In this edition of The End Of The Line podcast, Rocky Leflore joined by Ramsey Russell for part two the “Life’s Short, Get Wisdom” podcast episode. Today, We talk about the most important thing in life we have as humans. Then, Ramsey finishes the story of John Lomonaco. It is one you don’t want to miss.
The Most Rewarding Parts of Hunting & Get Ducks
I said it a million times and I’ll say it again, one of the most rewarding parts of this whole GetDucks experience for me has been the people.
Rocky Leflore: Welcome to The End of The Line podcast, I’m Rocky Leflore in the Duck South studios. What’s happening today? Ramsey, hope you don’t mind I had it on Thursday with Rob, instead of Monday with Rob this morning.
Ramsey Russell: Man, any day is good with Rob.
Rocky Leflore: Especially when the conversation is mainly about yoga pants and hearing Rob’s opinion on that.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I hope Rob didn’t get a pair. That’s why he’s been losing weight, so he’ll fit in yoga pants.
Rocky Leflore: Holy man, he’s lost like 60 or 70lbs. It’s unreal.
Ramsey Russell: Maybe it’s just them yoga pants making him look thin.
Rocky Leflore: I will have to give Rob something though, in the podcast this morning, Rob talked about putting together what’s called The Duck South Olympics, which I think is an awesome idea. July, August, when nobody’s busy anymore, things are slowing down right there before dove season. He talked about it for a bit. He wanted to have the water waiter run and the 40-yard dash. Everybody talks about how fast they are. The decoy throwing contest. Extreme arguing and not a debate, it’s extreme arguing. It’s on emotional topics like Ford versus Chevy, Benelli versus Beretta, stuff like that. I think it’s a great idea.
Ramsey Russell: I think it’ll be a great idea for a get-together. The entertainment value alone would be momentous. I would probably not participate but I would dang sure be there dispensing those cold beverages and watching it. The entertainment value would be a mint.
Rocky Leflore: That’s right. That’s probably what I would do with all the guys, the godfathers of the podcast, bring them in as judges, let them judge all the contests. Like you, and Gutsy, and Pat Pitt, and Justin Martin, and Troy. Some of the guys in the past who has been on, we’ve gotten these stories with, bring you guys in and make you all the judges.
Ramsey Russell: I think it’ll be a great idea, it would be fun. That’s for darn sure.
Stories about Hunting, Life, and Family
So I just remind people all the time, life’s short, share some time with people. Don’t waste it away.
Rocky Leflore: Aren’t you leaving sometime in the next week or two? Are you headed to South Africa?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I’m home for about 13 or 14 more days. It’s funny you should bring that up because I’ve been home a good long stretch this time. I’ve been home since mid-March or so. Got back from Azerbaijan. People remember those talks back then when me and Jake were over there. I came on home and got a lot of work done man, I mean, did I get some stuff done! Just got some stuff caught up, relaxed and feeling at home. But the other day my bride said, “Are you feeling okay?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just my normal cheerful, wonderful self.” She said, “No, something.” I thought I was my normal cheerful, wonderful self, she says, “Are you ready to leave again?” I didn’t think about it until she said it and when she said it, I’m like, yeah, I guess I’m ready to be back on the road again. I’ve been home nearly two months. In a couple of weeks, the family and I are going to Africa for a few days. Going to do a little sightseeing, a little fun tour over there. Anita and I went a couple of years ago for my 50th birthday and we always wanted to take the kids. I thought we were going to get all 3 of them but Duncan is in the US Marine Corps. As we leave for Africa, he’s going to be leaving for Okinawa, so he’s not going to be able to make this trip. But he and I got something else planned when his schedule allows. Then when they come