In the 1970s, I made a tube turkey call out of a plastic pill bottle with latex rubber over half of the bottle. I always had a deep passion and love of calling animals - any kind of animal. I was playing around with this pill bottle turkey call and got a goose sound out of it. So I bought thicker latex and began to work with the pill bottle to make a goose call, and I produced my first tube goose call.
In 1975, I replaced the pill bottle with wood and started making some goose calls out of wood. The man who was making the barrels for those wooden goose calls threw one in the garbage can. When I asked him, “Why did you throw that tube call away?” he said, “The walls of this tube are too thin, and it’s got a crack in it.” I took that call out of the garbage can and glued that crack the best I could. As I looked at that call, I started thinking of my dad, who was a bluegrass musician. He built his own fiddles out of very thin wood, because he said the sound was better if the wood was thinner. Dad could take a fiddle apart, tune it and put it back together. Dad also had a very good musical ear and could distinguish between a good sound and a bad sound. I guess I inherited some of that ability from him. I knew that the thin wood would resonate well and sound good. So, I used that throw-away wooden tube in the World Goose Calling Championship that I won.
I met up with a friend of mine who was a two-time world champion duck caller – Mike McLemore. He was a champion-of-champions duck caller. I blew my little pill bottle goose call for him, and Mike said, “That’s the best-sounding goose call I've ever heard. Why don’t you go to the World Champion Goose Calling Championship and call with it?” I asked Mike, “Where do they hold that contest?” “In eastern Maryland,” Mike replied. I kind of frowned and said, “That’s a long way from my home in Cadiz, Kentucky.” Then Mike said, “I'm going up there. You can ride with me.” So, I rode with Mike up to this waterfowl festival. I think Mike was emceeing the duck and goose calling championships. I won that championship with that pill bottle tube goose call in 1979.
After the contest, I met this young boy – I think his name was David Coleman - a goose guide in Maryland. He asked me, “Will you show me how to blow that tube call?” I told him sure. So, I taught him everything I had learned about the tube goose call. The following year in 1980, I went back to the World Goose Calling Championship to defend my title, and that young man beat me like a drum. The next 2 years he won that championship with that same tube call, and I heard that he won the World Goose Calling Championship this year with that same tube goose call.
After the World Goose Calling Championship, Mike McLemore, David Hale and I made a 45 rpm record on how to blow the tube goose call and call in geese. I’d take that tube goose call out into a cornfield and blow it at high-flying geese, and they would come in and almost land on my head. After I won the World Goose Calling Championship, David and I invested in an injection mold to make tube goose calls, and we sold a heck of a lot of them!