NORM THOMAS MEMORIES PAGE
Norm Thomas With Drag
Notice the CED 99 on the bumper, Chinon Engineer Depot Truck number 99
Eyler, Dykes & Thomas
Working in sand pit
Loading dump truck
Unloaded dozer ,scheduling meeting
Norm is sharing his experiences with us, We thank him much.
Henri Buard was the french foreman of lift truck operators and shop mechanics working out of the Labor & Equipment motor pool. Over the course of the summer and into fall of 1956, we often discussed hunting. At home, I would rather hunt than eat.(That was then)
The first week of November, I was invited to go hunting with Henri and his hunting companion on Saturday. They had permission to take me to Duke Edwin Luyen's hunting preserve.
M/sgt Leader of the 687th Water Supply Co.was renting an apartment in the Buard home and became my transportation too and from St Etainne de Chigny, across the Loire River, a few clicks west of Langeais, where Monsieur Henri Buard was the Mayor!
With Saturday off, I went home with the M/sgt on Friday night and met Henri, his wife Gilberta and daughter Claude. After a leisure supper, Henri brought out a cow's horn on a leather carrying strap, and proceeded to blow a few tunes to denote what shells to load in the double barreled 12 ga. he had for me to use. I was given a belt of shells ranging from #7 1/2 for pheasant, #6 for ducks, #4 for rabbits and double "O" buck for deer and wild boar.
Arrangements had been made for me to sleep in a bed room a block away. It had an outside entrance. At 6:30 AM, Henri's companion knocked on the door and we went to breakfast which Gilberta had prepared, then into the Citroen Deux Chevaux van and off to the hunt!
We drove a few miles up out of the Loire river valley, and came to a locked gate. Henri had a key which let us into an area of some small out buildings and a large fenced area where 1500 pheasants were raised. Duke Edwin had 5000 acres of farming & hunting land. We drove back into the woods where sections have been numbered and paths mowed around them. There were 3 or 4 game wardens living in homes in different areas of the preserve. Their job was to watch, keep track of game as well as make sure there was no poaching! We turned a dog loose in a section and waited around the edge, on the paths, for it to drive the game to us.
By noon, we had 15 pheasants and four rabbits. A blue heron flew over and everyone was shooting at it, they are disliked because they catch minnows which are prized food. We went to the house for lunch and returned to hunt around 3:00. Near dusk, I heard Henri blow for a change to double "O" buck shot. Then shortly there was a shot and some yelling. He had shot a 150 lb. wild boar and thought there was another; but, we didn't find it. We were deep in the woods, so we cut a pole, tied the hogs front feet together and the same with the rear, then put the pole between its legs, and two of us shouldered the pole and walked to the nearest game warden's house.
There was no electricity or phone in this part of the woods, pretty primitive living. The man of the family brought out a bottle and passed it around then left in his car. Shortly, two cars came back up the road, he had gone to town for the butcher. Madam went to the attic and came down with an arm load of cloth that had been washed many times. We carried the hog in and put it on the kitchen table. Madam held a kerosene lamp while the butcher slaughtered and divided the hog with each family present. With each swipe of the knife, he wiped with a cloth; thus, there was no mess or blood. My share went to Henri. There was much merriment and the passing of wine bottles; but, I didn't understand much of what was said! I know the hunt was repeated many times! It was a great thing.
A few days later, Henri asked if I had any plans for Thanksgiving. They don't have such a holiday; but, were aware of ours because they didn't work that day. So I contacted M/sgt Leader and arranged to go home with him on Wed. evening and back to the depot on Friday morning.
I had no idea what I was getting into! We hunted in the morning until about 12:30 then went to Henri's home. We cleaned up and were preparing for lunch when the door bell rang. There was the police commissioner, the fire chief, postmaster and a couple other village dignitaries Henri had invited to have Thanksgiving with us. Boy, what a meal! Gilberta had prepared a wonderful spread that covered 7 courses plus 4 different cheeses and the appropriate wine with each course. (nice pork roast from the boar a couple weeks ago plus pheasant and rabbit) We sat down to eat at 1:00 and finished at 4:15 PM with a brandy sniffer of Seagrams 7. Never have I enjoyed such a meal as that! I didn't know what to expect next! Plus, things were beginning to blur a little!!!!!!
Claude was a year or so younger than my sister. I started them writing to each other. My sister has been to the Buards a several times. My sister took advanced nurses training in England, met and married a chap and still lives in Surrey England. Claude became a doctor is married with 2 children, living in Marseille.
In August of 1984, my wife Nadzia (Naja) our youngest daughter Tarri and I took two weeks and visited the continent. We flew to England, rented a car and ferried across the channel at Dieppe, France. Spent a couple days sight seeing in Paris, Went to the top of the Eiffel tower, etc. Then started south. Drove up to the Buards at 3:30 PM on Sunday and rang the brass bell on the gate. (they didn't know we were coming) Gilberta came to the door and motioned me up the walk. I was about 1/2 way there when she whirled around and disappeared. Henri came out on the porch gave me a long look then said "Noman-Noman"! Hugs & kisses for everyone! I told Gilberta that my wife and daughter were in the car and she went running down the path to get them. It was a wonderful meeting. We visited a short time, Henri was waiting for Duke Edwin to go duck hunting down along the Loire river at 6:00. He begged us to come back tomorrow. Since we had no time table, I agreed to return by 10:00 the next day.
We spent the night in a B&B near Tours. The next morning, drove around town so Naj and Tarri could see where I spent some of my off time. We found a flower shop along the rue National and picked up a large bouquet of long stemmed flowers. They were probably 3 1/2 to 4 feet tall. Naj thought "what in the world would she put these flowers in?" When Gilberta saw them, She was spell bound. It had been a long time since anyone had brought her flowers. She disappeared again and soon came down from up stairs with a beautiful pink crystal vase about 3 feet tall. They fit perfectly!
Henri wanted to show us the area where we had hunted, he claimed that they had numerous deer for this fall. We drove the rental car through the fields and woods,that was some trip. Then we came to the Luyen's castle. Henri and the Duke shot 61 ducks the night before and the Duke suggested that he bring us by, sometime, so he could meet us. The castle had a moat and large draw bridge. The moat has been drained and planted with flowers. Other than that nothing had been changed. We went into the game room where there were many stuffed animals in natural settings. Squirrel, fox lynx, pheasants, boar and deer heads and an Elk rack over the fireplace mantle that had to be over 7 feet wide. His grandfather shot it in Montana in 1866. The Duchey was there with his children from Paris and the Duke apologized for the toys around on the floor.(just like home!) By this time, it was close to noon and Gilberta had big things planned for lunch.
We had a wonderful meal with all the trimmings! I don't know if the girls really liked the wines; but, it sure was a great friendship that developed while I was stationed at Chinon Engineer Depot, 28 years ago.
Henri and Gilberta were murdered during a robbery in the '90s!