home, I’m going to meet some clients and Jake Latendresse and Ryan Bassham, and we’re going to do a run and gun in the Republic of South Africa. Several stops to shoot game birds, and ducks and geese, and after about 6 days of that, we’re going to pop over to Zululand and hunt birds for a few more days and come on back home. I’ll be home for about a week to regroup before the whole Argentina thing starts. So, I’m kind of back on the road in a couple of weeks. I got everything I needed to get done, done and that’s the most important thing. Everything I really needed to get done, needed to be at home and at the office for it, I got it done. Rocky, last week we were talking about, this whole Get Ducks thing and we started off talking about John Lomonaco which is just real easy. We started talking about the influence of people. I said it a million times and I’ll say it again, one of the most rewarding parts of this whole GetDucks experience for me has been the people. The people that come into your lives, the people that affect your lives. You all know, I love to shoot ducks. Anybody’s that’s ever been in a blind with me knows I love to shoot ducks. The older I get, the less just the physical act of killing a feathered creature with a brain of size of pea comes. Yes, it’s fun, but the chase and the elements, the challenges, the environments, the species, the habitats, and the cultures and all that stuff, but the people. It’s always just such a profound thing. John Lomonaco is a very good example of that. Before I continue telling you all about John – it never ceases to amaze me. There you are, minding your own business, and there’s a knock at the door. You open it, BAM, life slaps you in the face and reminds you that your life’s short. The times you enjoy, and the things you enjoy, the people you love and care for. It’s easy to live life and just think of yourself in this foreverness and it’s just not the case. Last night Duncan was supposed to be home at a certain time and I said, “Let’s go out and watch a movie.” We went and watched a movie and when we got out, we get a notification that said the flight’s been delayed. Finally, he comes off the flight in Jackson, Mississippi about 1:30 in the morning. We got home at 2:30 and we all went to bed about 3:00. He’s home, for a brief period of time we get to see him but unlike a kid going to college or moving out, he’s going to Okinawa, Japan. I guarantee you I’m going to get to see Okinawa before it’s over with because my wife already said we’re going to see him over there. But we don’t know when he’s coming back home. He doesn’t know when he’s coming back home, which is crazy to see your son – one your favorite hunting partners – and see a couple of duffle bags that are on the back seat of a Volkswagen, and that’s his life. It’s all just confined right there. He’s doing service for his country, he knows where he’s going but he doesn’t know from there where he’s going, what he’s going to do, when he’s going to come back. That’s a very humble position. So I just remind people all the time, life’s short, share some time with people. Don’t waste it away. You guys with 3-year-olds and 8-year-olds wish them to be a little older and wish them to be a little more capable, wish for them to be in the duck blind. Man, don’t wish the days away. They’re going to pass before you know it anyway. Take every moment you get. I was also reminded this week – I’ll tell you this and I’m going to get on to this story about John. Years ago we started hunting in the Netherlands. The first two clients I had go to Netherlands – Rocky, you know Mr. John – Big John, I call him to differentiate from Mr. John Lomonaco. He and one of his buddies, Chris, who have become very close friends, they’ve manned a booth at local shows, they’ve been on many hunts with me now, but they’re the kind of clients who we love to actually shoot together. (Although, Big John will tell you a different story sometimes.)
Rocky Leflore: One of my dad’s best friends.
Duck Hunting in the Netherlands
Then I look up on one of the legs and it’s got another band. A triple banded Egyptian goose!
