Really no telling what interesting characters you’ll meet in the middle of a remote swamp, the incredible stories you’ll hear before a cozy fireplace. Today’s episode proves it. From a highly profitable “side business” his freshman year at military academy to homesteading remote Canada, from earning a newspaper covershot in Pamplona, Spain, to sipping a Coca-Cola during a Vietnam airstrike, he was an integral member of Ted Turner’s staff before TBS was a household name. More recently he was an Uber driver–but only for a single day. Charles Smithgall’s storied life has been anything but dull. A gifted speaker, Smithgall shares 4 Life Rules, describing an unwavering persistence that guided him through life. Y’all will not want this entertaining episode to end!

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Hunting Ducks in the Boondocks

You’re walking through mud and stuff and you got mosquitoes all over you and it’s cold or warm or wet and if you got a guy there helping you out, maybe they just help me out more because I’m such an old guy, but I’ve really enjoyed the attention.

Ramsey Russell: And welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere from Rio Salado Argentina. You can’t hardly get here from there, we are so remote out in the boon docks and the crazy thing about this hunt, you never know who’s going to walk in the door on Sunday evening. You never know who’s going to share this table and tell stories at the dinner table. Birds of a feather flock together, I guess you’ve heard me say a million times and you don’t know what walk of life where somebody’s from, what they’ve done who they are, it’s just you got a dozen people sitting around the table at night telling stories and some of them you just say, I got to share these stories. You meet the craziest people, the funniest and most interesting and amazing people in duck camps around the world. And today’s guest, Mr. Charles Smithgalls, sorry about that Charles is absolutely no exception. Charles, how are you?

Charles Smithgalls: I’m good and I’ve been called worse too, so thank you, Ramsey.

Ramsey Russell: Everybody listening knows I’m the worst at messing up people’s names and I’m sitting here reading it in my hand, that’s an indictment on my handwriting. Charles jump off real quick, you traveled around enough, we’re going to get into that, you’ve been around a little bit in your 80 years young lifetime. But how would you describe this week here in Argentina at Rio Salado? It’s a dry year, but how would you describe it in terms of just experience?

Charles Smithgalls: It’s been unbelievable and I’m so glad I came and it took us 3 years because we were had to cancel – it was called off 2 years in a row because of the pandemic and all of us thought about not coming because we had those chances not to do it and I did and it’s unlike any experience I’ve had down here and I’ve been to Argentina and other countries too.

Ramsey Russell: How was it unlike it? The remoteness?

Charles Smithgalls: The remoteness and you told us before that duck hunting was the best anywhere and even in a dry year like this, I’ve never been duck hunting in a place that’s remotely close to this.

Ramsey Russell: It’s like setting back in the 1800s maybe.

Charles Smithgalls: But the rustic setting of the lodge, but the things that really stand out to me, number one is the duck hunting, not necessarily in this order. Number two is, the guests that are here because they’re all incredible people and you just don’t have many assholes in these camps, they’re all pretty good people and got a lot an equal story of how they got here. And then your staff has been and they really make you have a good time. I mean, if the staff is good and the food and the staff is attentive because it’s not just a walk in the park life in a duck camp, I mean, it’s hard. You’re walking through mud and stuff and you got mosquitoes all over you and it’s cold or warm or wet and if you got a guy there helping you out, maybe they just help me out more because I’m such an old guy, but I’ve really enjoyed the attention.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, they pay close attention to you down here. They treat you like – a lot of people that come here say, it was like being among family, I didn’t feel like a stranger among them. Like, you go to Holiday Inn and everybody’s courteous and nice or the Hilton, everybody’s courteous and nice and professional, but they don’t treat you personally. Did you feel like you were treated personally here?

Charles Smithgalls: Oh, yeah, exactly. And I think I would guess and I don’t have any access to any of your records, but I bet a lot of your businesses repeat business because people feel like it’s worth the money and they had a good time and they want to come back.

Ramsey Russell: One of the craziest things about this particular marsh, it’s 130 square miles of wetland basin, sometimes it’s all wet, sometimes it’s not. But I’ve been here for 10 years and every single time I’ve come here has been almost same lodge, same staff, same trucks, whatever. But the experience itself out in that marsh the species, the habitats, which it’s all different, it’s almost like going to a completely different destination, it’s so dynamic out there. And this year was different than even the last dry year we had, it was just different and I enjoyed every single minute of it. But like yourself, my favorite part is the people. The people I get to meet like yourself, like the men you came with, like the other men that were here in camp, I sat here at the dinner table and heard just a lifetime of stories. Just like the day at lunch, the laugh. Every time we sat down, I’ve laughed so hard, it’s not even funny.

Charles Smithgalls: All these guys have got a great sense of humor, don’t they? And it really makes it fun.

Life Experiences

Note to self, don’t ever try to pin an ape.

Ramsey Russell: Yes, they do. I don’t know where to start with you, I really don’t because you’ve got so many life experiences, but I’ll start with this one. Have you ever wrestled an ape at a county fair?

Charles Smithgalls: Well, as a matter of fact, I guess I’m one of the few people that have, I wouldn’t say successfully, but I was in a little town called Gainesville, Georgia and we had a Hall County fair and me and this big tackle on the football team, we came around this cage and this carnival barker said, anybody want to wrestle the ape, we’ll give him $100 if he can pin the ape. And we said, well, can two of us get in this? They said, oh, yeah. So, we get in this cage and people pay $10 a piece or whatever it was, maybe $5 to watch this. So we had a strategy, this guy’s name was Jack Bell and he went on and played at the University of Georgia. I mean, he weighed about 215 lbs and I guess I weighed about 190 then and so I was going to – the ape was just hanging up on the bar doing chin ups and so I thought if I could attack him from the front and Jack could get around behind him and take him off those bars and we could pin him. Well, it didn’t work out very good. Every time I’d go up that ape, he’d kick the shit out of me and I had scratches, they even had his a muzzle on him so he couldn’t bite us. And they showed us clipping his fingernails and his toenails before we got in there. But he still kicked me all over them.

Ramsey Russell: What kind of ape was he?

Charles Smithgalls: I don’t know, a chimpanzee or not a chimpanzee but a gorilla, it was a gorilla, I guess. I don’t know apes very well. But this thing would – every time I’d get, it knocked me up against the bar, so finally Jack got around behind him and got him in a big bear hug and that ape just did chin ups with Jack hanging on to him. Hell, we weren’t going to pin that ape if we had 4 more in there. And so he gave us $25 a piece for getting in the cage. But that was the end of that, we didn’t pin that ape.

Ramsey Russell: Are you from Georgia?

Charles Smithgalls: Yeah, I was born in Atlanta.

Ramsey Russell: Note to self, don’t ever try to pin an ape.

Charles Smithgalls: That’s a good rule.

Ramsey Russell: Talk about and I know there’s going to be a kind of a progression, so I’m asking you to go into detail, but at some point in time in your life, you went to work for Turner Broadcasting System, Ted Turner who in my lifetime was kind of like Ford, I mean, he changed the world. Cable television changed the world from where it was, 3 channels on a dial to everything, it’s your beck and call 24 hours. Where did you go from wrestling with ape to working for Ted Turner? I know there’s a lot of stories in this process right here along the way, but just generally speaking, how do you go from there?

