An Archibald Rutledge Call
It’s Journey from the Mercersburg Academy to the Present
by Ralph Permar
My grandmother’s cousin, Raymond Cornell of Newtown PA, enjoyed collecting puzzles, railroad lanterns and license plates. He knew many people and they were always giving him unique items. One day in the early 1980’s I was visiting Cousin Raymond and he said,” I know you like to hunt turkeys, look at this turkey call somebody just gave me. The man who gave it to me said he had acquired it from a fellow who taught at the Mercersburg Academy and that the call was made of willow.” I told him that on my next visit I would bring some chalk and we would run it, which we did, but I was not impressed with the sound.
Cousin Raymond told me that upon his death I was to receive a shot snake, powder horn and black powder percussion shotgun. Sometime after his death on September 29, 1992, I found out these items were not willed to me and but I would have to petition his estate for them, which I did, also adding in the turkey call. Four months later, I was given all the items.
In October 1995, I received the November/December issue of Turkey Call Magazine. It contained an article by Jim Casada about Archibald Rutledge, and included a photo of Rutledge holding a call that looked exactly like mine. The Rutledge call I own is not signed. However, it is in pristine condition with a beautiful patina due to a coating of varnish or shellac most certainly applied at the time it was made. The coating also has kept the upholstery tacks, lining both sides of the call, in their original condition. All other calls I’ve seen contain tacks that have rusted.
A year later an article appeared in the same magazine titled, Making a Jordan yelper, by Tom Turpin, introduction by Jim Casada. This article on the Jordan yelper was the real catalyst that started my call making, and led to meeting and a long-term friendship with Earl and Janene Mickel.
For some reason, which I think has its roots in the belief that by divesting oneself of their worldly possessions they will become closer to God, I decided that the call should be in a collection. Since Earl was the only collector I knew at the time, in the spring of 1996 my wife and I made the trip to Beach Lake, where I sat at the feet of the great guru of turkey call collecting and offered up my sacrifice of the Rutledge call. The first hint that I was doing something to my disadvantage was when I saw the excitement in Earl’s eyes. It was the same look that I had seen before when I had offered a $3000 Merkel shotgun to a fellow for $1000. (I had originally paid $500 for the gun) The gift being given, and Earl being one not to receive something for nothing, sent us on our way with some calls from his collection. I spent the next ten years kicking myself. Harder, when Earl would remind me the call was worth four figures.
In the Spring of 2006, Earl’s cancer had gotten to the point where he was concerned about the future of his call collection. I knew this weighed on his mind, because he had mentioned a possible sale of his collection a few years earlier when I was out hunting with him and we were having one of those discussions that friends do when waiting for something to happen in the turkey woods. At the end of June 2006, I went to help Earl and Janene box up his collection for shipment to Bill Jones III. We had made it through the letter “L” when I had to leave after being there five days. When Earl said” It’s time to settle up and pay you for your time here.” I pointedly told him, “I came not as a employee but as a friend.” Then mentioned, “However, I would truly appreciate the return of the Rutledge call I gave you ten years ago.” Earl’s reply was “That’s fine with me, go get it.” I ended the visit with Janene taking photos of Earl and me with the call, and Earl writing a letter, transferring the call back to me.
The call has since gone on and is now residing with all its many pieces of provenance in the collection of another caring individual.
The call is pictured in Earl Mickel’s book, Turkey Call makers Past and Present: The Rest of the Best, Plate 24, Call # 28.