Readers may recall that in many of my past columns I have mentioned the old Gilbreath Brothers commercial duck hunting club that was located northwest of Wasco for many years.
Well, out of the blue a few weeks ago I received an e-mail from Gary Gilbreath, the son of one of the brothers, Vern. He said he had seen the articles about the club and had enjoyed reading them.
He then floored me with a question. Would I like to come by his office and look through the boxes and albums he had with hundreds of photos taken at the club over the years. Would I ever! Christmas in July! How fast can I get there?
On arrival, I was taken into a back room and presented with just what he mentioned. He told me that his grandparents had originally settled in that area in 1905 and took up farming.
They did not do well at it, so his grandfather began harvesting jackrabbits and sold them to markets in Southern California.
The farm was located in the middle of the huge wetlands area of central California, and was surrounded by a lot of water and marshes. It was teeming with ducks and geese, so the elder Gilbreath took up market hunting for the waterfowl.
Gary said his grandfather told him was easy to sneak up on thousands of ducks resting in the water, and with two quick shots from a double barrel shotgun knock down or kill up to 150.
Fish & Game laws eventually put an end to this source of income.
Looking through the photos was a real treat for me. I saw a lot of faces that I remembered from the years I hunted there on the pond I leased from the brothers.
I saw quite a few of my long time friend and guide hunting partner, Ron Hurlbert. I first met Ron in 1960 at the club. His father was a television producer from Hollywood and their pond was located just above the clubhouse.
The other member of the pond was an actor named Frank Ferguson. Many of my older readers will recognize him immediately from one of the photos in this column. He was a supporting actor who was in countless film and television shows from 1940 through the 1970's.
I once asked him why he was so popular.
"Ken, I ask the same thing to a director once and he told me that I had an "everyman's face," he replied. "I just seem to fit the bill for any type of character. I have been in films where I didn't have more than one or two scenes and maybe no more than two or three lines of dialog. But it keeps me busy and I really enjoy the work."
Frank was an active skeet shooter like myself, and we shot a few rounds together often in the San Fernando Valley.
Before writing this column I went on-line and looked up Frank's film history. Between the years I mentioned earlier, he appeared in over 300 roles in movies and television.
These included attorney, judge, reporter, detective, preacher, sheriff, warden, bartender, professor, and on and on. He also had roles as a fixed character in a few TV series.
Gary let me take a few pictures that I felt personal about, including some with Ron.
I called Ron when I got home and told him where I had just been, and he said that the younger of the three brothers, Bob, told him that the family homesteaded 140 acres in that exact spot because everywhere around them was nothing but marshes and water, and it was the only place dry enough to try farming.
He also said that when his father was sneaking the ducks he would stay hidden as he walked along side a trained bull that would get close to the flocks before he fired. And, he was using a rare #2 gauge shotgun.
From the late 1940's or early 1950's when the club was started, until the early 1990's when it closed, the Gilbreath Brothers was a real mecca for the unattached duck hunter. Water costs and a lack of birds finally ended its run.
I have a lot of great memories of the years I hunted there with close friends. I can still picture the hundreds of Pintails swirling into pond #19 like a mini tornado, and hear their never ever ending whistling and whooshing of wings overhead.