James (Ron) Bailey
Sam Worthington was a tall, handsome African American gentleman who grew up in Springfield’s black community in Clark County, Ohio. He was a good high school athlete, excelling in football and basketball, also a good student.
Rose Andrews was a beautiful black girl who grew up with Sam. They attended high school together. She was an honor student and cheerleader. Both their parents and siblings knew each other. The two families were close. It was obvious to all, Sam and Rose were meant for each other. They began dating in their sophomore year. From then on they were inseparable. Everyone knew that some day they’d marry.
Two years after high school graduation, they did. Sam went to work for a major Springfield industry. In the years soon following, he rose through the ranks to a supervisory position. His hobbies were city league baseball, hunting and fishing. Rose took employment at a major Springfield department store and soon became a supervisor. They bought a nice home in a good neighborhood. Rose’s employment was short lived when she told Sam she was pregnant. Sam was overjoyed! He said many times since their marriage, “It would be nice to have four kids.”
Her pregnancy wasn’t easy. She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Rose extended Sam the privilege of naming their beautiful daughter Ella Rose in honor of his mother and wife, the two women he loved most.
Shortly, Sam and Rose were told by their Doctor, she should not have more children. He told them to be thankful Ella Rose was healthy and normal. The news made Sam and Rose love and appreciate Ella Rose even more.
In the following years, Sam and Rose took care not to spoil their only child. She went to the same high school her mother and father attended. Like her mother, she was an honor student and cheerleader. Sam and Rose were proud of the set of values they instilled in their daughter. They saved all they could for her college education.
After high school graduation, Ella Rose took temporary employment at the same downtown department store her mother worked years earlier. She worked to save additional funds to help with her college expenses.
Ella Rose certainly dated in high school. She could choose the “pick of the flock.” She dated the most popular boys in high school; however, no serious relationship ensured. While employed at the department store, she met a tall handsome young man who bore a striking resemblance of her father. His name was (I’ll call him) Peter Humbolt — “Pete” to his peers.
Pete’s resemblance to Ella Rose’s father was where the similarity ended. Pete was a lazy ner-do-well, a thief, who occasionally did drugs. He paid considerable attention to Ella Rose. As Pete told his buddies, “She’s one good lookin’ gal.” He wasn’t long seducing Ella Rose, who, for all the wrong reasons, fell head over heels in love with him. At Pete’s suggestion, they eloped to Indiana and were married. Ella Rose paid for the trip. They returned to Springfield; Ella Rose rented a second rate apartment. Then they went home to Sam and Rose and announced their marriage. Ella’s parents were devastated and disappointed. When they learned Pete was unemployed, who and what he was, it was even worse. Rose openly and sometimes loudly expressed her disappointment with her daughter. Sam was quiet – eerily quiet, although during ensuing years, he and Pete had at least two confrontations.
Sam acquired a nice fishing boat. He loved to fish at nearby Kiser Lake in Champaign County. He did most of his rabbit and pheasant hunting in Champaign County. He loved to hunt another species – ground hogs (woodchucks). He relished their flavor, especially the way Rose cooked them. Spring was his favorite time of year to hunt them – when they emerged from winter hibernation. He hunted the railroad embankments in Champaign County – perfect ground hog habitat. Pete, his son-in-law, liked to hunt and fish – perhaps the only traits he shared with his father-in-law.
One spring evening in the early sixties, Sam phoned Pete. “We’ve been at each others throats long enough. I know you like to fish. The crappies are biting at Kiser Lake — I’m inviting you to go crappie fishing. Perhaps, for the sake of enjoying a good fishing trip, we can agree to disagree and have a good time.”
Pete couldn’t believe what he heard. Pete thought for a moment, then told Sam, “Yeah man, I’d like to go and I’ll sure go along with that agreeing to disagree bit.” The following Saturday to Kiser Lake they went. They somewhat enjoyed a strained but successful fishing trip catching over thirty crappies.
