View Full Version : Morristown Mafia, part four

Don Kirk
12-29-2011, 12:17 PM
Dusty also introduced me to H. Lea Lawrence and, later to David Dickey, who I was only around a couple of times. Lawrence was constantly flamboyant to the end while, as best I could tell, David Dickey was pretty much the antithesis. David launched his career as a talented photographer and contributor to sporting journals but, like I did later in my career, he chose to ghostwrite and do similar, lower profile scribe work, which produces a more reliable income than even the most successful freelance writers can ever hope to achieve. The last time I saw him was at Dusty’s funeral, where he sat with Lawrence, who delighted in taunting the Baptist preacher delivering the eulogy. They were mischievous, 70-year-old boys.
Lawrence’s writing career, like his mentor’s, began with loads of “where to, how to” articles, and for many years they were his forte. Late in his career he undertook what he referred to as serious writing, authoring A Hemingway Odyssey: Special Places in His Life and Prowling Papa's Waters: A Hemingway Odyssey, with the latter book featuring a foreword by his friend, baseball great Ted C. Williams. A talented wordsmith and an even more gifted conversationalist, who seemed to know everyone in the world, Lawrence was often defined by his mood swings. When in a friendly mood, he was unsurpassed company. When in one of his negative moods, he was a real shrew.
Lawrence did me many wonderful favors. At the 1982 SHOT Show in Atlanta, he escorted me around the packed convention center, introducing me to his contacts with Ruger, Browning, Remington, Winchester, Leopold, and Weatherby. Lawrence knew them all and, when introducing me, would say, “He’s solid. Give him whatever he needs.” These were good people to know. Within a year I had so many guns in my office (an enclosed, one-car garage) that the following year Lawrence made a point of introducing me to all of the makers of home safes. Insofar as I was pretty much amoral in those days, I acted like a starving kid in a candy shop, taking whatever I was offered. Trust me; it’s not that way these days—no, no, no.
I am sure many of your have his excellent fly fishing guide to the park, The Fly Fisherman’s Guide To The Great Smoky Mountain National Park (Cumberland House, 1998). He died a couple of years ago, and with him went the perhaps best part of that gang.
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12-29-2011, 01:26 PM
Being a Rogersville native I am not sure I get the connection in these stories to the Morristown Mafia. Are you saying that the Morristown Mafia (which was pretty much just a running joke in our town) was a real organization composed of various oudoor writers like Lea Lawrence?

Don Kirk
12-29-2011, 02:31 PM
It's been forever and a day since I passed through Bulls Gaps to Rogersville, although years ago I frequented the town when deer hunting in Hawkins County. As I recall in the 1970s it was "the" place to hunt these animals. I haven't kept up with Morristown much in recent years, although in a couple weeks while I am Wilderness Week in Pigeon Forge, I will spend some time there seeing folks.
The mafia term was in pun. These guys not only had outdoor writing in the state pretty much wrapped up in those days, but were scribe kingpins in the South. My use of "mafia" was the exercise of literary license rather than to imply Lawrence the Godfather. However, having known him quite well, he would have been flattered as such an implication.

12-30-2011, 01:13 AM
Being a Bulls Gap native who frequented Rogersville, I must say I never found it necessary... or practical to go by way of Morristown. Through Persia and Chalk Level :smile:, yes, but not Morristown. We now live just east of the once prosperous "Furniture City (http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2011/mar/30/furniture-maker-berkline-closing-morristown/)" and love it here.

Don, do you by chance have a Facebook page, blog, etc.?