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The Dummy Line: Bottomland Book Club

Brent Rogers

Mark Twain once quipped that “truth is stranger than fiction.” But fiction can take us places that are ultimately more interesting than our limited experiences can provide. This is the truth of what Bobby Cole has achieved in his 2008 thriller The Dummy Line.

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Based on real people, the characters in this novel are not only believable, but relatable. I am not snobbish in my wild turkey reading, as I enjoy everything from well-written kids’ books to scientific studies. And, there are some incredible fictional books that are rooted in turkey hunting. This is one such, written by a man some may recognize as the President of Mossy Oak Biologic, and host of the Gamekeepers Podcast.

As a native of the Midwest, I was not familiar with a “dummy line,” which is referenced in the book title. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, steam locomotives that looked like passenger trains but transported only cargo were called “dummy trains.” These trains hauled timber, cotton and other freight on railroad spurs called therefore “dummy lines.” These figure prominently into the book, being slightly elevated ground in otherwise swampy lowlands. 

A father-daughter turkey hunting trip provides the setting for the book. Cole was inspired to write the book after camping with his daughter, Jessi. Both are passionate about turkey hunting and the outdoors, and Jessi is also now part of the Mossy Oak family. 

The Dummy Line is set in the swamps of the Alabama backwoods, where our hunters encounter chilling local criminals in what becomes a fight for their very survival. The protagonists, Jake and Katy Crosby, are salt-of-the-earth turkey hunters that rely on the knowledge and tools of the turkey hunting trade to deal with a physical and emotional struggle that kept my interest throughout the book.  Every turkey hunter knows the importance of woodsmanship and making a series of snap decisions based on a mix of knowledge and instinct, and this tale reinforces that reality as our hunters becomes the hunted. All of the tactics we employ in turkey hunting, such as scouting, tracking, concealment, deception, observation and patience are all taken to a new height in the high-stakes chess match that Jake and Katy face.

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Having had the pleasure of being a guest on the Gamekeepers podcast, I got to see firsthand Cole’s quick wit and levity. These traits add much to the quality of the book, as the gripping intensity is tempered with subtle humor. The book develops an increasing rapid pace, as the list of subplots and characters grow and overlap. I personally think it would make a great movie! 

As a father of a cherished daughter, this story was hauntingly familiar at times, alternatively touching a soft-spot in my memory, or resulting in a clenched jaw of anger. If a book doesn’t hit you at an emotional level, it is off target in my opinion, but this one hits the mark.  The multitude of characters give us the full range of selfless heroes to deviant outlaws. I won’t divulge more about the plot other than to say this was the first in what has become a 3-book series featuring Jake Crosby, with Moon Underfoot and Old Money rounding out the trilogy. 

The Dummy Line and other books by Bobby Cole are available in print and as Audible Audiobooks on

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