Davis, NC Hunting

Henry Murphy

A tribute was paid recently, by letter, to the late Henry Murphy, Davis, NC, by Edward Pond, a young man who used to hunt with him. Mr. Murphy was one of the leading duck hunting guides in the county. Edward, who now lives in Gastonia, and his brother Eugene, were close friends of Mr. Murphy from the time they were little boys. The letter was written by Edward to his brother Eugene Pond of Beaufort.

"There are certain things that characterize Mr. Henry's memory. Such things as serving friends and getting enjoyment from their performance, and humbleness in perfection and pleasure in innocence of others. He provided a boat and acted on his volition, as the caretaker of all the wildfowl in the Wickers.. He carried you and me and others of your friends hunting because he could count that when ducks came and were shot at, there would be some to pick up. If you or I missed, he would kid us about it because he was disappointed, too; probably more even than we were."

I know next year and years hence, when we go into the Wickers on a cold pre-dawn morning and see the ragged string of blacks get up and head for Johnston's Marsh with the few bald-pates, that always skim over the rushes to the North-I know that I'll be able to say "Look at that bunch going there," and then turn back to look over my right shoulder and see and remember the look of enjoyment and satisfaction on Mr. Henry's face. That wry little smile of his that always appeared just as a bunch got up. Likewise, I know that one day, some day, in the Wickers again, we will hear a faint pop-pop and standing on the blind we will be able to see a tall man in a rain parka slowly snaking his way above the bulrushes over in Johnston's Marsh, or the Beach Creek, or suddenly looming out of the wind-driven mist of the slough. Sometimes he will stand with his back to the bow to break the wind and when it is very bitterly cold, he might be beating his great hands together for warmth; and of course neither you nor I will say a word, because in the quietness of the moment it can be realized that we are seeing a memory.

Then too, if someday either of us are in the Louisiana Marshes, or on one of the Michigan Lakes, and see a drifted decoy resting at a random angle in the grasses, we will know, after picking it up and slowly turning it over-the initials on the bottom will be-H.M. Yes, it will be a long time before Mr. Henry's memory leaves the marshes. I think it was real significant that he waited until the wild fowl season closed before putting away for the last time, the accouterments of the season. He couldn't leave until the waterfowl were getting ready to start back to Labrador.

You implied in your last letter that the Wickers and hunting there had almost perished. I think not. It could not have perished before this last Saturday when Mr. Henry turned and looked back at Waterbush Island for the last time. In the years to come, the Wickers may silt up and disappear—that is some say, the sight of Richard and Andy, but even then, to you and me and perhaps a few others, the Wickers is not a small bay on the Outer Banks, but something that was a broad estuary—teeming with wildfowl and colored with many years of memories and fellowships—a broad estuary across which for ever more will sail a duck hunter's "Flying Dutchman," with Mr. Henry at the helm.

Once Upon A Time: Stories of Davis, North Carolina. By Mabel Murphy Piner, 1979; pp. 63.

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