Dads, Daughters Share Not-So-Common Bond

Story by Jeannie Stone

Myron Short and Keith Gray are Arkansas cousins. That’s to say they’re not actually cousins but rather cousins-in-law since Myron married Keith’s cousin, Diane. But they claim each other, nevertheless, and partake in the universal and quintessential form of male bonding in our parts. They hunt together.

Not surprisingly, they introduced their children to the sport. Marley and Shelby are actually second cousins, and, yes, they are girls.

“Hunting goes deep in my family,” Short said. “I even have my grandpa‘s hunting license from 1953. My mother’s dad, Grandpa Harmon, ran all up and down the creek banks.”

“So when I married Diane I told her to expect me to be in the woods a lot. She laughed.”

It seemed Diane knew all about the benefits of hunting and fishing and the changing of the seasons; deer season, turkey season, duck season.

“She grew up on quail meat and black bass,” he said.

Short grew up in Hot Springs and now owns Myron Short Construction in Jacksonville and films for Bob Robbins Outdoors, an Arkansas weekly television show which extols hunting and fishing in our state — the perfect job for a hunting enthusiast.

Marley joined her dad in the woods and lakes at an early age.

“She’s been fishing since she was a toddler. She started out with the ubiquitous Snoopy pole,” her dad said with a laugh. “All kids start out with Snoopy poles.”

Her first venture into the woods was between 10 and 11 years old. It was simply an exploration with an initiation to the deer stands and identifying the deer marks left in the woods.

Two years ago, Short introduced Marley and his son Luke to duck hunting. Both were excited about the new adventure.

“I firmly believe hunting is highly interactive, and that’s what kids need. You’re constantly shooting your gun when you’re dove hunting because the doves are constantly coming in, but in each type of hunt, there are things to do to keep them busy. She got four dove last year,” he said proudly. “And Luke, 17, got a gobbler in Kansas last spring.”

Marley, 14, loves to hunt with her daddy.

“My best memory is when I killed my deer with him last November. It was a five-pointer.”

The antlers were prominently displayed in her bedroom along with a couple of hybrid fish. The fish came courtesy of her expeditions with her grandma and Grandpa Joe. “I am blessed,” she said.

Marley isn’t all about hunting and fishing. She also sings in the church choir and is learning to play bass guitar and photography (also from her dad). She is home schooled.

“He gets more excited than me,” Marley said while she hugged her dad. In his defense Short explains that they work hard for Marley to have successful hunts.

“We envision her sitting in the deer stand and go through the motions of the hunt so she will feel comfortable when she comes face-to-face with reality.”

Gray puts his two cents in. “You don’t want to see them get their hearts broken,” he said. He is reminded of Shelby’s first turkey hunt.

“She shot the turkey two times, but the darned thing wouldn’t go down. Finally, she threw the gun down in the mud and started chasing the turkey.”

Everybody laughed. “That was a hard pill to swallow. She fell to the ground and had her a good cry.”

“It wasn’t that funny,” Shelby said. “That was the most-hard headed turkey I’d ever seen in my life. It just wouldn’t die.”

“That was one of the saddest situations I’ve ever been involved in,” Gray admitted.

Keith Gray was born, bred and currently lives in Russellville and is employed at City Corp. He, too, has been hunting and fishing as far back as he can remember. His earliest memories are fishing with his mother or hunting with his dad or uncle.

“My dad was a truck driver, and Mamaw Blalock would keep my younger sister, so mom and I could go fishing,” he said. “Back then fish and wild meat were staples in our diet.”

“We didn’t know what ‘catch and release’ was,” Short added. “What we caught we released into our frying pan.”

Times have changed, and sportsmen today are among the most dedicated stewards of natural resources.

“Nowadays, we consider the population when we hunt and fish. There are places I won’t take Shelby because the population is too low,” Gray said.

“A lot of people will sit down and catch or kill everything they can in a spot, but if you milk it dry there won’t be anything to feed you later.”

Gray’s experiences have fostered in him a broader view of our responsibility toward preserving the ecosystems in Arkansas.

“Whether it’s cattle, wildlife or farming it’s all the cycle of life, and we’re a part of that. It’s up to us to preserve all those values we hold dear,” he said.

Bow hunting has fascinated Gray so much that he now only uses a gun for turkey.

“They’d be too hard to put down with only arrows. They’re fast because they can see you at 360 degrees due to their eye positions. If a gobbler had smell like a deer, he’d be near invincible.”

Gray believes in sharing the bounty of the hunt and every year he processes deer meat and makes his own summer sausage in the smokehouse on his deck. Last year his family made 150 pounds of sausage from three deer.

“We have an assembly line going,” he said and chuckled.

His wife, Tammy added, “It’s my favorite time of the year because it is such a family activity.”

“We de-bone everything till all we have is the muscle groups and meat. We grind it with an electric grinder. We have a mixer for the spices. I use a Texas blend — that’s the recipe everybody likes,” he said.

The sausage is kept in the freezer, and the family snacks on it all year long. A portion is given to friends and for gift-giving. Gray always thanks landowners who allow him to hunt on their land with a selection.

Shelby is 12 years old and plays on the volleyball team at Russellville Middle School. She is a dance student and takes Jr. Cotillion. At 3, she started shooting with a bow and arrows, but her reviews were mixed. By the time she was 5 years old, she accompanied her dad on turkey and deer hunts.

“One of the first times Dad took me hunting he started calling really soft from behind a tree where we were hiding. He told me that a turkey would be coming real soon, and I started crying at the thought of it,” she said.

And, of course, there was the fabled, hard-headed turkey scenario.

Still, Shelby stuck with the sport because she loved spending time with her father. Her patience paid off when she placed third in a turkey calling contest sponsored by Bob Robbins last spring.

“All the top callers there signed the vest I won,” she said with pride.

However prestigious the competition was, however, it paled in comparison to her television debut on the Steve “Wildman” Wilson show Talking Outdoors.

Her mother had won a bid at a charity function for a spot in a professional hunt intending it for her husband, but he had other designs. Gray decided to give the opportunity to Shelby, and, because she was under 16, she was allowed to participate in the annual Youth Outreach Turkey Hunting Program (YHOT) sponsored by the Arkansas Trophy Hunters’ Association of Arkansas.

“It is an awesome, awesome program,” Gray said. “They bring in world class callers and guides for deer and turkey camps and even guided fishing trips. They invite children who’ve never been outdoors. Some of them have fathers who are away fighting in the war.”

Preserving the resources and sharing the bounty. It seems the cousins share more than a hunting history. They share a vision for the future.

“My family roots is hunting and fishing. I am not a rich man. Exposing my children to this is the legacy I am leaving to them. I am sharing the Creator‘s holy work with them,” Short said.

Keep your eyes out for a hard headed- turkey next time you go wandering in the Pope County woods.

Share

Category: Features

Comments are closed.