As stated, it was spring – Sam’s time of year to hunt ground hogs. One week after Sam invited Pete to go fishing, he invited him to go ground hog hunting. “Pete, I know you like to hunt. Have you ever hunted ground hogs?” Sam asked over the phone.
“No man, sure haven’t – only rabbits,” Pete answered.
“Would you like to go with me in Champaign County on a ground hog hunt. I’ve hunted there for years. I know many good places to hunt. I always manage to bag a couple,” Sam stated.
“Hey man, count me in. How do you hunt them? What do you shoot them with?” Pete asked.
“Do you have a .22 rifle?” Sam asked.
“No, a .12 gauge shotgun,” Pete replied.
“That’s okay — I have two .22 rifles. I’ll loan you one. You do know how to shoot a .22 don’t you?” Sam asked.
“Yeah man, I know how to sight and shoot one,” Pete replied.
“Fine, I’ll pick you up well before day light on Saturday. Here’s hoping we have a good hunt together,” Sam responded.
“682 or 654” came the radio call from the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s District Six Headquarters in Xenia. The call summoned Jim Donahue, Champaign County Game Protector or Don Mycko, Wildlife Patrolman assigned to a four county area including Champaign. It was 9:45 a.m., the same Saturday Sam Worthington and Pete Humbolt went ground hog hunting in Champaign County.
“654 is with me, this is 682, go ahead,” Officer Donahue replied. The Xenia dispatcher directed both wildlife officers to a railroad track location where a Champaign County Deputy Sheriff was standing by.
“The Deputy requests your assistance with a fatal shooting involving two hunters,” the Xenia radio operator stated.
“I seen his head pop up. I thought he was a ground hog,” Sam Worthington explained to the three officers. Sam was referring to the fact he’d just shot his son-in-law, Pete Humbolt using his unscoped .22 caliber lever action Marlin rifle. Pete lay dead with a .22 bullet hole in the back of his head at the base of his skull.
“He never knew what hit him,” the Deputy Sheriff commented. Wildlife Officer, Don Mycko measured the distance from shooter to victim – exactly thirty-five yards. The terrain was flat — no viewing obstructions between shooter and victim. Officer Jim Donahue photographed the scene.
“It’s murder as sure as I’m standing here,” Mycko commented quietly to Donahue.
“I’d say it is,” Donahue quietly responded.
Upon questioning, an emotionless, strangely calm and seemingly relieved Sam Worthington stuck to his first statement. “I seen his head pop up. I thought he was a ground hog.”
The case was further investigated by the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, the Champaign County Sheriff’s Department and the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Their investigation results were presented to the Champaign County Prosecutor’s Office who sought a Grand Jury indictment charging Sam Worthington with manslaughter. No indictment was handed down. As far as the Grand Jury was concerned, it was a “hunting accident.”
From the first day I wore a wildlife officer’s badge, I knew some day I’d find a human corpse, the victim of suicide, murder or accidental death. It stands to reason, Game Wardens patrol the wilderness. They frequent wild places – the places and locations where many corpses are found. I’ve heard several veteran Wildlife Officers tell of such experiences.
I was working as an Ohio State Game Protector assigned to Union County. Acting on a pre-season squirrel hunting report, I began my patrol before daylight. It was the first week in September, 1961. I maintained an audio-visual surveillance of a modest wooded tract of land north of Buck Run Road on North Darby Creek near the Champaign-Union County line. I maintained the stake-out until about 11:00 a.m. I heard no shots or observed any human activity. I decided to patrol southwest down North Darby and Big Darby Creeks. It was Saturday and I knew I’d have some fishing activity in view of the beautiful weather and ideal stream conditions. North and Big Darby Creeks (called “Darby”) were streams I loved to work. Darby was an excellent small mouth bass and rock bass stream. I often fished it. It offered excellent frog hunting and squirrel hunting along its wooded banks. It was clean and free of pollution. Dick Simpson, the Marysville, Ohio Police Chief and I sometimes floated it in a canoe – fishing, squirrel and duck hunting at the same time. It meandered through some of the best farmland that lays outdoors. Following harvest, the grains left in the fields along its banks was an excellent food supply for coons, woodchucks, squirrels, quail, pheasants, muskrats and migratory waterfowl. It was a great part of Union County to work. It was on Darby one day while standing at waters edge in hip boots, I lay back on the creek’s bank in the soft green grass and looked up at a beautiful Ohio sky. (I can’t believe I’m getting paid to be in this beautiful place doing this work. Thank you Lord, thank you so much, I thankfully prayed.)
