February 2018
Simple Times

Donnie Southern – Not Sitting Still

 

Donnie Southern and one of the prize fish he caught!

Donnie Southern has a familiar "Fisherman’s Prayer" hanging on a plaque in his living room:

"I pray that I may live to fish until my dying day.

And when it comes to my last cast I then most humbly pray

When in the Lord’s great landing net and peacefully asleep

That in His mercy I be judged, BIG ENOUGH TO KEEP!"

While that anonymous little poem is humorous and aimed at fishermen, it explains just a little of Southern’s philosophy of not only fishing AND hunting but life in general.

Southern, whose "real" name is Herman Ladon Southern, suffers from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, meaning at this point in his life he spends a lot of time in his wheelchair because of weakness in his legs. But don’t let that fool you!

He can slide onto his four wheeler and canvass the woods for deer around his Highland Lake-area acreage in rural Blount County.

He can tilt his wheelchair just so and scamper/crawl into his or a friend’s boat to seek out the biggest catfish or bass you can imagine. He runs errands in his pickup and keeps the house cleaned and swept almost immaculately.

Oh, and don’t forget about his special hunting stand at the hunting club in Carrollton Hunting Club in Carrollton where he’s an active member! It’s made just a little lower than most hunting stands so he can enter it more easily.

Trophies throughout his home attest to his outdoorsman abilities! There’s an eight-point buck staring down in the living room that he shot just "over a road or two" from his own home in Blount.

Then there’s trophy bass, catfish and crappie he’s caught in nearby Highland Lake or the Coosa River.

He has a feeder in his own woods where he can watch deer come by to snack, but says, "I don’t like to kill them here. These are more like my pets. I just like to watch these."

In fact, his game camera shows does and bucks coming by the feeder regularly (night and day!) along with comical bandit-faced raccoons, wild turkeys and the occasional slinky coyote or fox.

Southern underwent his first surgery at the age of 10 to lengthen tendons in his legs. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, "Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a group of inherited disorders that cause nerve damage, mostly in a person’s arms and legs in the peripheral nerves. It is named for the three physicians who discovered it. The series of disorders are complicated, but in many instances it means the messages from the brain don’t reach the nerves and vice versa."

Caden Browning, Donnie’s nephew, and some big crappies he caught.

 

It’s an inherited, genetic condition occurring when there are mutations in the genes affecting the nerves in feet, legs, hands and arms.

His mother, Pauline Jeanette Murphree Southern, had the disease, his grandmother was fine, but his great-grandmother had it.

Their courage and can-do attitudes no doubt have inspired him throughout his life.

Southern worked at Saint Joe Paper Company for 18 years. His last job was as a maintenance mechanic at South Pac in Birmingham where they made boxes.

"I worked on the machine that made the boxes," he explained.

Twenty-seven years ago, he built the beautiful home he and wife Rita share.

"I did it all, but the foundation and the roofing," he explained of the intricate craftsmanship.

For a while Southern walked with a cane, then progressed to a walker. He now utilizes a wheelchair much of the time. He’s been basically retired for about 10 years, but has fitted in a lot of hunting and fishing!

Donnie and Rita, who works in shipping and receiving at the Oneonta Walmart Supercenter, use much of what he hunts or catches.

"It’s just too expensive to carry the deer to the slaughterhouses, so I pretty much process it myself," he said. "I cut them up into steaks and cube it. I add a little salt, pepper and garlic or whatever. You’ve got some great eating!

"I think venison is delicious in tacos and in stews. There are just so many ways to cook it. My wife makes some great salads using it, too. "

Southern credits his good friends, some who have passed away, with helping him in his outdoor endeavors.

"I thought the world of Angelo Brand (a local taxidermist and outdoorsman who passed away a few months ago)," he said. "Then there’s Sonny James Allman. We fished together. He has a little stool. His boat has a step up where I can crawl onto easily."

There’s catfish who hit crappie jigs, bucks who seem to pose as targets and others who seem to be rehearsing as flying reindeer, and lessons to teach others such as explaining tongue-in-cheek to his nephew Caden Browning, "It’s just sometimes not a sin to lie about fishing."

"I’m not going to just sit around," he explained. "I just love the outdoors too much."

To folks who might just sit when they have this or similar problems, he says, "To everybody his own, but I’ve just got to be out and enjoying the outdoors. I’ve been just about everywhere, but there are just not many better places than around here … around home … in Alabama for hunting and fishing!"

 

 

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer living on a small homestead in Blount County. She can be reached through Facebook or her website at www.taitsgapstore.com.