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, what a small world that makes it. What an old school gentleman and successful person in many ways in life. Big duck hunter and just a heck of a guy to share a blind with. But I didn’t know this when they were the first two clients to go to Netherlands. We just had a wonderful time, I’ll tell you one of those funny stories. I took an immediate liking to John. I guarantee, if he was telling the story, he’d tell you a totally different version of this story. We were hunting and there’s this feeling of a lot of traffic of grey lags, a lot of geese, and this was the day that they staked some live mallard decoys out in the field. I had Cooper, so I had to walk around in the dark thinking, “Oh my gosh, I mean what is she going to do when she barks at a bird and goes out and one of these mallards flinch or something?” It’s like, well what you are going to do, grab them up? So, I walk around the dark with her on leash, let her look and sniff these birds, thinking, will she know the difference? Who knows? We’ll find out. So, we started hunting and for whatever reason, the guides put Big John in a blind. It was a four-by-four-by-four blind where he could sit and look one way as the birds were trafficking. For whatever reason, they put Chris and I in some layout blinds about 10-15 yards away. Knee-high fire weed or stinging nettle – which was a great concealment as long as you didn’t touch anything. Long story short, we were just sitting there getting ready and John would shoot. Finally, Chris and I were about to count the 10th or 15th goose hit the ground. I said, “Let’s go, there’s room in that blind for all three of us, Chris.” Chris is a big old boy too. We squeezed into this blind, we were like sardines in this little blind. So, the geese are coming up, John’s like, “Where they at?” I’m like, “You’ll know, we’ll tell you when it’s time to stand up and turn around.” What he realized is, when we flinched, he’d better be standing up and turning around to get a shot off. Of course, Chris and I were loving it – John was just giving us the devil look. Don’t think he was handicapped because he wasn’t handicapped one bit. Those two men can shoot and we racked up a very impressive number of geese. To tell you a little bit about Cooper, those live Mallards didn’t faze her. They had stakes, hammered into the ground and a pair of mallards tethered to each stake, and she would run around them. She would make the mark and it didn’t even register on her screen to fetch one of those polling mallards. But the ducks didn’t know that. So, John crunched a grey lag and it fell out there behind us about 50 yards. I sent her, there was a pair of mallards right on the line and she was going full steam, was just going to hurdle over those pair of mallards. Well, they didn’t know. Last we saw them, they were a mile away, they were disappearing in the distance, tethered, pulling the stake. They didn’t know the plan. She brought the goose back. Later, our host says, where are my mallards? We pointed down the canal. Last time we saw them, they were way down under. Sure, enough we drove over and found them. They had landed and were sitting there, just doing whatever ducks do, sitting in a canal. He went out there and got them and put them back in the cage and they were happy as could be. I’ll tell you another Big John story in Netherlands. We became close friends real quick over little things like this, and boy, he would rub some salt on your wounds. We had a great four days, just unbelievable. Great four days shooting ducks and geese over in Netherlands. On the last day we went out to a little barnacle spot. The birds were coming off a big reservoir, a farmer called and said he had barnacles, and told us to come get them off his field. So, we went and set up and it was real clear, as soon as the birds started coming off, barnacles like real big water, they like to roost on real big open waters. So, we were sitting about a quarter mile, half mile away from the big reservoir, and the birds were coming off but it became very obvious immediately that they weren’t coming to this field. What we found out is about a mile away, another farmer had disked under some sugar beets. All the geese in that part of world were hitting those beets. So, a game plan – we weren’t going to shoot nothing. We’ve been here about 2-3 hours thinking what else are we going to do. We were standing in a dry ditch and I looked down, and here comes a pair of geese, a pair of Egyptian geese. They’re coming from my side and the three of us are in a line. I go, “Here come three geese.” The whole time they’re flying just 20 yards off the deck, 10 yards away from the ditch. So, they’re just going to pass low and slow, right up there. The way those Egyptian geese are, they know where they’re going, nothing’s going to deviate them. I’m thinking, two geese, three hunters. Two geese, two clients. Do I shoot? Do I not shoot? What do I do? Because if I shoot and I get a goose and one of them don’t, and what if it’s the only two geese we see all day? If I had to do it again…I just go on instinct. Shoot the goose, that’s what I said to myself. That’s what I’ll say to myself now, shoot the goose. Don’t worry about them. Shoot the goose, we play as a team, shoot the goose. I didn’t. I did the right thing. I would have shot that back goose had it been in my zone but it didn’t. They moved in front of John, John shoots the back goose. Chris, uncharacteristically, because we all miss, misses the first goose. It falls in some belt high cover. I go out there with the dog and as she’s bringing it in, here comes some more geese off the reservoir. So, I lay down just in case, and she comes up and lays down beside me. I see a band on that goose, I’m like God, I should’ve shot that goose, I should’ve shot it. But then, I see another band. Both legs are banded and I’m like double banded. Then I look up on one of the legs and it’s got another band. A triple banded Egyptian goose!
Rocky Leflore: Holy crap.