Charles Smithgalls: Well, when I finished business school, I came back, I thought I was going to work for my dad and he was in the cable TV business and radio and newspaper. And so, when I went home, he said, well, son, I don’t have anything for you but why don’t you go find something maybe I’ll go in with you. Well, I ended up going to the cable TV convention in New Orleans and that was in 1975 and there were Ted Turner, he’s 4 years older than I am, going around with the Braves Pin, he had just bought the Atlanta Braves, but nobody knew who he was. And he was at the cable convention advertising WTBS because he had changed it to put it on all the cable systems all over the country and was getting ready to put it on satellite. And so, he said, Charles, what you need to do is go up and win that cable TV franchise in Chattanooga. And so he helped me, he had a lawyer up there and knew the mayor and so I ended up winning the franchise in Chattanooga. So, my wife and I moved up there and so, he came up for the grand opening but then I got kind of got crossways with my dad and quit. And so TED called me and said, why don’t you come to work for me? I couldn’t get along with my dad either. And it was a wonderful time to be there because he was getting ready to found CNN and putting WTBS on the satellite and it was a bunch of young guys and Ted was, he’d come in with a samurai sword every day and fire everybody up. So I learned a lot from him, about a lot of things, he always had – one of the things is everybody, Ted’s reputation is that he was shoot from the hip and no planning and just start off on things. But he always had a contingency plan that nobody knew about and that was, what are you going to do if it doesn’t work? He had another plan that he was going to. And he had a plan even with CNN, he came in one day after we were getting ready to put it on, have the grand opening, he said, what are we going to do if it doesn’t work? And everybody said, I don’t know, he said, well, we’re not going to start it unless we know what we’re going to do if it doesn’t work. So, like 2 days went by and he came in, when they said I know what we’re going to do, if it doesn’t work, we’re going to sell it to the 40% of it to the cable operators, then they’ll have to put it on their systems and 10 years later when he got in trouble, that’s exactly what he did, he knew that before he ever started it, which was amazing to me. And I left his company to -we founded CNN and then headline news and then I had a chance to buy two radio stations in Atlanta and a week after I bought them, Ted calls me and said, come, I want to see you, he still thought I worked for him, he said, I want you to change that radio station WCNN and we’re going to put news on, I said, well, Ted, I won’t, he said no, I’ll let you carry the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Braves and you’ll get all that revenue, so until you build the thing up. And so that’s what we did. And so he did an awful lot for me. But one of the things I learned from him and one of the things that I really had in my life was great mentors, I had these people that I really looked up to and of course, he was one of them, my own dad, my football coaches, the chairman of errands and I could go on and on, but they all taught me something and Ted, he could go down the wrong road and get back on it and get on the right road before I was saying, well, I wonder which one out and he’s already gone, he was like, the bunny and the tortoise man, he could figure it out really quick about what to do.

Building an Empire

I think he always wanted to get bigger and stronger. 

Ramsey Russell: How did you find those mentors, Charles? Was it just random luck?

Charles Smithgalls: I worked for most of them or had an association and what I’ve found and I’ve tried to convince my children of this, you need to cultivate mentors in your life people you look up to and they’re not going to look for you, they’re too busy in their life, you got to look for them and find out how people that you admire and think are successful and then try to figure out what makes them successful and copy their strengths but not their weaknesses. See I’ve heard it said that all great men have great strengths, but they also have great weaknesses. There was a story about General Grant, tell me if I’m going to wrong. Abraham Lincoln was talking to one of his staff members one day and he said something about General Grant and the guy said, yeah, and he drinks all the time, he said, what did you say? And he said, well, he’s just a drunk, he said, I’ll tell you what, go see General Grant and find out what brand he drinks and send a couple of barrels around to all my other generals because he might have been a drunk but he never lost a battle, so maybe he didn’t. And like with Ted, I admire so many things about him, I don’t really admire his marital life because it’s been pretty topsy turvy and so I wouldn’t copy that.

Ramsey Russell: May have been because he was so busy. Because he was a very – and I don’t know him, I can’t recognize him if he walked in right now, but I’m just saying, I don’t know him personally, but just as an outsider looking in, he had a lot of irons and a lot of fires for a long time.

Charles Smithgalls: Oh, just one of a kind, it comes along.

Ramsey Russell: Did you ever ask him or have a conversation how he ended up doing that? I mean, I know at one point in time he was in the billboard industry but like when he set out to get into advertising with billboards, did he set out to build an empire?

Charles Smithgalls: I think he always wanted to get bigger and stronger. His dad, Ed Turner had the billboard business. So Ted went to school and got expelled from Brown and went to work for his dad and he was running the billboard company in Macon, Georgia for his pop and his dad committed suicide. His dad shot himself, he gotten way in debt. And so the lawyers came to Ted and said, look, you need to sell this thing and Ted said, no, I don’t want to sell it, it’s my dad’s company and I want to keep it and so they said, well, you don’t have the money to keep it going and it’s got a lot of debts and he said, well, I’m not going to sell it. And so they tried to force his hand, the banks tried to force him, he went and got leases on all the billboards around the thing and told him he was going to cancel, the leases on the billboard if they didn’t let him stay. And he ended up turning it around. I mean, that’s 24 years old and he was bright then, but he kept it and of course, he made it a big success and he bought this old, broken down TV station called WTCG and changed it to WTBS, but he didn’t have any money. So he was so poor and so much in debt that he would host the movie night, he would get on, he would personally host it. And then he would have – they were 7 TV stations in Atlanta and he ranked number 7. And so he would have a big company Christmas party and invite all the other the other 6 to the party and I asked him about it one time, he said, I want my enemies in front of me where I can see him. So he would get them to the party and then he would figure out their lieutenants which ones he wanted to hire and he would steal them away from them. So, that’s why he’d look in their camp.

Homesteading in British Columbia

Ramsey Russell: Oh, that’s a good story Charles. Talk about, how did you end up homesteading in British Columbia?

Charles Smithgalls: Well, the first thing was I got around horses and I went up to Culver Military Academy and met all these rancher’s sons and got really involved in – wanting to be a cowboy and so summer time I worked in these cattle ranches of the fathers of these sons that went to the military school with me. And then I read a book called Grass Beyond the Mountains and it was about an old fellow named Panhandle Phillips that was a cowboy on the box ranch in   Riverton Wyoming. And he decided, had another cowboy named Rich Hobson whose father was an admiral, they decided to go up to British Columbia and form a big cattle company, they had this map in the bunk house and it had a big chunk in the middle of British Columbia, British Columbia is huge as it’s twice as big as Texas, it’s 7.5 times as big as Georgia and Georgia is the biggest state east of Mississippi. So they picked out this 4 million acre empire and they went up there and started this cattle company. And then in this book, they made a movie out of it in Canada, it’s called Grass Beyond the Mountains.

Ramsey Russell: Would that be Douglas Lake Cattle Company?

