A true tribute to a dear friend

Danny Bardwell | | All Hunting Articles
Posted 10/22/2023

Harry was a close and cherished member of the Winterhawk Bird Dog Club. He ran dogs throughout the walking circuit in the 80’s, and was particularly known for running his favorite, Harry’s Gentle Ben. I’m pretty sure he got Ben as a pup from Delmar Smith, and Ben won in the best of competition. Winterhawk Bird Dog Club had some stout competition in those days, accounting for many championships at all levels of the field trial sport. On hunting trips Harry and Ben held their own too, and then some. This may all sound ho-hum until you know Ben was a Brittany Spaniel. Big, stout, and leggy, he’d run and hunt with the best of the pointers and setters back then.

Harry and his family owned and operated two local funeral homes. Harry saw to the day-to-day activity, as well as the business side of the venture. He was a good man. He loved to laugh, and if the joke was on him, he liked it even better. Every morning at 7:30 on WFPR 1400 AM, the Hammond radio station, an advertisement for McKneely and Son Funeral Home came over the air. A generic voice would announce the day’s obituaries and then Harry would, in a very honest way, read a verse of scripture and relate how it applied to his life. He wasn’t pushy or preachy, and never condemning. If you knew him, you knew it wasn’t counterfeit. Harry was true. Every Good Friday morning for years Harry spoke about the thief on the cross. He’d say, no matter how you’ve sinned, God’s grace and plan would sufficiently square the deal. Then he’d always say, “Not all sinners are going to hell”. His testimony has remained vivid with me for last thirty years.

It was comical to think of Harry as a sinner. He tried his best to avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing. He wasn’t a better than thou person and wasn’t arrogant in any way. He was just a regular guy living life as best he could, as he saw it. Because of the close camaraderie that existed among the Winterhawk gang it was a naturally hilarious and an ongoing laugh, at and with, Harry when he erred.

I’ve always heard if you put a fishing pole or a dog collar in a preacher’s hand, he’d lie, and if he held either long enough he’d cuss. Brother Harry held up for a long time, but one day he became mortal. The devil is a cunning and relentless worker. That he could and would create a perfect situation with the perfect audience was proven out on a hunting trip Harry made with Omer Morse. The two were hunting a known covey on a sixteenth section above Folsom. It was January and the birds had been shot into since Thanksgiving Day, so they were jumpy.

Omer’s account of the hunt began like this. Ben pointed a covey and Sport, Omer’s dog, backed. Harry had the honors of flushing since it was his dog holding the birds. The covey flushed in a wad, giving only Harry a clean shot. He downed two birds, and Ben retrieved them clean into Harry’s hand. It was here that Harry, like Adam, began his fall. “What’d you think of that Britt, pointer man?” Harry wouldn’t stop. “Let’s go see what ol’ Ben can do for us next.” Harry kept on.

Omer said that the singles pitched onto a hillside where a logging crew had stripped limbs from pine logs. The limbs had been half burnt, but for the most part, they were still plenty thick enough for quail to seek sanctuary in. Whether it was the burnt bark smell, or just the excitement of the covey point and double retrieve, we’ll never know, but something got into Ben. He’d point and jump in, then he’d give chase. Harry was livid. “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa Ben!” It wasn’t working.

Sport, on the other hand, just got better. He pointed clean several times. Omer chided Harry, “Get your dog under control Brittany Man.” Harry fumed. Omer was a big bellied red neck with a heart a big as could be. He loved Harry and the two were best of friends. Omer’s laugh roared through the pine timber. As Omer told it, Ben got tired of chasing and finally pointed a single. The two hunters almost reached the point when Ben did it again.

It was here that Harry showed his humanity, his frailty, his heart. “Whoa you son-of-bitch!” The earth stood still. He couldn’t retract it. Like feathers blown from a pillow, the words scattered into infamy. Omer’s laugh now roared even louder. How the hunt ended was never related, but Harry’s rebuke of Ben was recounted a million times.

On another occasion Harry and a few friends were running dogs on a summer afternoon in the old bombing range just east of Robert. Bobby Lane, an outstanding dog man and Winterhawk stalwart, told it this way. Everyone had made at least two rounds and it was sweltering. No one had thought to bring water (people didn’t use bottled water back then like they do today). The dogs had ditches and logging ruts, but the ambitious handlers were parched. Bobby looked through his truck bed and found a small cooler with some lingering ice and about six “Miller Pony’s.” A pony is a small glass bottle of Miller beer. They were very popular back then. Bobby yelled with the excitement of a gold miner striking it rich. “Woo Hoo, lookey here boys,” Bobby shouted. The gang gathered and everyone reached in and grabbed a bottle of the thirst-quenching brew.

Except Harry. He was suffering. The Oooos and Ahhhs, and “boy that’s good” comments from his comrades were too much. Harry peered into the cooler and retrieved the last bottle. He removed the cap with a firm twist, bowed his head and prayed, “Thank you Lord for sending an answer to my prayer.” With that he turned it up and his thirst went away. What didn’t go away was the ribbing he’d take for a long time. Harry didn’t mind.

Harry was a good man. He and Margaret reared three beautiful daughters. He was a prosperous man with many friends. But all that didn’t keep him from being shot in the head at point blank range while sitting at his dining room table. Harry had a prison ministry that aided many men. They were offered help while in prison and again when they were released. One of the prisoners, when released, came to Harry’s home and (we will never know exactly what transpired) shot Harry to death. Harry had just turned fifty years old.

Whether Harry sinned on those two funny occasions isn’t for me to decide. I do know he never sinned against me. One day when I am required to face my creator, and if I have a say in the matter, I think I’ll just say, “send me to wherever you sent Harry, because I believe Harry was right. Not all sinners go to Hell”

Rest in peace Harry……1945-1995.

About the Author : Danny Bardwell
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Danny Bardwell is a construction superintendent who builds large commercial buildings in the Baton Rouge / New Orleans area. For peace of mind and escape from the stress of building, Danny raises and trains pointers with his thirteen year old grandson, Lane.

Danny is a story teller at heart, and often when relaxing he is inspired by some little event or phrase. Lane appears in most of Danny's stories. His stories have appeared in local publication as well as national circulations such as Sporting Classics Magazine.


About the Artist : Kate Hall
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Kate Hall is an outdoor artist who resides on an Angus cattle farm in Tennessee, where she began hunting at an early age. During her 13 years as a flight attendant, Kate visited 27 countries and all 50 states. She now spends her time traveling across the country in search of rising trout and upland birds with her husband and their English Setter. In his first two seasons they hunted on public lands in MT, KS, SC, AL, NC, KY and TN for quail, ruffed grouse, sharptail grouse, woodcock, pheasant, prairie chickens, and hungarian partridge. Upland hunting has enriched Kate's life and influences much of her colored pencil work.




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