I proceeded downstream toward Milford Center checking fisherman. I took my time carefully watching every fisherman handle a pole before inspecting his license. I wrote one case for fishing without a license northwest of Milford.
“680 from G-1,” broadcast over my radio.
“680 go ahead,” I replied.
“I’m near Milford Center. I heard you sign on. Are you near Milford Center?” G-1 asked.
“Affirmative,” I replied.
“Are you available to accompany me on a matter I have to attend to near Milford?” G-1 asked.
“Yes, I’m available – I’ll meet you in Milford. What are you driving?” I replied.
G-1 described his vehicle. Shortly we met in Milford Center. G-1 turned out to be U.S. Game Management Agent, Rex Tice with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assigned to Ohio. Rex was the first Federal Wildlife Agent I met and worked with. He was investigating a permit application he’d received from a nearby farmer who wanted to capture the offspring of several wild Canadian geese that established nests on two abandoned stone quarries on his farm. He wanted to give the young goslings as gifts to friends in Union, Logan and Champaign Counties. Rex denied the permit both verbally and in writing because the whole scheme was illegal. Over the phone, the farmer told Agent Tice he would do as he pleased anyway and advised Rex not to try and stop him if he (Rex) knew what was good for him. He further told Rex not to set foot on his farm.
We left Milford in Rex’s vehicle and went to the (I’ll call him) George Ellerby farm. I was familiar with the stone quarries and the fact Canadian geese established nests there. I hadn’t met Mr. Ellerby. I observed the nesting adult geese and their offspring on many occasions and never saw any decrease in their numbers nor any attempts to live trap the geese or signs of traps. Rex and I soon arrived at the Ellerby farm. We inspected the quarries. We observed several geese milling about, both on the quarries and on nearby Darby Creek. We saw nothing illegal. As we were leaving the area, I suggested we pay Mr. Ellerby a visit. I felt this matter needed to be laid to rest once and for all. I knew if Ellerby had guts enough to threaten a Federal Agent, he would darn sure threaten me. He lived in my patrol area and I felt he and I should understand each other.
“This could be a confrontation,” Rex muttered as he drove into the driveway of the Ellerby home. We both went to the door. I knocked. Mrs. Ellerby answered the door. As she opened it, a Down’s syndrome boy bolted past her toward us. He looked us over – ran to Rex’s vehicle, opened the rear passenger’s door and entered the vehicle. Mrs. Ellerby ran after him explaining he loved to get into automobiles hoping he could go for a ride. We followed Mrs. Ellerby to the car. I told her we were there to speak to George and who we were. She told us George went to town — would return shortly. All the while she pleaded with her retarded son to exit the car. He wouldn’t do it. He kicked and tried to hit his mother with doubled fists when she tried to grasp and remove him from the car. She began to cry. She stated, “If I don’t get him out of your car, he’ll pee all over it.”
This got Rex’s attention. Both Rex and I began pleading with the young lad to exit the car but it was too late – he urinated all over the back seat and attempted to urinate on us. I’d have to classify this incident as a “mishap.”
As this was happening, Ellerby arrived. He exited his pick-up, went to Rex’s vehicle, grabbed his son by the scruff of the neck, yanked him out of the car and sent the lad and his mother to the house. “Now, what the xo#x are you guys doing here and what do you want?” he asked mad as all get out.