Charles Smithgalls: No, Douglas Lake, it’s the largest ranch in Canada. I just got on a bus and with a 30-30 in a saddle and went up to Vancouver and took a cattle truck up to Williams Lake and then got on the mail truck and went on a dirt road 215 miles to a little place called Anaheim Lake. And there wasn’t no plan to this and I met this guy in the book named Lester Dorsey that was in Anaheim Lake and he was there when Panhandle and Rich came up there in the 30s and so he sold me two horses $75 a piece horse and a pack horse. And I rode over the mountain range and there was all the characters in the book were there and so Pan loved me, but he put me to work after about 3 days, I had to start helping him build a new house. So then I decided that I wanted to homestead a piece of property. And so he helped me and showed me a place and so I got some Indians to help me and I built a cabin, a barn and put up a stack of hay and I bought some cattle from pan and then I just after about, I guess 7 months living alone, my closest neighbor was paying, he was about 10 miles from me. But my closest white neighbor, my closest neighbor was a guy named Francis, he was a witch doctor of the Indian tribe and he lived about 3 miles from me and he would always come over at dinner time because that’s when he’d get something, he knew he had something to eat. And if I killed a moose, I was over 100 miles from paved road, So I didn’t have to have a hunting license. I killed a grizzly, I killed Caribou, mountain goat bunch of deer. But living alone, it got to where – if I wanted to get the mail or something, it was a day and a half horseback ride over Anaheim Lake and a day and a half back.

Ramsey Russell: What year would this have been approximately?

Charles Smithgalls: 67, 66 I guess. Anyway, so when the war came along World War II, Pan and Rich, they lost all their cowboys because they got drafted up in Canada, so they had to break up the ranch. And Panhandle, the reason they called him Panhandles because he bum cigarettes off of people and he would never had his own or papers and a fixing. And you get to where we all smoked up at the time, you get to where you can roll a cigarette with one hand, its pretty. But he took the home ranch, which was one of the parts of the ranch, it was so vast and then Rich Hobson took the Batnuni Ranch, which was another part of it and he started writing these novels and he wrote, Grass Beyond the Mountains and then, Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy, The Rancher takes a Wife and they’re all were best sellers at the time, they made movies out of them in Canada, in fact, they had a TV series about nothing too good for a cowboy, it just went on. So anyway, after about 6 months and the damn bears had come and eat my meat and stuff and I was scared to death, I went up there to Pan and I said, I don’t know if I can make it by myself and he said, well, look, why don’t you go get you a job? I mean, as a real hand and learn to be a real ranch hand and I’ll look after your place for you while you’re gone. I said, where would you go? He said, well, there’s two biggest ranches and in BC or the gang ranch in the Douglas Lake cattle company, why don’t you go look at them. So I went down this little town Merritt and I got a ride on a cattle truck out to the ranch, which was about 50 miles from the town, the Douglas Lakes home ranch, it’s 2 million acre ranch, it’s the largest ranch in Canada. In fact, Bernie Eberts owned it after the guy that owned it then was fellow named C.N Woodward, that owned Woodward’s department stores and he had a huge contingent of – he loved cutting horses. And so he had Peppy Sand and Stardust Desire, two of the world champions, right in a row. And so I rode into the ranch and I saw this cowboy and I said, I wanted to get a job riding and he said, well, you have to see Mike over there, I said, where is he? Sit over in there in the cook house. So I went over and this guy comes walking out, still had his shafts and spurs on, he rolled a cigarette and the smoke was curling out from under and I found out later they called him Black Mike, his name was Mike Ferguson. And he looked like he just walked right off the Marlboro billboard, he was just the quintessential cowboy and I said, Mike, I’m Charles Smithgalls, he said, well, Chuck, they all call you Chuck if you’re Charles. And I said, I’d really like to get a job riding and he said, well, can you ride rough horses? And I said, well, I’ll try. He said, well, roll her up over in the bunk house and we’ll see you out there bright and early in the morning. So, I went in the bunk house and all these cowboys and so we played cards all night and they were telling me, they said, Chuck, you’re really going to get tested in the morning and so, man, I couldn’t sleep. So, we walked out to the mid dawn to the round crowd and they were all roping their horses and getting them in and one of these boys and I was walking out there, he said, Chucky, they saw him rope this horse and he was wearing up and everything, they put a blindfold on and put saddle on it, he said, you’re going to get tested, he’s really fresh, you better watch him like I wasn’t going to watch him. So I got on that horse in a round Corral and they took the blindfold off and that damn horse bucked way you could buck, I mean, son fishing, but he was in that round Corral pretty tight and I was off of him like 3 times that I remember and then he had bucked back under me, I mean, I was gone. And so somehow I stayed in the damn saddle and so he stopped and pawed like this and so Mike said, all right, you got the job, we’re moving cattle a day, so I had to ride that horse that day, he bucked me off 9 times. But anyway, the ground was so goddamn hard up there that I got to where I learned how to ride pretty good, that’s when I decided I wanted to ride bucking horses because grounds are hard, you scared of falling off and you are staying on.

Ramsey Russell: How come you’re not still in Canada? Why did you come back from Canada?

Charles Smithgalls: Well, when I had left the business school to go to Canada, somehow they didn’t turn in my draft eligibility thing, they forgot or something. So I went undetected for about 3 years and finally they caught up and found out that I wasn’t in school, so they sent draft notice to my parents and they sent it up there. And great thing about this ranch is you worked a month, 150 and all you could eat, then they’d take you into town, in the town little Merritt had 2 saloons and a bank and a church and a jail and a brothel and a couple of gas stations and that was it. And so we’d invariably get in and this was just, I was so wide eyed because the gang ranch guys would come in, there’d be a fight and they’d be throwing chairs and breaking the mirror behind the bar and I mean, I just couldn’t and so a bunch of them get locked up and then we’d go to the other bar got thrown out. And then so at midnight, the cattle truck would circle, everybody spent $150, so we’d go back and work another month. So, I get this draft notice, so I’m going to leave and go to Atlanta to the draft and so they all took me and they were going to have a going away party for me. So I got hammered like the rest of them, I said I ain’t going, I just went back and went to work. So finally, and I had this uncle that came up and tried to convince me to come back and told me he’d help me get in OCS if I would come back. And meantime, they changed my status to delinquent and then a defector. And my uncle convinced me to come back, so I went to Atlanta, he greased all the skids, I went down to the OCS enlistment place, took all the tests and got an OCS with a 6 months delayed entry. So I went home to my parent’s house, well, the next morning, the damn MPs came in and got me arrested me and my mom was, you can’t take my son and they took me down to Fort McPherson in Atlanta and put me in the stockade. Well, then dad got a lawyer and they got me out and so I went home and he said, my case was going to have to go through the courts and if I lost, I was court marshaled and I had to do some time, if I won, I got to go in the army because I’d already signed this OCS thing and the only thing that saved me was being a college graduate because they needed college graduate. So I went home, dad said, well, this thing’s going to probably go on for some time, what do you want to do? And I said, well, if it goes the whole length, I got 6 months, I want to get a job. So he said, where do you want? I said, well, I want to go out west and work on a ranch. So he said, well, take off. So, I went around to all these ranches in Colorado and Wyoming and nobody would hire me. And I got to the Big Horn ranch in Calgary, Colorado and this guy said, his name was Carl Hanson, he was 94 years old, the ranch manager and he said, I don’t need any riders, but I need a horse breaker and so, I’d broken all these colts when I was at Douglas Lake. So, I said, well, I’ll break it for you. So, what I didn’t know is, he had these 4 year old horses that were – there’s a lot of difference between a 4 year old and a 2 year old, so he had about 25 colts that he had to break in. And so I stayed there and God dang, I learned how to ride good there. And it turned out the ranch was owned by a guy named Ad Davis and owned God darn, Winn Dixie grocery store. And he would bring all of his store managers out when we caved out in the spring and they would wrestle the caves, which is the dirtiest job there is. And quickly I learned how to rope pretty good, so I didn’t have to wrestle them damn calves and I’d rope and drag them up there and Ad would castrate them and that was his job, that’s what he did. And so I broke a horse for his wife and he just loved me for that because it was pretty horse. And so anyway, so 6 months is up, I came, went into the –

Ramsey Russell: Went to Vietnam.

