throttle, but I asked Brock to make a slow pass by the camp. As we finally drifted away from Buckeye, I knew I was leaving for the last time. A tear? Perhaps. Sadness? Absolutely not. I was happy because I knew the old days at Buckeye would never end. Even the passing of time will never erase the friendships, the stories, the hunts, and all the good things that happened at this special place among many special people.
My last trip to Buckeye is complete. I’ve again heard the faithful melody of the old hound down the bend. Let’s get ready! He’s headed our way.
The Author: Dr. Herbert L. Lunday is a native of Augusta, Arkansas, and a 1964 graduate of Laura Conner High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas Tech and master’s and doctor’s degrees from the University of Arkansas. He recently retired after more than 30 years of administrative service within the Missouri State University system. He and his wife, Mary Beth, reside in Nixa, Missouri, near their son and his family.
Mom and Dad, Carol and Larry: On many Sunday afternoons, we would all load into Daddy’s old purple truck and head to Buckeye. Mom sat up front and we three little kids rode in the back. The road from the head of the levee to Buckeye was a beautiful, well-worn trail through the woods. At the Buckeye campsite, we would visit the cook shack, drink from the pump, and check out the sandbar. Dr. Frank and his family were regular visitors too. He taught Mom that the French fries were done when they floated and “rattled.” He bellowed out, “Marion, where did you get that no-good butcher knife.” After burgers and fries, we loaded up the truck and headed back through the woods and on toward home. We always got back in time for Walt Disney on tv.
Brock Tidwell, owner of Buckeye Bend and the Buckeye camp site – for his interest in Buckeye and its history and investing a full day of his time touring me through Buckeye and the community of Augusta.
Patricia Maguire Murphy, Dr. Frank’s daughter – for her encouragement and ideas and for her smiles and tears as she remembered those special times.
Leigh Adams, Assistant Professor of English, Missouri State University-West Plains – for her interest in the story and for offering important proofreading assistance. I had read the article a hundred times, but she found many things I missed. Amazing.
Aaron Lunday and Jon Lunday, my son and nephew – for their love of Buckeye and their beloved PawPaw, Herbert Henry Lunday.