Rex explained, as diplomatically as possible under the circumstances, we were there to look for any illegal activity concerning the geese, in view of Mr. Ellerby’s phone threats. I introduced myself, informing him I replaced Officer Dick Francis. I further told him he and I were going to have to live with each other and I didn’t want or expect any trouble with him.
Ellerby addressed Rex first. “I haven’t bothered your xo#x federal geese. I don’t intend to, although it’s a xo#x shame I can’t get the permit I wanted, in view of the fact I feed them and provide a place for them to nest. But if what I wanted to do is illegal — it’s illegal.”
Then he addressed me. “So you replaced Francis — I didn’t particularly like him but he did his job. You look like someone who intends to do his job too, so have at it. You’ll get no problems from me. I admit I’m hot-headed and this whole matter really ticks me off, but that’s the way it is.” I must admit, I was glad to hear Ellerby’s statement. I knew he could be trouble if he wanted to be, especially if he was mad.
Mrs. Ellerby re-appeared on the scene concerned about what was taking place. “It’s okay Hon,” Ellerby told his wife. It was apparent she was relieved George stayed as “cool” as he did.
Rex and I departed George Ellerby’s company making no apologies for doing our jobs. We went to Milford for lunch. This was the first time I gained insight into the duties of a U.S. Game Management Agent. Rex told me of his background as a Wisconsin State Game Warden before the Fish and Wildlife Service. He shed some light on the salary and grade structure of the federal position.
I had one more contact with Agent Tice. My coon hunting buddy, George Miller, arrived at my home. As we readied to go hunting, I turned on my TV one Tuesday evening at 7:00 p.m. Duck season was in. I tuned in a Columbus TV show called, “The Outdoors With Don Mack.” The show followed a question write-in format. The questions were answered by a panel of experts. Naturally, the questions related to hunting and fishing. The authors of the questions selected received a prize – usually a Zebco fishing outfit. This particular evening, Mack opened the show by placing a pair (male and female) mature canvasback ducks on the table in front of the panel of experts, the TV camera and all central Ohio. Mack stated, “I’d like to share my morning bag of ducks with the TV audience.” The season on canvasbacks was closed. I phoned Rex at his home in Hilliards, Ohio and reported the “display” Mack had on the screen. Rex didn’t have his TV on. He stated, “Hang up, I’ll call you later.”
Rex was waiting for Mr. Mack at the studio when the show ended. Mack paid a substantial fine in federal court. He was sentenced to devoting one TV show to the federal and state migratory game bird laws. He carried out his sentence in style. His migratory bird law presentation was very good. I’ll classify the Don Mack/canvasback episode as a “mistake.”
Now back to my afternoon patrol on Darby. After Rex’s departure, I resumed my patrol down Darby Creek checking fishermen. The fishing pressure was light for Saturday. I wrote one more fishing without a license case before arriving at the Franklin County line near Plain City. It was about 4:00 p.m. I arrived at a fisherman access parking area adjacent to Darby. There was always one or more fishermen’s vehicle parked there. On this occasion, there was only one. I parked some distance from the vehicle and looked up and down the creek banks through my binoculars. No fishermen – a curious situation – a parked vehicle but no fishermen. Perhaps he’s wading and casting for bass, I thought. I decided to check the vehicle. I approached the vehicle from the rear. Through the rear window, I observed the back of a single passenger’s head. He was seated in the middle of the rear seat. I paused for a few seconds – he remained motionless. At this point, I was almost sure the man was dead.
At the vehicle, I observed the windows were slightly open. The interior of the vehicle had to be very warm. Peering into the back seat, I saw the corpse of a brown haired, thin, middle aged gentleman. He had cocked an antique “mule eared” double barreled .12 gauge shotgun, placed it between his knees, muzzle up and centered in his chest. Still clinched in the fingers of his right hand was a stick he used to depress the left trigger. With intentions of checking his pulse, I attempted to open both doors on the passenger’s side of the vehicle – they were locked. As I walked around the front of the vehicle to check the doors on the other side, I noticed the corpse with its vacant blue eyes open, staring straight at me. His head was still erect – not slumped as one would expect. Partially congealed blood oozed out both sides of his slightly opened mouth. Flies had discovered the corpse. I knew beyond a doubt the man was dead. The doors on the driver’s side were locked.
