Sporting Life

An Authentic Master

Born to be in the outdoors

“Tom, I know there are people who have more money and more stuff than I do, but I don’t know anyone who’s had more fun.” — Edwin Clapp, dove hunting season, 2021

By Tom Bryant

Over my years as an outdoorsman, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many folks who claim they were born for the outdoors. Very few fit the high goal they supposedly set for themselves. They are either overly enthused and too vocal about their expertise, or in the case of one dude we took on a duck hunt, had to be watched like a hawk to keep from shooting himself, or worse, us. That fellow should never have left the pavement.

Edwin Clapp is definitely not one of those.

I first met Edwin in the early ’80s. We both were having fun training yellow Labs as gun dogs and retrievers. It’s often said in the vernacular of dog owners, especially hunting dog owners, “If you’re lucky in your lifetime and you’re persistent, you will have one good dog. And if the stars align just right, you might have a great dog.”

The stars lined up just right for Edwin and me. His dog was a big, long-legged yellow Lab named Dick, and mine was a medium-sized yellow named Paddle. Edwin and I spent many happy hours afield training those wonderful animals.

Edwin grew up on a farm relatively close to Siler City. He has two brothers: Al, who owns and manages Clapp Brothers Tractor; and Tim, who’s a retired N.C. State University professor. They are both equally proficient in the woods; but in my opinion, Edwin tops the bill.

He went to Jordan-Matthews High School, where he starred in baseball, basketball and track. He received a full baseball scholarship to Louisburg College, where he was instrumental in helping his team go to the Junior College World Series, a first for the school. He was voted captain and the most valuable player.

Edwin is a self-effacing kind of fellow, and it took me several years to land an interview with him. On this particular day, we were on his farm at his lake house, “Fair Weather,” where we had hunted doves several weeks earlier. It was raining, and we were kicked back under the tin-roofed porch of his barn near the cabin. It was the perfect setting for reminiscing about old times. As we looked toward the tree line on the far side of the dove field, three wild turkeys crossed the expanse in front of us.

“Tom, I was kinda tired of school after that first year, so a buddy and I decided we would go to Florida. We got jobs at Disney World, and I worked in the candy factory making lollipops.”

It was incredible to me that a star baseball player would toss all that fame and fortune away, just like that. Edwin’s adventure leaving school hit close to home. I remembered that as a young guy looking for adventure, I joined the Marines after my first year of college.

“So, what was next?” I asked.

“I got tired of making candy and came back home, called my coach at Louisburg and he told me to come on back, the scholarship was still available.”

Edwin returned to school and that year was offered a full baseball scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and also a full scholarship to East Carolina University. He chose ECU and was a star pitcher, their number one righthander.

Again, fate stepped in and for whatever reason, Edwin left college and became a jack of all trades. There are people like that. I’ve met a few. Folks who can do anything, fix anything, and build anything. In Edwin’s case, he ended up starting his own company, C&B Small Engines, and later, after selling his business, he became the service manager at MacDonald’s Building Supply.

Rain was rattling the tin roof of the old barn in a restful way, and we watched as the turkeys continued to feed across the field.

“You know, Tom, there was a time during my journeys that I took a six-month sabbatical, lived here at the cabin and hunted and fished every day. It was wonderful.”

The land that Edwin hunts has been in his family for generations. It’s where he grew up, and he knows every nook and cranny like the back of his hand.

Our conversation drifted here and yonder about all the places he had hunted and fished, which brought me to my next question. “Which do you like to do best, hunt or fish?”

“I believe I like to fish the best. One season I had the opportunity to be the mate on a 38-foot Bertram sport fisher boat for a gentleman who was fishing in a king mackerel tournament. It was loads of fun and I learned a lot about fishing tournaments. But don’t forget, hunting runs a close second. I love dove hunting.”

I have hunted with Edwin many times, and I’ve never seen anyone better with a shotgun. Every dove season, he has an opening day hunt on his farm. It’s by invitation only. He barbecues chicken and Boston butts with all the fixin’s. Yet another talent. He’s a superb cook. The event is a day-long affair and is much looked forward to by everybody.

The rain was slacking a little and Edwin stood and said, “Come on, I want to show you a part of the farm you’ve never seen.”

We climbed in his truck, and he put it in 4-wheel drive. We drove down a narrow track, almost a path, with overhanging branches damp with rain. The path opened to a small field, maybe 5 or 6 acres, and just as we eased out of the tree line, a pair of whitetail deer bounded tight around the planted cornfield. We exclaimed and laughed about jumping the deer. Then, as we turned the corner, we saw a group of young turkeys, maybe this year’s crop, and they flew across the front of the truck into the trees.

Edwin is the ultimate conservationist. He has a wildlife habitat on his farm that’s rarely seen anymore.

We rode slowly back to his house, and as I prepared to load up and head home, he presented me with a big sack of freshly picked tomatoes and peppers from his garden. Did I mention that he’s also a champion gardener?

Edwin and his lovely wife, Danette, live happily on their farm in Chatham County, and I agree with him wholeheartedly when he says that he has had plenty of fun. But without a doubt, his talent and hard work has made all those good times possible.  PS

Tom Bryant, a Southern Pines resident, is a lifelong outdoorsman and PineStraw’s Sporting Life columnist.

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