BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Sunday, March 06, 2011
3/06/11 at 5:49 AM
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SOME PEOPLE just talk a lot, but others have story after story after story.
"My job now is story teller," said 84-year-old John Mott. Be warned, he always has been a good worker.
As a kid he peddled blackberries and freshly caught perch; at age 15 he started working eight-hour shifts in the mines of his hometown, Picher. "I went to school and then worked 3 to 11 at the mine," he said. "I tell people I got a Ph.D. from the Picher School of Mines. ... I learned to be a carpenter, machinist, a welder, a pipe-fitter, an electrician - I learned to do everything - to work on diesel engines and repair big tires for the trucks."
Born and raised in Picher, the archer, angler and conservationist is a tough one to roll into a single tidy description.
A teenaged mine worker who later helped the Environmental Protection Agency collect data on the lands where he lived only to see his hometown deemed unfit to inhabit, is one story of his life. He lives in Commerce now. But this is an outdoors column and the outdoors flows into nearly every line of Mott's dialogue even when he talks about the EPA and helping now with the Local Environmental Action Demanded (LEAD) Agency.
For instance, they couldn't stop him from casting lines in Grand Lake as he collected water quality samples. He caught bass, crappie and set new standards for data collection all from the same boat, or so the story goes.
He has hunted and fished from the time he can remember. And he has been a leader. After his 13-year-old brother was killed in an accident with a handgun while camping with a group of boys in 1946, Mott started Picher's first Boy Scout Explorer Troop in 1947. He remembers it as "the most horrible time of my life." Yet a year later, he had 18 boys in the Scout group and organized what he believes were some of Oklahoma's first gun safety lessons for youngsters. "I took them camping and hunting," he said.
He regularly talks into a cassette recorder to document his life and says he plans to write a book, "Growing Up In Picher." He hit "play" on the recorder and his voice began telling a fishing story. "This one is about fishing and camping with my grandfather when I was 10," he said of the story with remarkable detail.
"I have a gift that I can remember things like that," he said. "With a picture or dates, I get started and it all starts to come back to me like it was yesterday."
Mott is known best in outdoors circles as "Deer John." After high school and the mines he worked 30 years at BF Goodrich in Miami, was a firefighter and EMT and then retired to open an archery shop in Picher called Deer John's Archery Supply. It was open from 1965 until the buy-out in 2007.
He shot competitively in the '70s and should have tried out for the U.S. Olympic team after qualifying, but he decided to go elk hunting in Colorado instead.
"Jack (Wilson) had that one made for me," he said of the Black Widow bow that hangs on his wall, given to him by one of the founding brothers of that renowned archery company.
Also in the '70s, he helped found the Oklahoma Bowhunters Council, bringing his northeast Oklahoma archers into the statewide coalition. Early battles with the state's Wildlife Commission focused on things like allowing bow hunters to hunt without wearing orange and expanding seasons wherever they could.
A portion of his cluttered living room is what he calls his "emergency room" because it has all that is needed to repair a fishing rod or a bowstring.
On the walls are 30 assorted white-tailed and mule deer and antelope trophies. He's killed 206 deer since he connected on his first in the Kiamichi Mountains in 1952. Only a few counties in southeast Oklahoma had a deer season then. He has killed 64 deer with bow and arrow, 40 with a muzzleloader.
In a box of photos, he found a crumpled old black-and-white photograph that shows his first deer killed with a bow, a 140-pound, 10-point buck killed in 1959 near Eucha Lake. It was one of only nine killed with a bow in Oklahoma that year, he said.
Matters of age flow into his conversation the way hunters talk about everyday obstacles in the woods. "I can walk; I just can't feel my legs," he said.
He keeps a positive view as he speaks of marriage to his high school sweetheart, Shirley. He asked her for her hand at the junior-senior prom. She was a junior and they married when she was still in school. "It'll be 66 years come July," he said. "She bow-hunted with me for 25 years."
They've fought medical issues the past five years "but that's just another part of it all," he said. "The thing is we both always realized just how good we've had it. It's a great adventure."
Wife: Shirley, married 65 years
Jobs: Picher Mines, BF Goodrich, firefighter, EMT, EPA project assistant, archery shop owner
Key roles: Founding member of the Oklahoma Bowhunters Council
Things to do: Writing a book "Growing Up In Picher." Thinks compiling the experiences from 60 years in tree stands would make a good book, too.
Quote: "I've never understood people who say they are bored. There are way too many things that need to be done."
Odd story: As a kid during the Great Depression he boosted the family income by picking blackberries and catching fish to sell to locals. He noticed the fish would gather and wait for things to fall out of the trees, so he thought to hang chicken wire slings below bridges. "I put anything dead I could find in there," he said. "The maggots would fall in the water and those fish would gather there and wait. You could catch one on every cast."
John Mott, 84, ties a bow string in his "emergency room" at his Commerce home Wednesday afternoon. Mott is a founder of the Oklahoma Bowhunters Council and former owner of Deer John's Archery Supply in the now deserted town of Picher. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World
A weathered 1959 snapshot at John Mott's home shows him holding his first bow-and-arrow killed white-tailed deer. The buck was one of only nine bow-and-arrow killed deer that year. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World