THE WAY I REMEMBER IT
Harold Robbins was known to all of us as "Robbie." He was the likeable Director of Tourism for the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, and active in statewide tourism organizations. Among his many friends was the President of Aquarena Sprinqs in San Marcos, Don Russell.
Don was also active and well known in Texas tourism circles, since at the time Aquarena Springs was the largest commercial tourist attraction in Texas. The company also owned several hundred acres of hill country just to the west of San Marcos that Don used to host deer hunts for his friends. When he invited Robbie, along with five or six of us, Robbie told him he had never been deer hunting. Don's "wicked" mind began working immediately. He told Robbie, "That's no problem, but you will have to hunt a turkey first." Robbie agreed.
On the appointed weekend we all gathered at the Aquarena Springs Inn for dinner and story telling before retiring. The next morning, Don had someone escort each of the hunters to their blinds, but he took Robbie out well before daybreak. He seated Robbie in the blind and pointed out that the turkeys usually are seen in the clearing in front of them.
When daylight arrived, Don suddenly whispered to Robbie, "There's one behind us by that bush. Turn around slowly and let him have it." Robbie followed instructions, and when he saw the gobbler, he fired. The turkey flopped its wings and made a lot of noise, so Don told Robbie to shoot him again. Robbie shot again, and the gobbler flopped around for a few seconds, and then stopped.
"You got him," Don said, "Run down there real quick and get him before he gets away." Robbie jumped out of the blind, ran down and picked up the turkey for Don to see. "Bring him back," Don yelled, so Robbie started back toward the blind-until he hit the end of the cord. Don h~ bought the nice fat gobbler the day before and tied it to the bush.
As the hunters came in, the story was told over and over. Robbie laughed as hard as anyone. And the story spread statewide among the tourism community.
About six months later, at a tourism conference held in East Texas, Robbie was asked to speak on a panel with Bruce Neal of Six Flags and myself along with another guy and a moderator. When Don saw the program, his mind went into action again. He had our friends at the Alabama Coushatta Indian Reservation make a turkey gobbler out of pine needles about a 6 or 8 inches high when it was sitting down. We arranged with the program chairman to have a white table cloth on the table for our panel, and have place cards so that I was on one end, and Bruce on the other. He had the turkey, to which we had tied a thin piece of thread and strung along the front of the table. I had the other end of the thread.
When Robbie started his 5 minute presentation, Bruce eased the turkey on the table. Robbie didn't notice. I pulled the thread a little, and when the turkey moved, the crowd snickered. Robbie paused for just a moment and then continued. I pulled the thread again, and the crowd laughed. Robbie smiled back and waved meekly to the group. After he delivered a couple more sentences, I moved the turkey again, and the crowd really reacted. Robbie stopped and said, "I don't know what's going on, but this stuff isn't supposed to be that funny." I moved the turkey again, and Robbie followed the group's eyes to the turkey.
The crowd rose, and gave him a standing ovation. He motioned them to sit down, and said, "I was almost through anyway, and besides, this is the first time I ever got a standing ovation." And for the rest of his life, Robbie was "Turkey.'
Vic Mathias - November 28, 2009