Cumberland Times-News

Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors

April 28, 2012

Tink was picture- perfect

— At the end of our hallway is a room that has served a number of purposes. Originally it was Seth and Ryan's bedroom. Then it became a spare bedroom. Shortly thereafter, its purpose expanded, becoming the computer room as well. Most recently it also took on the duties of trophy room.

I should probably just say "trophy wall."

On that wall are a number of hunting and fishing memories, including a rug from the bear I killed on Dan's Mountain in 2009.

My granddaughter, Miss Chelsea, who we often call by her nickname, Flower, likes to go up to the bear and touch it with a finger and say “Wake up, bear.” She’s 4.

In the upper left hand corner of that wall is something very special. There is a framed photo of two gobblers in full strut.

The photo is appropriately named "Double Gobbler" by the man who snapped it, Tink Smith. Tink presented it to me in Romney one evening when I spoke to a local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, telling them what it was like to be an outdoor editor.

On April 15, as longbeards sounded off with their thunderous mating calls in the hills of West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, Tink died at the veteran's hospital in Martinsburg. He was 101 years old.

I think of Glenn “Tink” Smith, Piedmont native, as an old-line conservationist, much in the mold of Ted Fearnow, though their work took different paths.

Anybody familiar with the National Wild Turkey Federation is familiar with Tink, at least with his photography. Tink snapped some of the most famous closeups of wild turkeys in every imaginable pose. And, he shot them from ground level after digging a hole in the earth and building a blind around that excavation in the hills near the Cacapon River in Morgan County.

I was fortunate to have sat and chatted with Tink on several occasions, once in his home on one of those hillside streets in Piedmont. Tink let me thumb through his slide albums, leaving me, a novitiate gobbler hunter at the time, in awe.

Tink was tall and in shape. His physical conditioning was easily attributed to being an on-foot mail carrier in a land of challenging topography.

Though Tink was lean, he was not mean. He was known for his easygoing demeanor. I may be the only person who ever made Tink angry.

Quite a number of years ago, Tink and I were invited to join the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources on a river otter introduction in the Cacapon River drainage. It was a day of extremely heavy snowfall and we talked and told stories while waiting for the otters to be brought on an overnight truck trip from South Carolina.

Of course the talk was about turkeys and turkey hunting. I mentioned that I had used a rifle to shoot a couple turkeys during fall seasons.

Tink bristled. His back straightened. He turned a bit red.

“That’s, that’s baby stuff,” he said, trying to be angry, but not really being very good at it.

Later he approached me separately and apologized. “What you did was perfectly legal,” he explained.

I haven’t used a rifle to shoot a turkey since then. I’m not sure why.

Two years ago, Tink, staying in a care facility in the Eastern Panhandle, wrote me a beautiful and quite lengthy handwritten letter. In it he recalled that snowy day along the Cacapon, though he admitted he could not remember the name otter, referring to it instead as “you know, those furry animals.” Tink never missed a chance to tell me how important he believed it to be that the Cumberland Times-News allowed for substantial reporting of hunting, fishing and conservation issues.

Tink told Charleston Gazette-Mail Outdoor Editor John McCoy, “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.”

That’s right. Tink spent a good portion of his life in the place where he now resides.

Thanks for everything, Tink.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

 

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Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors
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