Charles Smithgalls: Yeah, went to Korea first and then Vietnam. Yeah.

Drafted, Then Meeting Castro in Cuba

He said, he wants to know why you were here. I was asking the same thing, why was he there?

Ramsey Russell: Another story on here is, meeting Raul Castro in Havana.

Charles Smithgalls: Well, I first went to Cuba in 1958 because my roommate in military school was Cuban. And that’s a whole another story, so I kept started going back to Cuba even when it got illegal and so I would fly to Nassau. In fact, for all this time that after Kennedy put the embargo on, you could go to Cuba from 454 countries you just couldn’t go from the US. So if you went to another country, you could go. So I figured this out. So I’d go to Nassau and have a charter, take me to Cuba and land in one city and then pick me up in another one. So I kept going down there because I enjoyed it so much because it’s a big country, it’s 1000 miles from one end to the other, it’s gorgeous and the people love Americans. We’re hated by so many places you go someplace where people, oh, American man, they just want to hang around with you, it really made me feel good because I’ve always felt like we were hated everywhere. And anyway, then I discovered the fishing down there, which is unbelievable. And I got to know some people got me a permanent driver and a tour guide, this guy, this Frenchman that just was well connected. And so I was on this universities Board of Directors of Women’s College in Gainesville, Georgia called Brenau University. And the president of the school called me one day and said, look, I want you to take me to Cuba. I said, what do you want to do? He said, I want to take two of the directors and we want to meet with the President University of Havana. And I said, why? He said, well, I wanted to start an exchange program with them with teachers and students. I said, well, all right, I’ll take you to Cuba, but I don’t want to just take you to Havana, that’d be like going to New York City and saying, you’ve seen the US, let me plan it and we’ll spend a week and we’ll go around and we’ll end up in Havana and we’ll have the meeting. So I call my Frenchman and he said, oh, I can set that up. So, I said, now we can go legally or illegally, I said, which would you prefer? He said, well, I don’t know, what do you think? And I said, I’d go illegally because it’s no hassle, we can go in there and nobody will watching us and we can go around and we’ll come back out. And so they said, all right. So, I couldn’t believe that they would go down there illegally, but they did. So, we got to Havana and I don’t know whether you read in the news in the last two weeks, but a hotel blew up in Havana in Saratoga and it killed 19 people, well, that’s the hotel we stayed in. But when it blew up though, they were renovating and it was an older hotel, but the nicest hotel in Havana. So, we got there and my tour guide had arranged up all of our rooms but we had a conference room. And so we went in the next morning, this President University of Havana comes in and couple of his assistants and an interpreter. And so they start this meeting and when they’re in the middle of it and all of a sudden the knock on the door and the door opens and I don’t think there was a knock and these two guys in military uniforms come in and then this guy in a suit between them, went around, shook everybody’s hand and went out and I asked the interpreter and I said, who’s that? And he said that was Raul Castro. I said, what the hell did he want? He said, he wants to know why you were here. I was asking the same thing, why was he there?

Ramsey Russell: Oh, my gosh. Hell, man. I wonder if it’s legal to go to – is it legal to go to Cuba now?

Charles Smithgalls: I think –

Ramsey Russell: Because they changed it and I don’t know if they changed it back.

Charles Smithgalls: I think Trump changed it back now. Maybe for certain cultural things you can go down there, but I don’t think the general public can go now, I’m not sure.

Ramsey Russell: I’ve got friends like you say, from elsewhere, from Argentina, from Venezuela from around, Canadians love to go there just for vacation.

Charles Smithgalls: There were 14, even when it was illegal, there were 14 flights a day from Toronto to Cuba because 40% of the tourists are Canadian because it’s such a cheap vacation destination for them. And so when I was going around, they thought I was either European or Canadian because I never saw another American, all these times and when they found out I was American, they just thought that was the coolest thing in the world.

Ramsey Russell: You went to Culver Military Institute, I learned this week, same as Mr. Ian who’s here, the world famous Mr. Ian by the way all my listeners know him. And you talked about going into Cuba and did that have anything to do with a fake ID business you ran at Culver Military Institute, prestigious Culver.

Born an Entrepreneur?

No, but I became one as quick as I could.

Charles Smithgalls: Well, I had the market because I had 1000 cadets that were looking for fake IDs, my roommate was from Cuba and he was a pretty – they actually put me in the room with him because I was the only kid from the South there and they thought I was either Mexican or Cuban anyway and they had 50 Cubans, I think 50 Mexicans, the wealthy Mexican and Cuban families would send their male Children to military schools in the US to learn English and discipline and so this kid was just a great guy. In fact, he just came to my 70th birthday, he’d come to my 80th, but anyway, he was pretty good with a typewriter. So we’d sit in study hall and I had a girlfriend that would go in the state patrol office and lift these Georgia driver’s license blanks and mail them to me up there. And so we would sit and study on, he’d type the name and address of a cadet, we’d pre sell them and then I was pretty good at art, so I would draw the Georgia State seal with a comb and a red pencil. And at the end of that, we sell them for 10 bucks apiece. So at the end of that semester, 1000 cadets had a fake ID and I had $10,000 and I was rich, 16 years old, I spent every dime of it too. I gave my roommate 2000 for commission and then –

Ramsey Russell: He was rich. Were you born an entrepreneur?

Charles Smithgalls: No, but I became one as quick as I could.

Ramsey Russell: How did that lead to your buying Coca-Cola in Vietnam?

Charles Smithgalls: Oh God, it was just a funny incident about what happens. You read about the graft and thievery and everything that was going on in the war and I had a lot of hard times in Vietnam but I finally got to this fire support base, they transferred me several times for my unit got shot up so bad and then I went Tiếng, took patrols into Cambodia and then I went to Dầu Tiếng which is in the Michelin rubber plantation. And I’m the commander of an engineer company and they blew up the main supply route coming into the fire support base. So we had to mine sweep out there and then build a new bridge where we put culverts in. We had tanks and everything out there protecting us, armored personnel carriers. And so we didn’t have to worry about anybody ambushing us, we didn’t think. And so we got these big 10ft culverts in there and we had bulldozers we pushed dirt over them and we just about got the thing passable and so we went back in, they blew it up again. So we went out there at that time and I told this first sergeant, I said, look, just take a squad and you all stay out here and put trip flares all over the thing and if anything hits it just blow them away. So, we were mine sweeping out there real foggy morning, I’ll never forget and all of a sudden we heard them guns going off like crazy and we all carried AK-47s because they were better than M16s and we could always find ammo and then the enemy thought we were them. So anyway, so we mine swept out there and me with all my workers and everything and there’s two dead Vietnamese laying there and they were civilians and they were pushing a motorbike and they went out of gas and they were out after curfew anyway, but they hit those trip flares and my guys blew them away. And so I called this colonel and said, what do you want me to do? And he said, just dig a hole and put them in and be sure to get the bike and everything in there and cover it up. I said, okay, you want me to do it? That’s all I want you to do. So we did all that and we went to work and we just about had this thing completed again and God darn, we got ambushed. I mean, it was overwhelming. I mean, they were coming in, now in the army, everybody’s got a radio, you only had one radio. So I got my radio and I called in an airstrike on top of us but I told him, make sure coordinates hit across the river, don’t hit on this side because that’s where we are. So they came in and I mean, they wiped them out, man. You could see these guys running on fire and everything. So right in the middle of all this, I’m sitting here watching all this happen and somebody tapped me on the back and this little Vietnamese girl said, hey, G.I, you want to buy Coca-Cola, only $5 NPC. So I paid her $5 for it, she had a little dry ice in her basket of a bicycle, you wondered where I was getting to –

Ramsey Russell: I bet it was a good Coca Cola.

