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Stealing Watermelons - from the April 2017 issue of Tuskers

Last month I read an article called “Veterans and Rookies” by Monica Wheelus. The article is so true and struck a chord with me. You see, I was one of those kids that got to go hunting with a person she named in her article.
It was around 1986 or so and I was a little hell raiser in Stockdale, Texas. One day a group of friends and I thought it would be a good idea to go steal a few watermelons. We walked from town to a field and began to pick as many melons as we thought we could pack back to town. As we were hiding the melons we heard a truck coming down the road. The truck stopped right where we were and we heard someone get out and begin to walk around. By this time, we were hiding behind an oil tank. The man began to holler for us and tell us to show ourselves. We were caught red handed. We came out from behind the tank and low and behold, there stood Judge B.J. Pope. We had been caught by the Justice of the Peace!! We all knew who he was and knew that we were done. Judge Pope retired from the Army as a Sergeant Major and he was very firm when he spoke! We had to pay $5 per watermelon to the farmer that had grown them. I paid my fine and was embarrassed about the incident. Later that week Judge Pope saw me and talked to me about why he did what he had done. He was right and we were wrong. Then, unexpectedly, he invited me to go hog hunting. I had never been and looked forward to going.
After the first hunt, I was hooked! We hunted around Stockdale a few times and then I was introduced to Judges’ hunting partner, a fellow by the name of Jimmy Payne. You see, at this time very few people had hog dogs so I felt that it was a privilege to get to be in their company. We hunted together every weekend. We traveled all over South Texas hunting on ranches that many just dreamed they would be able to go on. It was not uncommon for me to leave school at noon at Friday’s so I could go hog hunting. Times were different then, very different.
I do not know how we managed the dogs back then, but we did. It seemed as if Judge and Jimmy just knew exactly what needed to be done and when we needed to do it. We did not have tracking collars or shock collars. For that matter, we did not have cell phones or television shows about hog hunting either. What we did have was the instinct of two dog men and an oil funnel to listen with. With their knowledge and determination, we managed to catch our fair share of hogs. We did not catch hogs every time that we went hunting, but that is why it is called hunting and not killing. When we did catch a hog though, we drug every one of them back to the truck. It didn’t matter if it was 1 foot or one mile. They all got drug back.
Looking back, getting caught stealing those watermelons was the best thing that ever happened to me. Over the past 30 years I spent many hours in the brush, most of which were spent with Judge and Jimmy. We have laughed, bar-b-q’d, watched young pups turn into dogs and caught a few hogs in between. Judge Pope passed away in 2010 but Jimmy and I still hunt together. We have upgraded in equipment but we have not made the jump to GPS technology yet. We still hunt many of the ranches that we did all those years ago. My kids and many of my friends have met Jimmy and had the privilege to hunt with him as well. I believe that taking the time to get a kid in the woods is time that they are not on the street. So, respect your elders and take a kid hunting if you can! I have included some pictures from hunts gone by for your enjoyment!! Be safe, Richard L. Jankovsky III