Remembering Mr. ChollieBy JEFF NORTH,
I’ll be honest with you, this one is pretty tough for me. I sat in my study and pondered for several hours on not just the content, but where to even start. Emotion flowed from my heart and soul as I struggled for words that might barely attempt to convey to you how special this one is to me. Through these words, a door may open for you to go to a special place that is for you only. If you find a calming, or a quiet peace, and are perhaps blessed with a gentle tear that stirs fond memories, then I can’t think of a better place to be, especially this time of year. So here goes.
Fifty-two years ago, December the 16th, my dad shot the biggest buck of his life. Field dressed, the buck bottomed out a set of scales at 265 pounds. Well evidently, he must have done it again this same date, for his best friend in the world left us to go help him load another buck in a Willys jeep as he did in 1966.
Charles Earl Warwick, or as my dad referred to him as “Chollie”, left this earth to be with our Lord Sunday, December 16, 2018. I was sitting by a fire at our delta camp when his son Jon sent me a text that his dad had passed away. Our short phone conversation that followed was all that was needed to be said, at least for now, for we both know how much my dad meant to him and his to me. Sometimes the unspoken word is the loudest and most profound. We will have our time to laugh and cry together but this was a time for him and his family.
As long as I can remember, Mr. Charlie was dad’s main most hunting partner. From Ten Point, to Riverside, to the Greer Place, to Arnold Acres, to the French place, to Pattison, to the McAmis Place, and more, these two gentlemen have put down boot tracks over more whitetail bottoms and ridges than most men could even imagine. Together, they made a lifetime of memories in the swamps. Jon and I just happened to be the chosen ones that benefited from two pioneers in the woods. I thought what a better way to celebrate the life of a man that had such a huge impact on me than by sharing some of my fondest memories of him. I hope you enjoy.
My first recollection of ever meeting Mr. Warwick was at the iconic delta hunting club, Ten Point. I really think what stands out more, at least at the time, was the cool school bus he had turned into a camp. I can still recall walking into the bus and noting exactly where the bunks were, the sitting area, and maybe most of all where he kept all of the apples, oranges, and vast assortment of other goodies. I think I was about four years old, but to this day I can recall every detail of his compound. This is also where I met his son and my lifetime friend, Jon. For years, our families spent time together. I have to admit, the time the four of us were together with shotguns and rifles hunting, is what is so memorable.
I remember a particular day at Arnold Acres, what is currently Grand Gulf, on a lease held by our dads. Before an afternoon dove hunt, we all were exploring some of the country that we would be deer hunting in the months to come. At the time Jon and I were probably six or seven years old. We were walking back to the car in a washed out road bed when off the bluff, a huge cottonmouth came right at us with mouth agape and fangs showing. Mr. Charlie reached back and lifted me from the venomous reptile and in doing so put himself between me and the snake. Dad ran around Jon and two shots later from the model 12 Winchester, the snake continued biting the ground but we were now safe. I still think about that day often and there is no doubt in my mind had he not lifted me, I would have been hit. Thank ya, Mister Chollie, you saved my life.
One of my favorite stories was one when Mr. Charlie had taken a nice buck at Riverside Hunting Club in Louisiana. Jon made this hunt, but unfortunately I didn’t. Dad began to field dress his buck for him while he went to get the jeep. We still laugh today when Jon, at the age of five, told my dad, “just because it’s not your buck, you don’t have to be so sloppy”. I bet I have heard that story a hundred times and I still chuckle when I think about it.
Both of our dads shot Remington model 742s forever. Of course the caliber of choice was none other than the classic 30.06. They started Jon and me out on M-1 30 caliber carbines. You would be amazed at the number of bucks that fell to our little weapons. Both of our dads had Willys jeeps. Mr. Charlie’s had a small ring around the right headlight. I could always tell who was coming to pick me up at dark. The squirrel stews and the seafood gumbos were a team effort between our dads every year before opening day. The green piece of shirt-tail was shared by the four of us for good luck from the man that never missed. I still remember Jon’s piece of cloth wedged between the sights of his carbine. It worked, for the next morning after he got his piece of cloth he killed a nice eight-pointer.
Seldom are there hunting families that are just that, family. Jon and I have chased mallards, squirrels, doves, bucks, and gobblers together for decades. We can thank our dads for providing us with the opportunity to witness nature at her best on so many frosty mornings and sacred evenings. I am certain that both of these men are catching up right now and skinning the buck that must have fallen last Sunday. Life passes quickly, and I can’t help but believe they are looking for that special lease that we will all share again someday. If Jon and I could make one request though, try to find one without cottonmouths. Thank you for saving me, Mr. Chollie. I love you and I will miss you.
Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.