I radioed my District Office in Xenia and notified the dispatcher of my discovery and location. I asked her to notify the Plain City Police Department and Union County Sheriff’s Department.
“I’m very sorry to hear this 680. I’ll notify both agencies,” Katie, the radio dispatcher stated.
A Plain City Police Officer arrived first. He identified the suicide victim and told me his Department searched for the victim all afternoon. He told me members of the victim’s family notified the Police Department they knew the victim was going to commit suicide. Consequently, his Department had put out an “all points” trying desperately to find the victim before he ended his life.
The next to arrive was a Deputy Sheriff. He asked me to remain until the coroner arrived and took my statement. Shortly the coroner arrived. While giving my statement, a local ambulance arrived. They broke the victim’s car window and removed the corpse.
As they were taking the corpse the short distance to the ambulance, the victim’s daughter arrived. I’ll never forget the deep grown and subsequent scream she uttered as she looked at her dead father. It came from her very soul. Needless to say, I’ll always remember that day on Darby.
The scene — Fort Stewart, Georgia, 1977. The U.S. Army’s 24th Infantry Division was on maneuvers. At the same time, one or more civilian deer hunters were illegally trespassing and hunting on the base. A young soldier wearing camouflage and ammunition belt was shot by one of the civilian deer hunters using a high powered rifle. On impact, the bullet caused several rounds secured in the victim’s ammunition belt to explode. The victim was removed to a hospital, even with the best care, he died a few days later.
The civilian shooter was apprehended at the scene by military personnel. His only explanation, “I saw something moving in the brush. I thought it was a deer.” He offered no explanation or excuse for illegally trespassing and hunting on the base. He was another example of what Hunter Safety Instructors call a “movement shooter.” They don’t positively identify the target. They shoot at whatever movement they see.
He was subsequently charged and tried in a Georgia State Court having jurisdiction. The exact charge and outcome of the trial is unknown. This story was told to me by my son, Mark Steven Bailey who was stationed at Fort Stewart at the time.
Bill Heath, from Kilbourne, Ohio in Delaware County, who I knew during childhood, was scheduled for and completed Ohio’s Game Protector Training School. He was assigned the Game Protector duties in Defiance County. Shortly after my assignment as a Wildlife Enforcement Agent in Henry, Defiance, Williams and Fulton Counties, Bill resigned. He realized he wasn’t cut out for Game Warden work. He was honest with himself, the resource, and the State. He did the right thing. The Game Protector position in Defiance County was vacant for about a year. It was subsequently filled by Tim Hood from District Three. During the time between Heath and Hood, I was ordered by Walter McGilliard, District Two Supervisor though my immediate Law Enforcement Supervisor, Dale Roach, to “fill in as much as possible” the Game Protector duties in Defiance County.
Don Ziegler, Sr., retired Defiance County Game Protector, received a complaint from a farmer in the northwestern part of the county. The complainant reported a twelve year old lad (I’ll call) Donnie Poole was given a .22 rifle by his parents. The complainant claimed the lad was much too young, immature, and irresponsible to possess and use the weapon. The complainant believed the lad was mentally deficient and after he discovered his rifle could “kill things”, was killing everything he could draw a bead on. He was shooting domestic and wild animals and birds. He was shooting fish in a nearby stream. He bought his .22 cartridges at a nearby country store. Last but not least, “I’m afraid the lad is a danger to humans – he is fascinated with killing.”
Roach told me to look into this juvenile complaint, apprehend the lad if possible and council him and his parents. I was to process him through the Juvenile Court system only as a last resort. Mainly, I was to get his wildlife killing stopped.