Ramsey Russell: I’m like, this is what I get for doing the right thing. So, I bring it back and said, “You ain’t going to believe it.” John goes, “What?” “It’s banded.” By lunchtime, he had them cut off and found a piece of shoestring where he could wear himself a necklace outside of his shirt. The entire time he said, “Ramsey, have you seen my new necklace?” I mean, he just rubbed it in. We became good friends, good friends.
Rocky Leflore: I think the main point that you’re trying to get to – let me say something, let me add something to this – John is one of the smartest business people I’ve ever met. He’s one of the wisest, there’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom, one of the wisest people I’ve ever met. In his younger days, he was one of the best athletes in the state of Mississippi.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right, yeah.
Lessons on Success, Friendships, and the Meaning of Life
Certain people say and do things that profoundly affect your life.
Rocky Leflore: Been very successful and he’s sitting in the hospital bed fighting for his life right now.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right.
Rocky Leflore: When mama called me the other day to tell me this, man, my heart just sunk. I mean, it was like hearing about a family member when she was telling me. He’s been a part of our family for a long time. Him and my dad, best friends, and he was always there throughout the whole process when my dad had cancer and died. Always for my mom and me and my brother, and life is short.
Ramsey Russell: Life’s short, that’s it Rocky.
Rocky Leflore: When you see a giant like that in life go down, man, it really makes you realize how short life really is.
Ramsey Russell: It’s been troubling me this week. How it all relates to our ongoing story about one of your upcoming guests, Mr. John Lomonaco is, people come into your lives. No matter what you do, people come into your lives and if you’re listening, they say things. Certain people say and do things that profoundly affect your life. John was supposed to go with Chris down to one of our Argentina hunts. He backed out because he had a shoulder surgery. Cancelled the shoulder surgery because something else had come up, he didn’t say what, until he told us he’s in a bad place. We’ve been saying a lot of prayers for him. I don’t know him or the family well enough to go up there, and then if I were in his situation, I wouldn’t want no visitors either, but I pray for him. From what I understand, the doctors are saying that he’s with us right now hanging in there and fighting because he was that athlete. He was that offensive lineman of Mississippi State University, he was that fighter. God’s got him in this game right now. That’s not medical science, they don’t team. This is hard and he’s still in this thing. I don’t know how you all qualify success, there’s a lot of different metrics for success. One time, they invited me to come to their big crawfish boil they used to have. I showed up just with my uniform on, my shorts, my crocs, socks and T-shirt, and my son came. You all may be surprised to know I really am kind of an introvert. I really and truly don’t like crowds but I deal with it. John gave me a tour of camp, and of course, John is wearing his nine-duck hunt uniform too: shorts, T-shirt, and crocs. Just a big old man, and a big old heart, and a great guy. We went downstairs and there was the who’s who of movers and shakers and bakers in the state of Mississippi. Especially in the Jackson metro area, just name somebody and they were there. Name a politician and they were there. All having a good time and all eating crawfish and I just made a comment, “John, you run around with some tall cotton, fella.” This is the moment, this is something John said to me. This wasn’t too terribly long ago, but I’ll never forget him saying it to me. He turned around and he said, “Ramsey, are you kidding me?” I say, “Sir?” He said, “You see all them folks out there? They all work hard and they work, and they can steal away for two weeks if they’re lucky. They’ll call you to come do for a week or two what you do your whole life.” He said, “Now you tell me who the richest man in this room is.” I forgot that.
Rocky Leflore: Sounds just like you.
The Story of Getting into Dallas Safari Club & John Lomonaco
You know what, sometimes guys, you got to humble yourself and ask for help. I did and this is a very life changing moment in my life and in my history.