Charles Smithgalls: Oh, it was great Coca Cola. But the amazing thing is they’d stolen it from us down on the dock.

Running the Bulls

I was the only gringo in town and nobody speaks English.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, I didn’t know where that story was going, I’m sorry. Talk about running with the bulls and Pamplona.

Charles Smithgalls: I ended up with some guys in Europe traveling around, we got to Pamplona and at that time my son did it too, 40 years later. But every morning there was only one hotel in Pamplona Hotel de Los Rays and so nobody gets in a hotel. So we all had to sleep some place where we put tents on the soccer field, football field and so thousands of hippies and teenagers there and everybody, drinking wine, smoking dope, you could buy bottle of wine for 6 pacedos and if you brought your own bottle, it’s only 4 pacedos. So everybody had purple mouths and purple down there. So, but every morning they had a corral and they would blow this bugle, I mean, they still do it now, every 7th to the 14th of July, it’s one week and they put all the bulls that are going to fight that day in this corral and then they have another corral in front of it where they put all the hippies and old men and drunks and me and then they have the street boarded up so you can’t get out of the shoot all the way to the bullfighting arena. So you have to run and it’s about two miles, I guess, or something like that to the. So, at 7 o’clock, they blow the Bugles and they open the door, the gates for the hippies and they start running and the chicken ones run fast and you can make it because they wait a few minutes before they open the bull, but the daring ones lay back and wait for them, see what happen. So, you know what kind of dumb ass I was so, but actually I made it to the arena and nothing happened. But then, they bring some young bulls, all the young people stay in the arena and they bring these young bulls out yearling bulls with rubber balls on their horn so they can’t gore you and they fight them, the kids. Well, a bunch of these kids started slapping one of these little bulls around and got on it and tried to ride it and all the stuff and it made the Spaniards mad, so they closed the gate. And they turned out a big bull and then another big bull had two big bulls in the arena with these kids. So I’m watching one of them and I thought I was scared to death, I saw this bull and I was making sure I wasn’t close to it, but I didn’t know there was one behind me, that damn thing came up and threw me, I mean, ripped my pants leg open, I mean, didn’t cut me but threw me back over. So I was on the cover of 4 Spanish newspapers going over. Even my wife saw it, she was my girlfriend at the time, she was in Madrid.

Ramsey Russell: You still got that picture?

Charles Smithgalls: No.

Ramsey Russell: Probably somewhere in the scratch book.

Charles Smithgalls: No.

Ramsey Russell: 15 minutes of fame.

Charles Smithgalls: Yeah, that was it. We talked the other night you spent a lot of time down in Mexico and we started talking about Campeche and you didn’t believe I knew where it was, I’m like, yeah, we started talking all about that.

Charles Smithgalls: The only person I’ve ever met that knows.

Ramsey Russell: But you spent a lot of time down in Mexico.

Charles Smithgalls: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: When did it start? When did you start going to Mexico?

Charles Smithgalls: Well, my first experience was when I was 15 years old, my parents took the 4 kids and the two maids and drove all over Mexico last summer. And I went to Campeche on that trip too.

Ramsey Russell: What a beautiful city.

Charles Smithgalls: Yeah. And but then, I was in Cancun and I was going down to Tulum near to Tulum Ascension Bay to bone fishing, taping and permit, saw this guy in Cancun airport with fishing clothes on. I said, you’re going fishing and he said, yeah, doesn’t look like it? And I said, yeah, where are you going? He said, tarpon town. I said, where’s that? And he said, Campeche. I said, wow, what do you catch there? He said, tarpon, I said anything else? No. And so we went down, we spent a week, we all caught permit, which is rare for 10 of us on a trip and we caught some tarp and a bunch of Bonefish came back up to the airport, it’s the same guy back in there. And I said, how did you do? He said, great. You get a lot? He said, yeah, I got 10 to 20 a day, I said, wow. So I got the name of his guy, we called him so flew down there Cancun and he had somebody pick us up and we went over there and fish for tarpon and God, dang man, this is awesome. I want to live here, man.

Ramsey Russell: Your eyes light up when you start talking about tarpon, I’m going to tell you, showed me some videos the other day.

Charles Smithgalls: Well, I’ve just never seen a fish like a tarpon and I mean, I have to scream every time they jump, I’ve never seen an animal. You know what a hot shot is? You hot shot cattle get them in a shoot or something, every tarpon is like, somebody just squirted him with a hot shot. I mean, I’ve never seen an animal with such spirit, I think they’re part human. I mean, they got a bladder, they have to breathe, they have to come up and get oxygen and they’re prehistoric and they got big old mouth that, you can get the hook in and out easy and they’re hard to eat, you can’t kill them and they’re not good to eat, which is great. And they really don’t have any predators except sharks and in Campeche shark is a delicacy. I mean, they eat it for breakfast and so they eat every shark, they fine. So anyway, started going there. So, when I sold my company to my children and my son took over in 2014, I moved down there for a year and my God, that was an experience. I was the only gringo in town and nobody speaks English.

Ramsey Russell: How do you get by? Talk about getting by. An only gringo moved to which is Pirates of the Caribbean, Mexico. I love it. I love the historic downtown area, but how did you make along like that? I mean, you just show up, you’re gringo, do you speak Spanish?

