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OXFORD, Miss. -- As always, the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association's annual conference was enlightening.

One of many highlights was visiting with Shannon Tompkins, who recently retired as outdoors editor of the Houston Chronicle. Tompkins had a lot to say about feral hogs, which are a conservation menace everywhere.

We cover the effect feral hogs have on deer, wild turkeys and quail, but hogs are far more devastating to creatures that we don't notice. Sea turtles are a prime example. Tompkins said that feral hogs obliterate sea turtle nests all across the Gulf Coast. Their effect is especially profound in Texas, Tompkins said, because the Texas coast is such a fertile breeding ground for sea turtles. These include the Kemp's ridley, leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles, which the International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists as critically endangered. The loggerhead and green sea turtles are listed as endangered.

Hogs root up turtle nests in the soft beach sand and consume the eggs. It happens across Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, too, Tompkins said.

Furthermore, hogs devastate lizards and other species whose existences are integral to their respective ecosystems.

Commercial hunting is largely to blame for the proliferation of hogs across Texas, Tompkins said. Hog hunting is big business in Texas, at the expense of other wildlife.

Tompkins said an effective remedy would be to outlaw hog hunting, as Missouri, New York and Kansas have done.

"Take away the financial incentive, and it's amazing how quickly the problem goes away," Tompkins said.

It was an honor to spend an evening with Steve Brewer, professor of botany at Ole Miss. Brewer and I were best friends from the day we met as eighth-graders at Forest Heights Junior High. We played in bands together on and off through the years. At Hendrix College, he fronted The Caterwaulers, and he now fronts a jazz combo that plays around Oxford.

I hadn't seen Brewer in 10 years, but when we got together Oct. 25, it was like yesterday.

We ate at Ajax Diner in Oxford. If you ever visit, get the meatloaf.

It was also a treat to visit with Jimmy Jacobs and Polly Dean, both of Atlanta. Jacobs was the longtime editor of Georgia Sportsman and Florida Game & Fish, and Dean was a graphic artist during my tenure at Game & Fish Publications.

Jacobs is one of the preeminent authorities on fly fishing in the Appalachians. Dean has established herself as an award-winning fly fishing authority for the Southeast. They are also Georgia hiking trail experts.

During my time at Game & Fish in 1996-97, one of our copy editors was Kevin McFoy Dunn, who was earlier known for fronting The Fans, a prominent band in the 1970s Athens, Ga., scene that produced R.E.M. and the B-52s. Rolling Stone described his guitar work as, "Robert Fripp on speed."

Somehow, McFoy Dunn ended up with us, editing hard-core hunting and fishing articles. He often played classical music during lunch hour on a 15th century guitar strung with cat gut.

In the 80s, I played electric bass guitar using a screwdriver for a slide. It was a rude noise, heavy on distortion and feedback. We did not entertain our audiences. We waged war on them. Hearing this, McFoy Dunn fell back in his chair, let out a raucous belly laugh and clapped his hands in slow applause.

To his astonishment, Jacobs said that McFoy Dunn approached him about writing a deer hunting article for Georgia Sportsman. McFoy Dunn had handcrafted a medieval crossbow, and he made some 15th century-style hunting clothes by hand as well.

"He went hunting at a wildlife management area in north Georgia," Jacobs said. "He was out there prancing around in that get-up when he met up with a game warden. You know him. You can imagine how that went.

"He wrote a great story about it."

We all lost track of McFoy Dunn since he was laid off several years ago, but that story got me thinking about him. I found a YouTube clip of him playing his song "Nam" in a dive called the Lily Pad in Cambridge, Mass. His son, who was a toddler when I knew him, plays bass. When it comes time for his guitar solo, McFoy Dunn reaches into his coat pocket and extracts an office stapler, which he uses as a reverse slide.

I fell back in my chair, let out a raucous belly laugh and clapped my hands in slow applause.

Sports on 11/03/2019

Print Headline: Conference reunites friends, ignites great stories


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