Ramsey Russell: I pray for him this week. I really pray for him to find a good place. People come in your life – we ended last week talking about Mr. Greg Kitchens in Hinds County. A very successful hunter, a very successful businessman that I came to know at the Jackson show. It helped that we had some mutual friends – as he was leaning on my bar high as a tailgate of a truck, he said very quietly, “You need to find a way to get into Dallas Safari Club.” I realized, “Hey, that’s a path I need to follow, that’s a piece of advice I need to take up on.” I had not yet left the federal government. I hadn’t built Get Ducks, I was still part-timing it, doing the very best I could, working 100 hours a week if that’s what it took but I wasn’t where I am now. He’s also very instrumental to the story because Mr. Kitchens suggested that I make the move. He said, “From what I know about you, from what I’ve heard through our mutual friends and from what I’ve seen talking to you, you’re ready. You’ve got something that you should put in front of that market.” Well, it’s easier said than done. I don’t know what it was then, but I know right now, Dallas Safari Club had a waiting list of 600 exhibitors. A waiting list of 600 and it’s not an easy show to get into. If you’re selling South African plain game, nope, you ain’t getting in. New Zealand game, nope, you ain’t getting in. You got to stand out. Got to be something that doesn’t already exist there. That’s the way all those big shows like that are. There must be 40 or 50 New Zealand big game outfitters, 75 or 80 South Africa plains, they don’t need any more of that. But just because I wasn’t that doesn’t mean I could just get in. I put together my application, and I sent it. I couldn’t get in. The following year I put together my application, donated some more hunts, couldn’t get in it. I was actually sitting in a government rig coming back from an appointment, on government time, when I had this idea. Sometimes it ain’t what you know, it’s who you know. So, I met that really nice guy down in Argentina, very accomplished hunter, John Lomonaco, very nice guy. I don’t know him well enough to ask a favor but I should. So, I tour around that idea all afternoon. I don’t know this guy well enough, might ask a favor anyway. I called him up. Boy, you want to talk about wisdom. Very successful business guy and I’m not going to tell his story, but as he told it to me, how he achieved success, where he achieved success, my interpretation was that he did so by being a very good listener. I told him, “We met, we talked.” I said, “John, I’m trying to get into Dallas Safari Club.”
Rocky Leflore: Hold on, I’m going to stop you right here. Tell the real short story about how well of a listener he was, real quick.
Ramsey Russell: Well, as I remember him telling me, he had been a football coach out in California and had met two businessmen from Dallas, Texas area, two brothers that ran a massive business.
Rocky Leflore: This is nuts.
Ramsey Russell: I believe they sold that business to Mohawk. I don’t know what his title was, or what he did in that office, but as I recall him telling me one time, his desk butted right up to one of the bosses, one of the brothers. John said, “I just had this ability. He’d be on the phone talking 90 mph and I’d be on the phone talking 90 mph and I could take notes for both of us and process that information.” I’m going to tell you what, that’s a heck of a skill set.
Rocky Leflore: That’s a special person.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a special person, okay. Knowing what I knew about this person at the time, I was very hesitant to reach out to him for help. But a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. You know what, sometimes guys, you got to humble yourself and ask for help. I did, and this is a very life changing moment in my life and in my history. Especially in the history of getducks.com. We were virtually nobody at all. Making the rounds on chat rooms and different ventures and selling a few hunts. I didn’t just call, “Hey could you help me get in?” No, that ain’t the way that conversation went down. I think this was 2008, 2009 maybe, but at the time, the world economy was in economic turmoil because of the mortgage crisis. I mean, stock market was down, everything was upside down in the world, everything. It was as bad as it could be economically in my life time. Like the Great Depression-type bad. Now, remember I’m not selling light bulbs or milk or bread, I’m selling hunts that required exogenous income, disposable income and the economy was in turmoil. John was like, “Well Ramsey, I’ve been going to Dallas Safari Club for a very long time and there are some very well-established persons