Charles Smithgalls: My guy, his fellow named Raul Casa Duran and he’s perfect English, he lived in Canada for a year and really wanted to learn English. He was a computer engineer and he brought some of his computer guys down tarpon and he self-taught him to fish, his dad didn’t fish or anybody and he brought some of his coworkers down there said and they went fishing with him and I said, God, you need to quit your job up here and move back to Mexico and start a fishing outfit. I mean, this is unbelievable. So he did and he got two of these commercial fishermen and in Campeche the big shrimp and octopus are the big exports that they’re known for. And so we got these two octopus fishermen and talk to him about learning how to fly fish and they said, oh, that’s for girls, we don’t want to do that. So he convinced them and now you should see these guys, they can catch with either hand, they can throw a fly line, one cast, I mean, they’re just unbelievable, these two guys, he’s got, two main guys. He’s got a bunch but these are one and Fernando, I mean, they’re like my brothers now because I’ve fished with him so many times and all my kids have. So anyway, he also got me into universidad autónoma de campeche in the language school to learn Spanish. So, I go to school every day, I go up 6 o’clock and I go down, he gets me a house, I bought a car and then I get a tutor to come to my house in the afternoon or we’d meet at a coffee bar or whatever, but they would tutor me and I got pretty good because nobody spoke English. So if I wanted to eat – But it’s like anything if you don’t use it. So, one thing is memorable. I had a birthday party in El Faro Del Morro. I had 100 Mexicans and me and it was awesome, I mean, I had pinatas hanging up big ones that you hit with a bat and all the stuff comes out and I had payasas, do you know what that is? That’s clowns. So I had these two female, payasas? So they came and they dressed me up in pirate, everything’s pirate and the baseball teams, the pirate because of the pirates, that’s why they built those two big forts to keep them out. So, they have this skit and so, it’s like if you have a party in Mississippi and you invite 50 people, you’re going to get 35 or going RSVP, they’re coming and 30 will show up, if you invite 50 people to a party in Mexico, 20 tell you they’re coming 100 show up. I mean, they bring every – if it’s free food they bring every. So it started about 1 o’clock and lasted till 6 and I had these paella had three paella that were like 6ft in diameter, I mean, they were just covered with lobster and all this. I mean, and of course the whole party with 100 of them and all they wanted to drink and everything could probably cost me $1500 or something, it was just everything so –

Life Lessons & World Travels

Ramsey Russell: Affordable down there. You can have a lot of friends and entertain a lot of people for that kind of money.

Charles Smithgalls: Also, I’m not very tall and I’ve already shrunk 2 inches, but I was the tallest guy in town. And so they would see me on the street, Carlito and of course I was only gringo and so my wife came down here to visit and we were watching this parade and she’s about 5’8 and she said, God, isn’t this great? We can see, we could see over about 5 people, because we were so tall, they’re little Mayan people, Indian people in there.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, they’re short, the natives are. Charles, have you ever been to Nepal? You told me the story the other night and I died laughing.

Charles Smithgalls: I was afraid you’d get around to that.

Ramsey Russell: I got to ask it.

Charles Smithgalls: I had this friend in Atlanta that I grew up with that went artsy and then went out to the Haight Ashbury and then lived on a ferry boat and all this stuff and went to –

Ramsey Russell: Was he a hippie?

Charles Smithgalls: Yeah, and then went to Nepal and every 5 years he would let me know that he was coming back to the States and I would meet him wherever he was going. And usually it was some other city, it would either be Santa Fe or San Francisco and all that time, I never went over to see him and I just got so embarrassed about it because we were like brothers, this guy and so, Griff wouldn’t go with me, my wife and I couldn’t get any of my friends because I just couldn’t go by myself, so I did and it was an experience.

Ramsey Russell: Well, tell us about it. Can you tell that?

Charles Smithgalls: I thought I’d break the trip up, so I go to San Francisco and stay in this wonderful hotel and eat a grill and then I fly to Tokyo and beautiful airport. Go to the peninsula hotels, have a suite and I go to Bangkok god, brand new sparkling glass airport. Go into town, take the water taxi over to Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Treat me like a king, then I get back on the plane and go to Kathmandu. I pulled in there and it was awful. I mean, garbage stunk everything, I mean, it was just so different than these three places I’ve been before that, it was almost shocking. So my buddy pulls up on an old Harley and he’s got a German Nazi helmet on and he says, get on, I said, well, I got my bag and he said, well, get on with your bag. So we get on his motorcycle and the streets were wall to wall these carts with ox and people and he was trying to steer this motorcycle with me on there with a suitcase, lucky I had a kind of a duffel bag type, I had it between us. But so we made it to his house and he dropped my bag off and said and you’re going to sleep over here. Well, one other thing I had researched, I didn’t know what I was getting into, so I got me a room, made a reservation at the Hyatt Hotel that I found was like a block from his house. So we get to his house and I meet his Nepalese wife, I’d actually already met her because she’d been to the States. But says you’re going to sleep on – the mat was about like this that I was going to sleep on the floor. So he said, well, let’s go rent you a motorcycle because you’re going to have some way to get around. So he takes me and rents me this big thing, it’s so big, I hadn’t riding a motorcycle since I was 16, I was like, 70 years old and that thing would just jump out from under me. Anyway, I was scared to death but I finally told him, I was going to go over and clean up at the hotel. So I got my bag and I was scared to ride with my bag on the Kawasaki or whatever it was. So I took it over to the hotel park and I walked over to his house and got my bag. I said, look, I’m going to go work out and clean up then I’ll come back over here. And then if I don’t come back, then I’m going to spend the night here, so I didn’t come back. So next morning I came over, so I got my bike cranked up the next morning I went over there and there he was out in the garden and his wife was bringing him – the wives are very subservient and was bringing him unleavened bread and unpasteurized yogurt and all this stuff is all this health food, I guess. And then, so I sat there and had breakfast with him in the garden and then she brings this hash pipe out there and God darn we start smoking that hash and I mean, I didn’t know and then we go get on the damn motorcycles, I mean, I knew I was going to die. The way I got out of there without embarrassing, I told him that, I only had that hotel for 4 nights, so that’s kind of – and I had a round trip ticket.

Lucky to Be Alive

Yeah. So, I’m not going back there, I’ll tell you that.

Ramsey Russell: That kind of rescue you coming home early?

Charles Smithgalls: Yeah. So, I’m not going back there, I’ll tell you that.

Ramsey Russell: You’ve lived a full life, Charles. How did you earn to monitor Lucky Chuckie? Some of your close friends call you Lucky Chucky. I mean, I hear your stories and I’m thinking, man, that’s lucky as can be you, you’ve lived a lucky, fortunate life to have experienced so much. But what about the close calls you’ve had besides the bull and Pamplona?

Charles Smithgalls: I had numerous car wrecks and then I crashed an airplane, crashed a hang glider into the power lines, survived the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and survived cancer and been bankrupt and lived through all that, so that’s pretty lucky, I’m still around.

Ramsey Russell: I’ve got a couple more questions, I got to ask you. I’m going to start with this one. Did you plan it? I mean, it’s like here I am, I didn’t plan this, I plan being a forester and a wildlife biologist and working for the federal government, but here I am. But some people, it seems like they say, okay, here I am in high school or college and I’m going to do this and I’m going to take these steps and I’m end up there and they do that. But did you have a plan?

Charles Smithgalls: Well, I’ll have to say my life hadn’t turned out exactly the way I planned it. And I guess at different times I’d have a plan on what I was going to do, but I never. My dad would always ask me, he had to go to work to eat, so he was a radio announcer just to pay his debts and pay his college, I still can’t figure out what I want to do. I mean, I had 5 careers, none of them very good, I didn’t do very good in any of them, I’ve been broke and I’ve been rich and I prefer rich, then broke.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, don’t we all?

Charles Smithgalls: But I never really had a plan for it but whatever I did plan, it hadn’t turned out exactly that way.

What are the Four Rules of Life?

So, that kept you going and I know, going through life, going through business, you had some tough times and that must have been a life lesson just push ahead, keep going, persist.

Ramsey Russell: What are your 4 rules of life?

