Chum and his wife Bunty made frequent trips to Morristown to visit family and old friends as well as fly fishing in the GSMNP. When in town, Chum hung out with Dusty Houk, a retired outdoor writer for the then defunct Morristown Gazette Mail newspaper. Although lesser known, Dusty was another incredibly valuable mentor, and the one who allowed me in the club. Dusty introduced me to the Dickeys, Jim Carmichael, and to Lawrence. Whenever any of the expatriates of Morristown arrived back in town, Dusty’s place was the headquarters where smoking cigars, drinking whisky, and playing hearts was everyone’s expected behavior. In fact, it was over a game of hearts and under a haze of Swisher Sweet-produced smoke that Chum schooled me in the ways becoming a fabulously successful outdoor writer.
“If you want to be known nationally, and not just as a regional writer, you’ve got to make trips to places like Alaska, Central America, and such,” Chum explained on more than a couple of occasions. Each time Chum gave me sage advice, Dusty would ask me if I understood what Chum was saying to me. Oddly enough, at the time I did not notice that the partners at hearts took the pot every time I was being schooled. I was not smart enough to read between the lines regarding the payment of tuition.
Actually Charley was more of a listener than a talker, seeming at times to me to feel a little uncomfortable talking about his successful writing career. The rare times that Bunty was allowed into the Houk Compound, she talked to me more about her husband’s writing habits, which according to her were pretty much a mystery to all. “He goes unto his office at 8:00 am carrying a cup of coffee, and then locks the door behind him,” she said. “No one is allowed to disturb him until noon, when he re-emerges, locking the door behind him so no one can enter his office.” I found it odd that he would not allow a telephone into the space where he wrote, something I rely on to distract me from writing as often as possible. It should be noted that Chum’s at home office had a refrigerator, bed and television.