Before we all head off tomorrow to enjoy the opening day of West Virginia's spring gobbler season, let's pause to remember a man who dedicated a sizable chunk of his long life to turkey conservation.
Glenn "Tink" Smith, formerly of Piedmont, died last Sunday at the ripe old age of 101.
Tink was arguably the world's most prolific - and generous - photographer of wild turkeys.
He gave away literally thousands of his images, to the National Wild Turkey Federation, to newspapers (including the Gazette and Daily Mail), to the state Division of Natural Resources, and to just about any entity that furthered the cause of wildlife conservation.
It should surprise no one, then, to learn that Tink wasn't an ordinary fellow. Even his approach to turkey photography was a tad unconventional.
One, he didn't start photographing turkeys until after he retired from his job with the U.S. Postal Service; and two, he shot almost all his photos from a hole in the ground.
"I tried calling them up, but that didn't work," Smith told me during a 1998 interview. "I tried sitting in a tree stand and waiting for them to come by, but that didn't work. Then I remembered some of the basics of concealment and camouflage I used when I was a forward artillery observer during [World War II]. I decided to dig a hole and build a ground-level blind to shoot from."
Smith owned the perfect place for such a blind - a 258-acre piece of land located high on a ridge overlooking the Cacapon River.
"One small clearing seemed always to have some turkeys milling about in it," he said. "I figured that would be the place to put my blind."
"From the moment I completed my hole in the ground, it was heaven for me. Suddenly, I was getting birds walking up so close to me I could literally reach out and touch them," he recalled.