Just over a week ago while going over the obituaries, I was saddened to read of the passing of an old friend and fellow deer hunter, Henry George. Henry was a member of the Upton Hunting Club, a group of Parker County businessmen and residents who joined together for the camaraderie, as well as the excitement of the hunt, for more than a half century. Henry was one of the last of the old-time club members.
This original group of hunters, organized in the late 1920s, was made up of R. A. Wheeler, Jack Pickard, Bill Upton, H. K. Whaley, Bill White and Joe Quante. Shortly afterward, they were joined by Hall Buchanan and Jess Mahan. They leased the White Ranch near Mason in the Hill Country and remained there for about 40 years. At the time deer were almost non-existent here in Parker County. The cedar breaks of Palo Pinto County and surrounding areas had some deer, but the Hill Country provided for much better hunting.
Today, hunters gather at their leases where they have all the amenities and comforts of home. Often they have RVs or cabins on the lease. Many will have a communal kitchen, showers, cold storage lockers and toilet facilities. Consider how these earliest hunters must have fared. Can you imagine driving just under 200 miles on gravel/dirt roads in a Model T Ford, cooking over an open fire, sleeping in a tent, and heading for the brush to care for nature’s needs?
While being able to take a trophy buck is part of the thrill, getting away from the grind of work and the pressures of daily life, even for a few days, is cathartic for the soul. I suppose there are those who would brand deer hunting as a barbaric sickness, reverting to primal behavior. I would view it as cleansing of the spirit. Men were hunters long before we became psychiatrists, politicians and pundits.
I transitioned into the Upton Hunting Club quite easily because Bill Upton was my father-in-law. Although I was able to participate as a full member for only a few years because of my assignments in the Navy, I was blessed to have known this fellowship. Even during the years I was stationed far from home, I often was able to enjoy a brief hunt as a guest while on leave at Thanksgiving or Christmas. I will always treasure the memories of Orville Yates’ sourdough rolls, the nickel-dime-quarter poker games, the exaggerated stories of the BIG one that got away, and the fellowship with so many of Parker County’s finest citizens. As far as I know, Wayne Ellis, founder of Ellis Equipment, is the only one left of the original group that I knew best. Although a few latter day “youngsters” like me, Jim Duncan, Bill Parkey, Dave Deison, Don Woodruff, Harold Skiles and others are still around, the old guard is all but gone.
During the many decades of the Upton Hunting Club’s existence, it served as a model of such fellowship. For most of its operation, club rules were strictly applied, alcohol consumption was minimal, and personal conflict was almost non-existent. I was fortunate to have enjoyed such a rich legacy. I mourn Henry’s passing, and also the passing of an era.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy Commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.