like yourself already there. They’ve been around for 20 years.” He said the same thing Mr. Kitchens had said. He said, “This is a club, you got to remember this is a club, not everybody knows everybody, but they kind of do. And they go to monthly meetings, they go to dinner, they go to award banquets, they socialize during conventions all throughout the year. I went hunting with this guy, and I went hunting with this guy. They’re a network.” I said, “Yes sir, I understand that, I really do, but I really think I’ve got an angle. I really think I’ve got something going on. I’ve just got a fresh perspective, a fresh vision for how this business should be run.” And he started talking about the economy. I don’t mean just in general. I mean, very thoughtful, like speaking to my granddaddy, very thoughtful and very meaningful conversation, very good advice he was giving me. He said, “If I were your economic advisor, if I were your business accountant, I would say maybe you should be in this show at some point or time in the future but now is not the time to start. Now when the economy is like it is.” I listened, couldn’t disagree, but remember if you will, it was when that economy tanked and everybody was running for cover and avoiding any of that money being spent on these hunts – those competitors weren’t spending money on advertising. They started calling old Ramsey who wasn’t nobody and I started thinking to myself, why is everybody calling me to advertise? The main players aren’t advertised, and what I saw was an opportunity to gamble. Build it, build it now. If the economy comes back, and it will – it’s America – I’ll be there. Build it. I gambled. Now, I’ve really taken it up a step, and I told him. I said, “John, I can’t argue with anything you’re saying, but I’m suited-up coach. Put me in, I’m ready to play.” He said, “I’m going to have dinner with some people Friday night and I’ll do what I can.” He kind of chuckled. I think he gave me ways out, reasonable, intelligent, ways out. I think he heard me say, “I understand that, but here’s my chance and I want to go forward if I can get in.” On Monday morning I got a phone call. It was the Dallas Safari Club saying, “We’ve had a cancellation and we’d like to invite you to join, to come participate, to come exhibit, this year.”
Rocky Leflore: Now, at this moment you hear this Ramsey. At this moment you hear this, do you think that you’re going to be – I don’t want to spoil your story – but in the back of your mind do you think, oh man, I’m going to get probably shafted into the ceiling?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I’m probably going to be in the third stall in the men’s room. I’m probably going to be handing out paper towels or something, but who cares? I’m in the show. Who cares? I’m there baby. Boom, here’s my chance. I’m in.
Rocky Leflore: This is where it gets good, this is it.
Ramsey Russell: I’m in Dallas Safari Club. Now look, I loved my exhibit at the time. My good buddy Milhouse had built me a beautiful little wooden background and we put a little grandma’s carpet down on the floor. It kind of looked like a little studio, this was something we could do and pull up in a U-haul. I’m going to rent me a U-haul, we load that big bar up in our little humble background, we ain’t never been in nothing but just a little concrete floor show like Jackson. Here we are going to Dallas Safari Club. I pull into that lot. I’m going to tell you man, I got a pit in my stomach and my palms started sweating. I started seeing some of those trailers and some of those names, some of those businesses, and some of those exhibitors. We walk into the exhibitor’s hall to find my booth. My God, I broke a sweat, I think. I was a tad intimidated, Rocky. I ain’t going to lie to you, I was more than just a tad intimidated. I almost went home, I was like, oh this ain’t happening, I’m in over my head. I am way in over my head. I’d just pulled some ducks, scoters, and whatever, some ducks and some pictures off my game room wall. South American birds, few of them. I mean, I was way over in my head, I knew it right then and I was in my head, but the show must go on. I mean, somebody made a call, somebody got me in and here’s my chance. I will not fail. I will give it my best. We kept walking, looking for our booth and I mean, we were right downtown, smack in the middle of this thing. I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I’m in prime real estate. I’m like, wow, I’m in a square box baby. I’m right there. I’m not in the stripped-out part of the country out in the suburbs.
Rocky Leflore: That’s exactly what I was thinking.
Building a Reputation in the Hunting World
…all a man has is his legacy and what he can do for people.
