By Stacy Whittum
16 ADC members were not the only things arriving on what was supposed to be a winters day in December 2021. This was the second annual trip to hunt with the wonderful Ronnie and Kelly Capps. Me being a new waterfowl hunter knew this was going to be a trip to remember. Hearing stories and the history of the lake and how it came to be had me pumped for this trip. I made sure to put orders in for new gear (Florida does not get that cold) anticipating the cold mornings in the blind. We had a giant group text going to start to get to know each other prior to arriving. I borrowed my Dad’s truck and headed north to pick up Elizabeth on the way. We filled up with gas and snacks and started our trek to Tennessee. We stopped on the way to see a pyramid changed hotels a couple times and sampled some delicious moonshine! We still had some time before we could check into the two cabins we had rented for the group. So, we did like most ladies in the sporting world do and headed to the local sporting goods store to see if there were any goodies to be added to our ever-growing collection of things!
At that time, we could feel the energy change in the store, more employees were buzzing about the impending storm that would be arriving later that night. Now I grew up in the Midwest and heard some of the language being spoken and new this storm might be a big one. Once the time came that we could check into the cabins the lovely lady at the counter explained to us that they are predicting a 7 out of 10 chance of a tornado with this storm. She informed us that if the time comes and we need to shelter we should do so in the campground bathrooms about 800 yards away.
An hour or so passed and more ladies started to arrive. We had a three-course meal planned of adult beverages, Stouffer’s (not sponsored) Lasagna and cookies. As we cooked and chatted we noticed that one of the most iconic movies of our time was playing on the TV. It was almost like the universe was warning us……. TWISTER.
Around 8 p.m. that night the TV went from cinematic excellence to full time weather coverage and then the TV went quiet and we heard sirens in the distance. We made the decision to “hunker” down (that’s a FL storm term) inside our cabin’s bathroom. This bathroom had enough room for all 8 of us, pillows, couch cushions and our plates of lasagna. Time stood still as a F4 tornado passed over us. I was next to women I have known for years and women I just met. We also had the cabin next door and we were all hoping they took cover as well (we later found out they slept through it). We had no power once that storm came through so we had to rely on our family and friends to keep us updated on the storm. We had husbands and parents texting to make sure we were okay. I could not imagine how they felt watching their tv screens as multiple tornados come through a 200-mile span.
Once the large tornado came through we were on deck for one more. At the end of the night not knowing what had happened three miles down the road we were all alive but scared. When Ronnie and Kelly knew it was safe for them to leave their house they came and checked on us at the cabins. We all wanted to go out into the community to help but we knew we would all be in the way till emergency services can get a handle on things. So, we all made the decision to head to the blind for some warm coffee and breakfast at least. As we gathered with our gear and emotions at the boat ramp waiting to load a vessel that was built to storm the beaches of Normandy. Once everyone was loaded we headed on a lake that may have never seen a storm of that magnitude in years. We could not see where we were going but Ronnie knew that lake, it was as if his ancestors guided him through the dips, the turns and the timber. We pulled into a cove and saw a glowing warmth coming from an old tanker turned to a duck blind. Miss Kelly got the stove hot and the smell of fresh coffee brewing brought us back to life. The hunting was slow due to the storm but the fellowship was so strong. Going through something like that brings you closer to people.
Once, we got back to the ramp and travelled back to our cabins we could see how bad the community got hit. We passed where the campground bathrooms once stood. The hairs on my arm still stand to this day thinking if we would of went there to shelter and what would have happened. Something told us to stay put and we are lucky we did. The tornado hit the bathrooms and jumped over our cabins and laid-down a mile down the road and started back on its destruction. We still did not have any heat or water at the cabin but we made it work. We all sat down at a local restaurant and ate as a family that night. Now 16 women sitting all in camo at a restaurant in the middle of Reelfoot got some glances and gossip. It didn’t help that mechanical horse was stationed right next to our table and we had a wallet of quarters. After dinner we made plans to meet the Capp’s in the morning for another go at some ducks. We get back to the cabin with generators and propane heaters. We all bundled up and tried to get some sleep. (Pro tip: Toe warmers stuck to your socks under blankets makes for an excellent heater)
The next morning, we get situated in the tanker and the smells of coffee and biscuit & gravy bars waft out of the blind and all of a sudden Miss Kelly finds all of us in the blind hoovering and possibly drooling for what is about to come out of the oven. I am not sure what scared the ducks off that lake, the storm the night before or the amount of laughter coming from the Capp’s blind. We heard Island Boy sung in several different ways, snoring was happening from one side of the blind and then we will never forget the frame by frame commentary for the movie “The Notebook” playing on the TV.
We got back to the shore and we managed to do our final day photoshoot, pack up the cabins and start preparing for our journeys back home.
Not all ADC trips are this crazy but each one is special in its own way. Some of us come on these trips as strangers but we all leave as sisters.
So, I am not sure if Tennessee is ready for us again but fingers crossed the weather is clear, the birds are flying low and our aim is on point!
See you in December, Reelfoot!