Providing For the Generations...
The Six “Toms,” from left, Ed Moore, Lee Williams, Jack Walker, Buzz Korst, Terry Lee and Jerry McDaniel
(of Toms, Jakes and quite a few Hens)
“Friends are relatives you make for yourself”
There are six benches around the fire pit and six chairs around the outdoor kitchen table. Six rocking chairs are on the cabin porch and six coffee mugs, plus six glasses – each one with a turkey on it – are on the shelf.
Welcome to Six Toms Farm.
At times, the story behind this 295-acre tract in Grady County, Georgia sounds like the stuff of legends. And like all good tales of lore, it has something to teach us – about friendship, loyalty and commitment.
It all started when a group of men, who were in the early part of their careers and had young families, starting pooling their funds for investments. It was 1963 and they all committed $15 a month to be used to buy stocks and other assets, including – in the later years – a multi-family housing project.
Twenty years into the practice, they made perhaps the best investment of all. It never once paid a dividend, but all felt its value was beyond price. It was a recreational and hunting tract about 30 minutes from Tallahassee, Florida. They named it Six Toms Farm, emphasizing the game they found most abundant.
Proximity of roots
The unusual friendship that Ed Moore, Buzz Korst, Lee Williams, Jerry McDaniel, Terry Lee and Jack Walker shared started when they were just kids. All of them were either born in Leon County or arrived in Tallahassee before grade school. Most attended Sealy Elementary, which planted the kernel for their lifelong friendship. They were in sports together – cub and little league baseball – and attended seventh grade at Elizabeth Cobb, as members of its inaugural class. They all moved on to Leon High the following year, when the school still had an eighth grade.
All graduated together in 1958 and went their separate ways for college, but it was only for a short time. The six of them finished their degrees at Florida State University.
They all married in the 1960s and their wives and children became friends. The couples became godparents for each other’s children, and they vacationed and traveled together. They were each other’s clients and customers as well as confidants and supporters.
Much of those relationships were nourished at Six Toms Farm.
Growing from the land
“Our memories and those of our families at Six Toms are priceless,” said Ed Moore, one of the “Toms.” Just as worthwhile were the lessons they learned, and the friendship, respect and loyalty that grew out of making the property what it is today.
When they made the first of several acquisitions for what became Six Toms, the property was more open and it had no improvements. Though all of the men had white-collar jobs, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work after hours. Among their projects: clearing the land, building a cabin and installing a pond.
“We did all the work ourselves,” Moore said. Except for the roof of the cabin. They constructed a cook shed two months after closing on the property, then broke ground on a cabin and constructed three deer stands over the next six months. Planting of pines, clearing of food plots, fencing and other improvements followed.
Every Wednesday afternoon, and many weekends, the friends, family members and associates of these six men knew where to find them: at the farm. The first few years were full of workdays, but they also managed to fit in hunting, fishing and lots of fellowship.
Moore, who retired as an attorney with the Pennington law firm, said, “In the 32 years of owning the property together, we never had any disagreements, any friction. We just enjoyed it.”
The Farm was so accessible to their homes and offices in Tallahassee, they could drive only 30 minutes and work or play all afternoon and be back early that night. Or, they could overnight in the cabin and drive straight to work the next day.
The men saw their year in seasons. When September rolled around, they all gathered to do clean up and get everything squared away for hunting season. “We’d plant the patches, oats – whatever we were doing,” Moore said. “We’d get the blinds in good shape.
“September through January, there was something going on almost all the time.”
As much as Six Toms Farm has meant to this rare group of friends, they made a decision in 2015 to list the property for sale with Southern Land Realty.
“We agreed that when we turned 73 or one of us dies, we’d sell,” Moore said. Two years ago, they all turned 73 and the following year, they lost their first Tom, Jack Walker. The rest of them knew it was time to sell.
Making it work
“We’ve killed a lot of deer up there and a lot of turkeys,” Moore said. “When you drive up and come through the hay field, sometimes you’ll see a humongous flock of turkeys, 30-40-50 at a time.” They planted chufas in front of the cabin and sometimes see dozens of turkeys in that field.
“Most of our children killed their first deer up there. A lot of them probably got their first turkey at Six Toms, too.”
Wander around the property, and you’ll find history and meaning as well as functionality. Much of the wood on the cookhouse-turned-kitchen was transplanted from a cook shed the men constructed on hunting land they leased in Wakulla County. Under the covered eating area at Six Toms, there’s a long counter for frying oysters, fish and chicken. Or, just as often, whatever game they shot that day.
Compatibility has always been key. “We all kind of developed our own little expertise in cooking,” Moore said. “Buzz did most of the grilling. I did most of the frying. Jack loved to do the complicated things, like blueberry cobbler. Terry liked to fry chicken.”
The cabin is hunting camp style with four double decker bunks. They added two cots in later years, so none of the Toms would have to sleep on a top bunk.
Like any good partnership, the men had a few agreed upon rules. “Most of the time it was the six of us,” Moore said. “We didn’t like anyone to go up by themselves – it should be at least two. And it’s a better mix if you have three.”
Early on, they realized they needed to know who was on the property and where, for safety reasons. Especially when someone was coming up just for the day and not camping.
“We had a sign in book, so the first thing you did was come into the kitchen and write your name, the date and time as well as which blind you were going to. That way, if you know somebody is already in mid south, you wouldn’t go wandering through the woods and risk getting your head shot off.”
They named all the blinds. One was called rattlesnake. There was mid south, river, twin patches (because of the two food plots) and cross creek. They also created a map of the property to mark the blinds, for people who were not familiar with the tract. They had a number on a tree that was covered in plastic to mark the ladder stands.
At the end of their hunt, some would return to the kitchen and leave a note about what they saw and what they shot. One entry has a listing:
Shot & killed: T. Lee – spike in #3 (Cross Creek stand)
Wallis W. – 6 pt. in #1
Missed: J. Walker – saw doe, missed good break
Viewed: J. McD – 1 deer in #5 (River stand)
Remarks: How could it be better!! However – no water, no lights, stuck on way home – 2:00 a.m. arrive and then work.
Memories are forever
Besides the original owners and their family members, many of their friends have enjoyed the bounty of Six Toms as well. William Lamb, his wife Margaret, and their two children were lucky to find themselves invited for the annual Thanksgiving feast at the Farm.
The setting that William described sounded storybook in a way – family tradition at its finest: “You probably have about 40 of us, kind of extended family. The night before, we would cook in the cookhouse, drink and build a fire. We’d sleep in the camp house. The next morning, we’d start frying turkeys. The ladies would come out about 9:30 or so and set the tables. Then everyone else came out for lunch.”
The day was filled with the outdoors. They would haul their off-road vehicles to Six Toms and let the kids drive in the woods and down by the river. “We just let them do their thing.”
Lamb might sit on the dock, fishing with some of their group. But among his favorite memories are the times they sat around the fire pit and listened to Six Tom stories.
“They’d talk about the time they got stuck, the time they got in trouble. They were hysterical. There’s so much history out there between that group of guys. To me, that’s the most endearing part of the whole piece. What those guys got out of the (nearly 300) acres to embellish their lives and create those memories.”
The Thanksgiving luncheons are something right out of Southern Living, he said. “It’s what you would want everybody to still do. It’s just all family, all tight, and all outside.
“It’s kind of what’s lost.”