Ramsey Russell: I’m in the square. I’m not over there in the stripped-out part of town by Walmart, I’m right in the square. I’m thinking, wow the 10ft booth? I’ll never forget the African outfitter across from me whose video that played nonstop had the most obnoxious soundtrack. Every 35 seconds it would start over and it was horrible. But that was okay, I was here. Two or three booths down, remember that guy I told you I met at Shikar Safaris? The big guy from Turkey that sold all those expensive hunts? Well, his booth was three booths down and guess who worked there? Mr. John Lomonaco. He just sat in and talked to people about his experiences. He was going to be right down there. It was such a prime location. Basically, such a pitiful little setup that we had at the time. I was very proud of and it ran for three or four years, that’s all I could do, very proud of it, but such a little homemade booth. There was an outfitter there I used to represent from Argentina, they were just a little too hoity toity, snotty for our model. I couldn’t stand them, we eventually left them. I can tell you, he came over there and looked at me the second day of the show. Looked around and said – I ain’t going to say what he said, it’s very crude – but he said, “How in the world did you get here? How in the world did you show up your first time at this convention and end up right here?” I just smiled. I said, “I guess it ain’t what you know sometimes, it’s about who you know, I guess.” John came down several times when he wasn’t busy, he’d come down and he would talk duck hunting. Not duck hunts, not commercial hunts, not locations, not destinations, duck hunting. I’d met this man in Cordoba because I know he likes to shoot. I knew he’s a fabulous shot. He and his wife both are fantastic wing shots. I mean in a class all their own. I had no idea just how deep his roots were in duck hunting. Some of the most fabled places in America this man has hunted. He would come down and visit, we would chat when I didn’t have a lot of clients wrapped up. Also who came by several times was Mr. Greg Kitchens from Hinds County, Mississippi. He came by several times and we got to know each other a little bit better. We visited about some different things and he would come by and introduce me to people. He would come by with people and introduce me. I didn’t know it then, I didn’t appreciate it then for what it was. What it was, was both of them men, they didn’t just help me get there, they started introducing me to that Club. To people in that Club, to people within their reach. They just started making introductions and let things evolve organically. That’s very important. I saw somebody on MS Ducks today getting just lambasted for being just a scoundrel, and it’s a small world among hunters, especially when you’re in that kind of environment. I never forget one time, I was set up by my 2nd or 3rd year, and there was somebody that had a very impressive booth across from me, selling black bears from British Columbia. My gosh, it was a very impressive booth and there was absolutely nobody. Nobody coming by their booth, nobody stopped and talked. I mean, the entire show I’m sitting right across the aisle – and we were swamped – I’m not seeing anybody stop by. I asked somebody why don’t you look? They go, “No, they’re all hat, no cattle.” Word got out on them, they don’t run a good operation. Mr. Kitchens later told me, he said, “Ramsey, most important thing I’m ever going to tell you about this market is maintain a reputation. Be the good outfitter because word gets out.” I took him at his word on that. After that first visit – you got to understand – for four days I’m in Dallas Safari Club that first time, and I’m meeting people and I’m talking ducks. I took some checks and it’s just this energy, this vibe, what I had was valuable to that market. It wasn’t a huge market. Some of these guys are buying quarter million, half million-dollar sheep hunt, ram hunts, elephant hunts. I mean, some big stuff, but there was a vibe for what I was selling for ducks and waterfowl experiences. These guys didn’t want to see scoters. I got it, they’re trophy hunters. Trophy experiences. I learned that, and after the show, last day of the show I saw Mr. John Lomonaco out of the booth standing outside. I walked in there to shake his hand and to thank him. There was something he said to me. Man, I scarcely knew. He kind of put his arm on my shoulder and we’re looking down towards my booth. He says, “Ramsey, I’m 80 years old, but my mind is sharp” and his mind is sharp as a cat, still he’s a smart man. “I remember a few months ago trying to discourage you from coming here, I remember our conversation but you did it. I don’t care how many checks you took, I don’t care how much business you wrote at this show, you did it. You’re in here, you did it. I heard your name mentioned at dinners, in conversations, over cocktails, I heard people ask about you. I’ve seen who came by your booth and who engaged. Who stopped and who talked, how long they talked.” He says, “No matter what you think you did at this show, you’ve got to come back