Catching the lad was no problem. It occurred during my first patrol in the vicinity of his home in Milford Township. I found him, rifle in hand, shooting at fish from a bridge spanning a small stream a short distance west of his home. It was 4:30 p.m. on a week day. I parked my patrol car west of the bridge. I approached the lad quietly, took the rifle from him, unloaded it and asked his name.
“Donnie,” he replied looking at me with the wildest looking eyes I’ve ever seen in a kid’s head. The whites of his eyes were visible all around the iris.
“Where do you live?” I asked. He pointed to a nearby house on the south side of the road.
“Wunt mah gun back,” he uttered.
“You, me and your rifle are going to your home where I’m going to speak to your parents,” I responded. We walked the short distance to the house Donnie identified as his home. I knocked – no response.
“Are your parents at home?” I asked the lad.
“Wook, they wook,” he answered.
“Do you go to school?” I asked.
“Uh-huh,” he answered.
“Who looks after you while your parents are gone?” I asked.
“Granny,” he replied.
“Where does your grandmother live?” I asked. The lad pointed to the next farm house east on the north side of the road. I escorted the lad back to my patrol car. I secured his rifle in the trunk and we traveled the short distance to “Granny’s.”
I went to the door and knocked with the lad beside me. After a considerable time during which the lad stated, “Wunt to go to the barn and play.” He went to the barn where I could see him swinging from a hay rope much like “Cheeta” in a Tarzan movie.
Finally an elderly lady answered the door. With much effort she said she looked after Donnie from the time he got off the school bus until his parent arrived home. I explained who I was, what I caught Donnie doing and the fact it was illegal. I asked her to take custody of his rifle and tell his parents about the episode. I asked she tell the parents to take Donnie’s rifle away from him and prohibit him from violating the wildlife laws. The dear lady muttered something to the effect she would convey my message. I went to my patrol car, retrieved the rifle and gave it to her. The dear soul is much too old to be looking after a boy that age, let alone one as squirrelly as this lad, I thought as I drove out of her drive. I attempted to make a follow up contact with the lad’s parents but could never find them at home. Finally, my caseload took president and I forgot the matter.
Tim Hood transferred from Trumbill County in District Three and was well established in Defiance County when he told me the “rest of the Donnie Poole story.” The Defiance County Sheriff, Doug Ziegler (retired Game Protector Don Ziegler’s son) was completing a murder investigation. The victim was Donnie Poole’s grandmother. The murderer was Donnie. A fresh snow covered the ground the day of the early morning murder. One set of human tracks (Donnie’s) left the back porch of his home. They continued roadside (east) to his grandmother’s house. They went directly to the back door. Donnie’s tracks left his grandmother’s home – traveled roadside (west) and returned to his home. They went to the back porch where they originated.
Donnie was up and about when his parent awoke. When Donnie’s grandmother didn’t answer her phone in response to a routine morning call from Donnie’s mother, both the lad’s parents went to the grandmother’s home noticing Donnie’s “to and from” tracks in the fresh snow on their way. They found “Granny” lying on her back in the center of her bed. Her head was slightly elevated on her pillow. She was shot dead center between the eyes. Subsequent forensics proved the .22 bullet that killed the victim was fired through Donnie’s .22 rifle – the gift his parents gave him.
Donnie was subsequently removed to a juvenile mental facility for the criminally insane in Columbus. There, he was interviewed by Defiance County Law Enforcement Officials. They asked him to name some of the things he shot with his rifle. The emotionless lad began, “I shot a peacock, some pheasants, birds, Granny, a deer, some rabbits, some fish, etc.” His grandmother was just another “thing” on his list. He later elaborated on the deer shooting. He incriminated a neighboring farmer who helped him drag the deer out of the woods. Indications were the farmer kept the meat. Wildlife Officer, Tim Hood, attempted to pursue an investigation of the aiding and abetting farmer. However, Tim’s investigation was thwarted by the Ohio Division of Wildlife at the request of the Defiance County Sheriff, who for some reason thought Tim’s deer investigation somehow interfered with his “murder” investigation. A strange position for the Sheriff to take especially in light of the fact he was a Game Protector’s son. When last heard of, Donnie Poole was still institutionalized.