Charles Smithgalls: Well, like I said, I’ve been broke and I’ve been rich and I prefer rich, but rule number one in life I found out is don’t ever run out of cash. And rule number two is, don’t ever ask for permission as for forgiveness because if you ask enough people for permission to do something, you can get a no, if you ask enough. So just go on and do it. And number three is deny. And one of my good friends, Bob Peterson says, even if her mama pulled you off of her deny, but I’ll never forget. And rule number four is refer back to rule number one because if you run out of cash, you don’t have to worry about any of the rest of it. But the army teaches you a lot of things and I think it really is good training because I think everybody ought to get some of that some of this, because you figure out ways to beat the system. We’re all in our lives, we’re figuring out ways to get around corners and ways to beat the system, I like that deny. I’ll never forget, I wanted to show a movie to my man, my, my company when I was in Dầu Tiếng, so I went around to all these different scrap piles, I’ve forgotten what they called them where they junkyards, army junkyards over in Vietnam. And I found all the pieces to a projector and put it together. But I’ll never forget I was in this place and I fool around with something and this guy came out there and said all you had to do was have a clipboard and a ballpoint pin and you could do anything in the army. You’d say, excuse me, sir, are you going to get in the way of me? I got to move this stuff out of here and you just load it on your truck and go with it and you just act confident and take it. And anyway, so sad thing was I showed that movie and I was right in the middle of it, they lobbed in a rocket and hit right in my – it didn’t kill any of my guys, but had a medevac 3 of them and bunch of them had shrapnel but then, that was a bad ending to it. But I think, we were talking about earlier about persistence –

Ramsey Russell: That’s going to kill you a long way in life, never quit. Did your mentors teach you that, life teach you that?

Charles Smithgalls: I guess. I’ll never forget I wanted to go to Harvard and so I wrote them, they turned me down. So I flew up there, my wife instantly was a flight attendant for like 36 years for Delta, so I had this free pass on airlines everywhere, which really made life wonderful. So I flew up to Boston took a subway over to Harvard, went into the admissions office and said I’d like to see the director of admission, so he called me and fellow named Joe O’Donnell, great friend of mine now. And he said, Charles, I’ve looked at your transcript and you didn’t qualify and also you’re not allowed to visit up here unless you’re invited, so you’re going to have to go. So I left, 6 months later and he can’t do that to me, so I got passed, I went right back up there, took a cab over to the admissions office and told the lady I was here to see Joe O’Donnell, so she took a note into him. So he kept me waiting, I sat in the lobby for an hour, hour and a half and the he didn’t even bring me in his office. He came out and said Smithgalls, I already told you that you don’t qualify for here and you really don’t qualify because we’re renovating the dorms, we’ve cut the class size in half. So, you need to be on your way, so I left. About 6 months later, goddammit, I’m not going to take that, got on a plane, flew back up there, went over to admissions office 8 o’clock. And I told them that is Joe in there? Yes and I said, well, I’m here to see him. And so I read magazines till 12, about 12:15, I knew he was going to have to come out to eat because there wasn’t bathroom in his office. So he came out and he just glowered at me. He didn’t even speak and he’s big old guy, he was captain of the football team and the baseball team and anyway, multimillionaire now and great for him. But anyway, he walks out and so I’m sitting there with my head, I said, well, that’s it. I mean, all these tries, I was trying to figure out where to take the subway or cab back to Logan and he walked back and Smithgalls, come in here, took me in his office, closed door. He said, I tell you what, I like your style, I’m going to make a deal with you. He said, but if you break your side of the deal, the deal is off. He said, I don’t want to hear from you, I don’t want a letter from you, I don’t want a phone call, you better not have let anybody else call on your behalf. I don’t want to hear your name and if I don’t, I’ll call you and tell you when you’re in. Well, I could have run to Atlanta from then, I was so happy, I tried to contain my excitement because I didn’t know whether it’s really true or not, but about 6 months later he called me, told me I was in for that fall.

Ramsey Russell: So, that kept you going and I know, going through life, going through business, you had some tough times and that must have been a life lesson just push ahead, keep going, persist.

Charles Smithgalls: Well, it is. And you know, what’s really great about it, Ramsey when you see it going down another generation, like my son, fast forward 40 years, he wants to go to Harvard school. So he made good grades, went to University of Virginia and worked in finance a while and went to work for me and he decided he wanted to go. So he made a good score on the test and I said, well, let me tell, the test only gets you up to a bat, but there’s 1100 that apply and 200 get an interview and 90 get no – 11,000 apply, 2000 get an interview and 900 get in. So, if you get the interview, the big things get the interview, then you’re up to like 40% or better. So, Chaz applies and I said now that’ll get you up to the plate, but here’s the deal, I’ve got this friend and I think he might help you. And I’d seen Joe over the years too, but so I called Joe to ask him if he’d help Chaz and he didn’t return my call. So I called him again, didn’t return my call. And so I wrote him a letter and said, maybe you don’t remember me, we had only seen him like 2 years, we’ve been placed together. So about two weeks later I get a call from him, he said, Smithgalls, you asshole, damn right, I’ll help your son. He said, if anything like you, he said, hell, I couldn’t call you, I was in Rwanda watching the Apes mate, you know what I’m saying? So anyway, so I said, all right, I’ll tell Chaz, he said, I need his transcript and his test scores and I said, all right, I’ll have Chaz bring him up there to you. Chaz was working in New York, he said, no, I don’t need to see Chaz, you just have him send him up here. So I called Chaz and I said, Chaz, Joe needs your transcript, here’s his address and everything, why don’t you FedEx it up to him and one more thing, here’s one thing you’ve got to do, you’ve got to get in to see Joe O’Donnell and I’m not going to tell you how to do it because I don’t know how to do it. But I said, you got to figure that out. But I said, it’ll make a big difference on whether you get into Harvard Business School or not. That damn Chaz, FedEx is his stuff up to Joe. He goes up to Boston rents a hotel room, he goes to see Joe’s office every day, takes his secretary Janice, takes her candy flowers has her fall in love with him. She gets Joe out of a board meeting to meet with Chaz and then Chaz, of course, Joe was director of admissions, when I was there and he given Harvard $35 million and that gave the baseball program 10 million, the field is O’Donnell Field. So anyway, it was so Joe knew before that acceptance people called us, so he called us and told us we were in a van together and then we were crying and happy and everything. So he went and just did awesome.

Ramsey Russell: Can I ask you one more question before we conclude? Just one more? You wrestle apes, you’ve been to Mexico, you’ve homesteaded BC, airplane crash, hang glider, crash running with the bulls working for TBS, your own broadcasting places, very successful fake ID business, you climb Mount Kilimanjaro, we didn’t even get into, most recently you were an Uber driver, what events led to you working for Uber? How did that turn out?

Charles Smithgalls: I have to thank my wife for that, she deserved a lot of the credit. I got home from someplace, I’m traveling a lot like you are and I just got home and I was around the house for 3 or 4 days and she said you just got to get out of the house. So I had this office where my son was –

Ramsey Russell: My wife calls it a staycation when I travel.