next year. You’ve got to keep coming back because you did it. You’re in.” I got a lot to thank him for. I don’t know who he talked to, I don’t know how hard it was to get me in that show. Maybe he just convinced them that we were offering something that nobody else was, I don’t know. But I owe him a lot of gratitude. I also owe Mr. Kitchens a ton of gratitude for his encouragement, and that once I was in that show, for him introducing me to people, helping to pull me into that crowd. There you go Rocky, all a man has – no matter what kind of earthly gold you accumulate in terms of success – all a man has is his legacy and what he can do for people. Anybody listening, you don’t have to be a bazillionaire to do for people. You know, smallest things you say to people are profound, and on the flip side, don’t be scared. Humble yourself and ask for help from the right people. Now Rocky, I’ll tell you this flip side. There’s another “friend” that for years has discouraged me from going to those conventions. He was in the know, he’s been around since he was 19 years old in this business. Every time I would asked him, I saw like a mentorship from him, and every time I’d ask him about going to SCI, going to Dallas Safari clubs, “No, it’s just, no.” No matter the million different reasons it made sense why I should. Let me tell you what, four days after Dallas Safari Club, Rocky I forgot that I had a federal government job. Four days, it was intoxicating. The energy and the vibe, I forgot that I had to go back to work Monday morning in the federal government. Me and Milhouse left Dallas after that first show and snow was piling down on Dallas as we left, they had shut down the whole interstate system. We had to drive about an hour, I mean, all the interstate onramps were closed. There are like 350 miles of overpasses in Dallas, Texas, and that city shuts down with ice and snow. We had to kind of pick our way through the back road because I had to be home, I had a job. I remembered Sunday evening, I got to be home tomorrow for work. He had to be home for his job and so finally somewhere about an hour or hour and a half, Eastern Dallas, we got on that interstate. Oh that was scary. Four-wheel drive, 50 mph, pulling the U-haul trailer. Somewhere over around Freeport we was in a pile of about 10 cars doing 50 mph, just in lockstep. Everybody just perfectly moving like a little ten pack of cars, the same crawling through the snow and the ice. We went over an overpass, a little bridge, and the U-haul trailer caught that little buckle where that bridge joins the pavement. Instead of looking East, all of a sudden me and Milhouse are looking North. I don’t hit my breaks, just gas it, I just take the foot off the gas and grip the wheel and hold my breath. I think Milhouse did the same thing. You couldn’t hear nothing but seat cushion scrunching up and our butt cheeks flinch, hanging on. Unbelievably the guys that had been behind me, they didn’t hit their brakes. They didn’t do nothing, they got in front of us, didn’t do nothing, everything just stayed the same. We were moving over that overpass, a little stretch overpass, when we hit that other side, that litle buckle where the bridge joins the road, the trailer calls it again and bam, we’re looking East. I mean nothing changed. It was like suspended in time, sliding. We’re looking East again. It was like the hand of God had just touched us. I bet you, it was five minutes, not a sound come out of anybody’s mouth until Milhouse said, “Phew, that was close.” We just kept on doing 50 mph until we got to Jackson. That was my first time at Dallas Safari Club. The people in your life Rocky, Milhouse, who helped with my first little booth, that was all for him. The people will always be the most rewarding part of this trip and I hope you get John Lomonaco on this show and I hope people will listen to him.
Rocky Leflore: John Lomonaco, John Taylor, Chris Milhouse. The list can go on and on, that’s all life’s about.
Ramsey Russel: It’s always about them Rocky, the people.
Rocky Leflore: It’s all about the relationships.
Ramsey Russel: And for me duck hunting, it’s just something we do. Pursue these relationships, that’s what duck hunting has become to me. It’s not about this acquisition of stuff, this acquisition of trophies, this acquisition of heavy straps, it’s about the people component. That’s what we all walk away with in life. That’s just how you can touch people’s lives and how they’re going to touch yours, no matter what business or what you’re doing or where you are in your life. It’s all about people.
Rocky Leflore: Yeah. My grandmother said it best, “Success in life is determined by how many people are at your funeral, not by what you accumulate.”
Ramsey Russell: That’s the truth, Rocky. Well, safe drive my man.
Rocky Leflore: Well Ramsey, I enjoyed it. Great conclusion to the Life’s Short, Get Wisdom Part 2.
Ramsey Russell: Yes.
Rocky Leflore: I really enjoyed it, thank you again Bud. We want to thank all of you that listened to this edition of The End of The Line podcast, powered by ducksouth.com
Listen to Life’s Short, Get Wisdom Part 1.