Love and a handful of other American Legion volunteers recently spent a day making a sunny afternon a special one for a handful of veterans at Gobbler Ridge.
Blaine Chappell of rural Dexter is an accomplished trainer of Beagle pups -- specifically rabbit hunting Beagles. Equipped with three of his best specimens, 125 acres at Gobbler Ridge, and the enthusiasm of the day's guests, Chappell commanded his dogs to do what they do best.
Through the generosity of Drew Wethington at Greenway Equipment and Tony Stevens of Dexter, who each supplied all-terrain vehicles for the day, the veterans were able to ride in comfort across the acerage as Chappell's dogs ran rabbits in and out of the woods and fields at Gobbler Ridge. The local McDonald's restaurant provided the noon meal for the group.
"It takes a lot of people coming together to make these hunts happen," Love explained, noting that First Midwest Bank has also played a major role in the facility's success.
The facility has been accepting donations to further develop its accessibility and for the operation of Gobbler Ridge. The efforts of those in the Legion were recognized at the recent Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet when they were honored as the 2012 Organization of the Year, in large part due to the work that takes place at the Disabled Veterans Wildlife Facility.
For Love, Jim Adams and Darryl LaPierre of the Legion, the task is not work at all. Each takes pride in being part of the facility's management and success, and when there is work to be done and veterans to be brought to the farm for an activity, they rush to the call. Each pitched in to ensure an enjoyable day at the recent rabbit hunt.
Chappell, with his Beagle trio, was joined on foot by Love, veteran Jerry Griffin of Dexter, and Jim Lindley of Parma. It was Lindley's third visit to the farm.
The lone gun carrier was Lindley, who had a few opportunities to get a rabbit in the course of the hunt, but elected to wait on a better shot. As it turned out, the rabbits were spared for the day. The lack of game played no part in the success of the hunt, however. For local veteran Robert Crow, 89, the day was perfect.
"I used to rabbit hunt," he recalled, looking across the open fields of the farm, "but it's been a lot of years."
Crow and Morgan enjoyed a back seat view of Gobbler Ridge, a view Crow has seen a few times. He was one of the first visitors to the facility when it was established as a haven for disabiled veterans in July 2012.
"It's a great place," he said as he looked out at the open field, listening to the sound of Chappell's dogs tracking a lone
Riding in front was Vietnam veteran Raymond Dickerson. Dickerson resides in Parma and is a boyhood friend of Tom Love, who has been instrumental in securing donations for the veterans' facility from service organizations in neighboring counties.
Dickerson has been an avid hunter for decades. "It's been about six years," he said, "since I've hunted. I just can't walk all day anymore. But this is great."
When the dogs opened up, voicing their success at tracking a rabbit's journey through the woods, smiles could be seen all around in anticipation of seeing the Beagles run. And run they did.
"I give them about three circles to run a rabbit," Chappell explained, "and then I call them off."
For Morgan, the day was extra special. He used to raise Beagles himself and take them along on his winter rabbit hunts.
"It's great to hear that sound again," he said, cocking an ear toward the running dogs in pursuit.
Sometimes, they all agreed, it's just the simple things in life. A rabbit hunt, even provided from an all-terrain vehicle, is one of those things.