For a brief moment in the pines, diabetes didn't exist
By Kyle Johnson (Lance's father)
My son, Lance Johnson, was 9 years old on the opening morning of Alabama's 2012 Youth Turkey Hunt, three years after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This is the story of his first turkey.
Despite difficulties of living with diabetes, Lance is passionate about turkey hunting, and this was his second season in the turkey woods.
Last year, unfortunately, if anything could have gone wrong, it did: poachers, stray cows, hard-headed gobblers. Lance even missed a turkey at 10 yards. We continued hunting hard only to end the season without rolling a single turkey head.
Our rough off-season included a Life Flight to Children's Hospital in July because of complications from Lance's diabetes, but when opening morning of the Youth Hunt arrived, Lance was up at 4 a.m. and eager to get going.
That morning, we met up with a very good friend of mine, Neil Hicks from Roanoke, Alabama. After a quick breakfast, the three of us headed to the field, trying to locate an ol' strutta for Lance.
After checking several locations without hearing so much as a yelp, we relocated to a clearing in the pines.
Neil went to work with his calls, and after about an hour we heard a faint gobble in the distance. I heard Neil whisper, "It's on!"
After what seemed an eternity of listening to distant gobbles, Neil slowly got up, walked over a ridge and began calling again.
The tom was beginning to fear his hens were leaving and had started making its way up the old roadbed, coming straight toward us.
Lance was locked and loaded with his 20-gauge shotgun. I believe I was more nervous than he was when I spotted the bird approaching. Maybe that was because I could see it, but Lance couldn't just yet.
The longbeard stopped behind a tree at 20 yards and gobbled so loudly I felt it in my chest. Then, it fanned out into full strut.
When I realized this bird was about to strut into Lance's shooting lane, my heart began pounding out of my chest.
With images of the miss from last year going through my mind, I leaned in and whispered, "Bust him!"
When the shot rang out and that old gobbler went down, it made all our heartache and disappointment disappear for a little while. For a moment in those Alabama pines, diabetes did not exist.