Wilton Pate is one of North Carolina’s finest. He worked as a Wildlife Officer for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for thirty plus years. Wilton has been through it all, including a bloody game warden-poacher shoot out. During a part of his career he served as the Commission’s Hunter Safety Coordinator. Consequently, he investigated hunting “accidents” all over North Carolina. His stories of hunter mortalities due to senseless and sometimes deliberate acts, are many.
A North Carolina County government official shot and killed another deer hunter. He left the scene, went home and had dinner. Then he enlisted the aid of an acquaintance to help him. According to the shooter, he wanted the acquaintance to help track a deer he was sure he had shot earlier. Both men went to the scene and soon found a blood trail at the location the shooter claimed he shot a deer. They began tracking the blood of a human being – the victim. They soon found his corpse. Subsequent investigation revealed a possible murder motive. Charges were brought before a Grand Jury who failed to indict. They felt the investigation failed to establish a murder was committed. They felt it was a hunting accident. The investigators and many in the community still believe it was murder.
“He was shot right in the duck call,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Agent/Pilot Ted Curtis told me by phone one mid-morning during a 1980’s North Carolina waterfowl hunting season. A duck hunter, concealed behind a blind on the banks of the Lumber River in Robeson County, N.C., blowing a duck call, had been shot in the face. Another duck hunter heard the “calling duck sound” — aimed his shotgun at the sound and fired. The shooter was floating downstream in a canoe. Both victim and shooter were members of the Lumbee Indian tribe. North Carolina Wildlife Officers investigated the incident. The shooter was hunting waterfowl with a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells in violation of state and federal law. He subsequently paid a fine in federal court for hunting ducks with his unplugged gun. The fact he carelessly “sound shot” another hunter was just another “hunting accident.” Thoroughly investigated, the litigation results, if any, are unknown. A perfect example of what hunter safety instructors call, “a sound shooter.”
During my career I worked with wildlife officers in all parts of the nation and several foreign wildlife officers. A significant percentage of them told me hunter accident stories, many resulting in death. Every officer related instances in which he was convinced certain hunting accidents were not accidental – in some cases, the perfect murder.
Two young men (I’ll call them) Tom and Jerry grew up in the same small farm community in east-central Ohio. Both loved the outdoors – hunting and fishing – outdoor sports – everything associated with the great outdoors. Excluding a minor dispute over a game of marbles at an early age, the two lads, although certainly mindful of each other, didn’t really encounter each other until high school.
Both competed for acceptance on the baseball, football and basketball teams. Both made all three teams. Of the two, Jerry excelled on the baseball field and would frequently criticize Tom for what he called errors in his performance. A few minor verbal altercations ensued.
On the football field, Jerry was definitely the better player. For the most part, Jerry played on the field while Tom sat on the bench. In view of the criticisms Tom took from Jerry concerning his performance on the baseball diamond, Jerry’s slurs concerning Tom’s status on the football team didn’t set well with Tom. Everyone could see the animosity and rivalry building between them.
Basketball was about the same. Jerry made first string varsity – Tom didn’t. Here again, Tom warmed the bench and endured Jerry’s occasional slurs concerning his inability to make the first string.
All the preceding, be as it may, the real animosity began with the entry of Sweet Sue. Sue was a cheerleader and perhaps the best looking gal attending Liberty High. As fate would have it – you guessed it – both lads fell for Sue. She loved the attention both lads showered on her. She basked in the glory of it all. She dated both boys and both were aware she dated the other – not a good thing. The battle for Sue’s attention continued through high school and beyond. Both lads and Sue continued their education at Ohio State University. Jerry went on a full athletic scholarship. Tom worked hard at part-time jobs to get through school. Both continued their pursuit of beautiful Sue. Ultimately, just before graduation, Sue accepted Jerry’s proposal of marriage. With all the courage she could muster, she told Tom of her forthcoming marriage with Jerry. Tom, very much hurt, nevertheless wished Sue “all the best.” He didn’t extend the same to Jerry.
