Long beard maestro Al Shaw and a fan/Ralph Bartholdt
ST. MARIES— Al's sons are grown and have their own families.
But there was a time when spring had Al in the woods with a boy sitting between his knees on the damp ground. A few yards away, at the edge of the alley that the firs made towering over a strip of greening grass, clover, and the needles of Ponderosa pine sat another son with his back against bark and a shotgun tottering on his knees.
There might have been a shhh on Al's lips and then a scratch on a slate call, and maybe a putt putt from the reed in his mouth as a shadow crossed and uncrossed the bridge of his nose.
There was a bunch of those boys. Four sons, maybe five.
He had them hunting, or at least joining him on a hunt, as soon as they were old enough to pack a lunch.
Al moved to Idaho from Massachusetts more than 30 years ago to attend the University of Idaho for a teaching degree.
The first time he had an opportunity to gun for toms was in the 1970s and he's still at it.
He likes talking to the birds, luring them in, coaxing them and seeing what happens.
He has taken his share of long beards, he says, and although his sons have moved on, there is another brood of Shaws.
Which means this spring may have Al out in the woods again with a grandson sitting quietly between Papa's knees in that first light as a hen decoy bobs in a gust where the grass mixes with pine nuts and the slate call says peep peep. The reed call in Papa's mouth will make that cackling sound of a bird coming off a roost and then the soft yelps.
A gobbler calls back. Where is he?
The sun wedges through the trees.
The boy's eyes big.
He is quiet.
Papa on the call and then the tom, face blue as turquoise, waddle like pomegranate, fans a tail and drags a foot like a receiver.
The wind comes up.
Papa, his cheek on the smooth of stock, an eye squinting, whispers.
Cover your ears.
A hunter must be 10 to 15 years of age on April 8 to hunt in
the general season youth hunt (April 8-14, 2010 and 2011).
Two turkey tags - one general and one extra tag -
may be purchased for the spring turkey season that starts April 15. -- Idaho Fish and Game regulations