Charles Smithgalls: Staycation yeah. So I go to the office and I’ve got business cards and says Smithgalls family office but doesn’t do anything. So I get in, I’ve even got a little office but there’s nothing to do and I had a girl in there and she wasn’t doing anything and the CFO wouldn’t do anything, he was doing a crossword puzzle and she was filing her nails or something. So, I sat in my office for a minute thought, damn, this is sucks. So I went out to her, the little girl Diane and said, since retired and said, why don’t you? Because as you know I’m electronic neophyte, I can barely operate my cell phone to call and get a voice mail. But I said, why don’t you find out what it would take for me to get to be an Uber driver? So I didn’t think anything about it. I didn’t know if she’d do it, she came back in, I mean, it wasn’t 10 minutes, guess what? I say what? She said you’re hired. No kidding, it was so easy, all I had to do was send your vehicle registration in and your driver’s license and that’s all it took. So, I started off, I had a little – of course, I couldn’t even operate my cell phone to do the Uber the ways, so I had this little Cuban boy that I brought up from Mexico because he had one leg had grown longer than the other one because he broke it. And anyway, he had a leg injury and I brought it, they have a great pediatric orthopedic hospital in Atlanta, so I brought, flew him up there on my plane to visit it to see if they could help him with his leg. So he was there staying with us, so he’s 10 years old, so he gets in and he’s my wingman and he was so short that nobody could see him, so he would sit in the front seat, so he would dial in, wherever we were going and we’d go pick up the fare and then they would get in the back and then we’d take him. So it didn’t last long though, I mean, I guess it was my second fare, I pick up this little girl that Mr. Smithgalls, I can’t believe it’s you and it’s one of my daughter’s friends. So of course she gets in and goes home, I take her home and then she of course, immediately text both my daughters and then an hour later my cell phone ring, what the hell are you doing? Well, you told me to get out of the house, she said my husband, a taxi driver, I just can’t believe it, you stop that immediately.

Ramsey Russell: How long have you been married? Long enough to mind, I guess.

Charles Smithgalls: Well, 52 years in September.

Ramsey Russell: Wow, congratulations.

Charles Smithgalls: A couple of them were happy too.

Ramsey Russell: Charles, thank you very much for sharing your stories and your adventures. Folk, you all been listening to my buddy Charles Smithgalls, never quit and obey the 4 rules of life. Thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time.

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Benelli USA Shotguns. Trust is earned. By the numbers, I’ve bagged 121 waterfowl subspecies bagged on 6 continents, 20 countries, 36 US states and growing. I spend up to 225 days per year chasing ducks, geese and swans worldwide, and I don’t use shotgun for the brand name or the cool factor. Y’all know me way better than that. I’ve shot, Benelli Shotguns for over two decades. I continue shooting Benelli shotguns for their simplicity, utter reliability and superior performance. Whether hunting near home or halfway across the world, that’s the stuff that matters.

HuntProof, the premier mobile waterfowl app, is an absolute game changer. Quickly and easily attribute each hunt or scouting report to include automatic weather and pinpoint mapping; summarize waterfowl harvest by season, goose and duck species; share with friends within your network; type a hunt narrative and add photos. Migrational predictor algorithms estimate bird activity and, based on past hunt data will use weather conditions and hunt history to even suggest which blind will likely be most productive!

Inukshuk Professional Dog Food Our beloved retrievers are high-performing athletes that live to recover downed birds regardless of conditions. That’s why Char Dawg is powered by Inukshuk. With up to 720 kcals/ cup, Inukshuk Professional Dog Food is the highest-energy, highest-quality dog food available. Highly digestible, calorie-dense formulas reduce meal size and waste. Loaded with essential omega fatty acids, Inuk-nuk keeps coats shining, joints moving, noses on point. Produced in New Brunswick, Canada, using only best-of-best ingredients, Inukshuk is sold directly to consumers. I’ll feed nothing but Inukshuk. It’s like rocket fuel. The proof is in Char Dawg’s performance.

Tetra Hearing Delivers premium technology that’s specifically calibrated for the users own hearing and is comfortable, giving hunters a natural hearing experience, while still protecting their hearing. Using patent-pending Specialized Target Optimization™ (STO), the world’s first hearing technology designed optimize hearing for hunters in their specific hunting environments. TETRA gives hunters an edge and gives them their edge back. Can you hear me now?! Dang straight I can. Thanks to Tetra Hearing!

Voormi Wool-based technology is engineered to perform. Wool is nature’s miracle fiber. It’s light, wicks moisture, is inherently warm even when wet. It’s comfortable over a wide temperature gradient, naturally anti-microbial, remaining odor free. But Voormi is not your ordinary wool. It’s new breed of proprietary thermal wool takes it next level–it doesn’t itch, is surface-hardened to bead water from shaking duck dogs, and is available in your favorite earth tones and a couple unique concealment patterns. With wool-based solutions at the yarn level, Voormi eliminates the unwordly glow that’s common during low light while wearing synthetics. The high-e hoodie and base layers are personal favorites that I wear worldwide. Voormi’s growing line of innovative of performance products is authenticity with humility. It’s the practical hunting gear that we real duck hunters deserve.

Mojo Outdoors, most recognized name brand decoy number one maker of motion and spinning wing decoys in the world. More than just the best spinning wing decoys on the market, their ever growing product line includes all kinds of cool stuff. Magnetic Pick Stick, Scoot and Shoot Turkey Decoys much, much more. And don’t forget my personal favorite, yes sir, they also make the one – the only – world-famous Spoonzilla. When I pranked Terry Denman in Mexico with a “smiling mallard” nobody ever dreamed it would become the most talked about decoy of the century. I’ve used Mojo decoys worldwide, everywhere I’ve ever duck hunted from Azerbaijan to Argentina. I absolutely never leave home without one. Mojo Outdoors, forever changing the way you hunt ducks.

BOSS Shotshells copper-plated bismuth-tin alloy is the good ol’ days again. Steel shot’s come a long way in the past 30 years, but we’ll never, ever perform like good old fashioned lead. Say goodbye to all that gimmicky high recoil compensation science hype, and hello to superior performance. Know your pattern, take ethical shots, make clean kills. That is the BOSS Way. The good old days are now.

Tom Beckbe The Tom Beckbe lifestyle is timeless, harkening an American era that hunting gear lasted generations. Classic design and rugged materials withstand the elements. The Tensas Jacket is like the one my grandfather wore. Like the one I still wear. Because high-quality Tom Beckbe gear lasts. Forever. For the hunt.

Flashback Decoy by Duck Creek Decoy Works. It almost pains me to tell y’all about Duck Creek Decoy Work’s new Flashback Decoy because in  the words of Flashback Decoy inventor Tyler Baskfield, duck hunting gear really is “an arms race.” At my Mississippi camp, his flashback decoy has been a top-secret weapon among my personal bag of tricks. It behaves exactly like a feeding mallard, making slick-as-glass water roil to life. And now that my secret’s out I’ll tell y’all something else: I’ve got 3 of them.

Ducks Unlimited takes a continental, landscape approach to wetland conservation. Since 1937, DU has conserved almost 15 million acres of waterfowl habitat across North America. While DU works in all 50 states, the organization focuses its efforts and resources on the habitats most beneficial to waterfowl.

It really is Duck Season Somewhere for 365 days. Ramsey Russell’s Duck Season Somewhere podcast is available anywhere you listen to podcasts. Please subscribe, rate and review Duck Season Somewhere podcast. Share your favorite episodes with friends. Business inquiries or comments contact Ramsey Russell at And be sure to check out our new GetDucks Shop.  Connect with Ramsey Russell as he chases waterfowl hunting experiences worldwide year-round: Insta @ramseyrussellgetducks, YouTube @DuckSeasonSomewherePodcast,  Facebook @GetDucks