There were two fields of endeavor; however, Tom far excelled Jerry, in hunting and fishing. Although both pursued those great outdoor pastimes, it was Tom who was the better of the two. When Tom shouldered his Remington Model 1100 shotgun, there was a saying among his hunting companions, “Put the skillet on.” He didn’t miss, be it deer, ducks, quail, pheasant, rabbit or grouse. He was equally as good with his .22 rifle hunting squirrel and ground hogs. He “followed the hounds” coon hunting at night. He raised, trained and field trialed a fabulous treeing Walker coon hound that became a titled “Grand Night Champion” in the competition hunts.
His fishing skills were equally as good. He became a champion competition bass fisherman well known and sponsored throughout the mid-west. Jerry’s hunting and fishing skills didn’t begin to approach Tom’s.
A chance meeting occurred one day between Tom and Sue, sweethearts of days gone by. The first sight of Sue that fatefull day, made Tom realize he was still very much in love with her. He found himself wondering if there would ever be another. At Tom’s suggestion, they went to lunch where Sue poured her heart out. Her marriage to Jerry was a miserable disaster due to Jerry’s egotistical self-centeredness, according to Sue. She wept as she continued, “I certainly don’t want any children with him – all I want is out.” She went on telling Tom she had asked Jerry for a divorce and Jerry’s response was, “I’ll never agree to a divorce and I’ll never give you grounds you can prove.” Sue told Tom she was hopelessly trapped.
From this point on, Tom and Sue secretly met on many occasions. The flames of their past romance rekindled. On one occasion, Sue told Tom, “I married the wrong man – I should have married you.” Her words haunted Tom – Sue haunted Tom. He wanted her more than anything else in life. His job performance and recreational pursuits faltered. Having Sue for his own became an obsession. Although not consciously aware of it, winning Sue away from Jerry somehow evened the old high school score.
Jerry’s job required frequent travel. Consequently, meeting with Tom wasn’t much of a problem for Sue. To be doubly sure their secret romance continued undetected, they never met in a close proximity to either of their homes.
“Do you think Jerry or anyone else suspects you and I are seeing each other?” Tom asked Sue during one of their rendezvous .
“No, not at all. No one I know suspects anything,” Sue responded.
“Are you sure?” Tom asked.
“Quite sure,” Sue replied.
“Tell Jerry you ran into me and I’d like to meet with him. Tell him I’ll give him a call,” Tom told Sue.
“Are you kidding? Why would you want to do that?” Sue asked.
“Never mind, love. Just give him my message, will you?” Tom asked.
Thinking (perhaps believing) Tom may want to confront Jerry with their affair and ask Jerry to grant Sue a divorce so she and Tom could be together, Sue agreed to give Jerry the message.
Weeks later, following Sue’s assurance she had delivered Tom’s message to Jerry, Tom asked Sue, “You didn’t tell him anything about us, did you?”
“Of course not,” Sue replied.
It was fall. The Pennsylvania deer season would soon open. Tom phoned Jerry. Following a typical “long time – no see” amenity exchange between the two, Tom stated, “The Pennsylvania deer-gun season opens next week. I’ve got a hunting camp there and I’m inviting you to join me on a hunt. We’ll be in the middle of some of the best deer hunting Pennsylvania has to offer. What do you say?”
Jerry replied, “Thanks for the invitation. I haven’t bagged a deer in years. I sure accept your invitation. When and where do we meet —-.
Now, dear reader, I’ll let you guess, “The rest of the story.”
Ron Bailey started at the Olentangy Wildlife Research Station at Delaware in 1953. He later served as Spring Valley Wildlife Area Mgr, Union County Game Protector (old District 6) and Wildlife Enforcement Agent (District 2). Ron entered the Federal Service in 1968. Retired from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as Special Agent-in-Charge of both North and South Carolina in 1992. He had fourteen years with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.