Carrying on the Tradition
Like many other callmakers, David began learning from a master call maker. Many of the old callmakers taught the trade to a younger person so that the art of making calls would never die. Such is the case of many present day call makers.
David’s quest of learning to make duck calls began in Leland, Mississippi. One trip to see Gordon Hartley, owner of “Southland Duck Calls” was all it to took to set David on fire. Mr. Hartley had cancer at the time, but spent an afternoon talking with David about the art of call making. Although he didn’t reveal much, he advised David to get some tools and some wood and start making calls. So, David began!
Turning a call was no problem for David, but the sound was a different story! After numerous attempts, he finally managed to get a sound from his crudely crafted calls.
It wasn’t until years later that David met the legendary call maker Alvin Taylor of Clarendon, Arkansas. Over the next eighteen years the two of them became very close friends. Mr. Taylor shared his years of experience with David. Under the tutelage of Mr. Taylor, David learned what it took to produce a duck call that any hunter would be proud to hang on his/her lanyard.
Getting the required information (about call making) from Mr. Taylor was not easy for David. To begin, David simply asked him if he had ever shown anyone the art of call making. Mr. Taylor was anything but cordial to David after this, yet David still went by Mr. Taylor’s shop to visit every time he was in Arkansas. After several years Mr. Taylor told David “you asked me a question some years back and the answer is yes, but I’ll tell you when.” David knew exactly what Mr. Taylor was talking about. After seven years, Mr. Taylor decided that David was someone he could trust.
At this point, Mr. Taylor began to show David little things about what made a duck call work. He would show David things about tuning a call that didn’t have just the right sound. Mr. Taylor would tell David over and over the most important things in making a good call.
In 1996, Mr. Taylor told David to come up and spend some time with him after duck season went out. In June of that year, David went to Mr. Taylor’s house and the two spent a couple of days in the shop. Several duck calls were made during this visit and Mr. Taylor was satisfied that David could make calls. However, he was not satisfied with many of the things that David did while making a call. David did not do it Mr. Taylor’s way! Anyone that knew Mr. Taylor knows, his way was the only way! Mr. Taylor could be a bit contrary and cantankerous at times. He spoke what was on his mind and didn’t hold back very often.
After this visit, David would make calls and take them to Mr. Taylor for inspection. However, the calls never seemed to meet Mr. Taylor’s approval.
The secrets of call making are not something that is readily shared. Mr. Taylor’s willingness to share his expertise with David speaks volumes about how much he trusted him. David made a promise to never make a duck call as long as Mr. Taylor was making and selling them. David stood by his word until Mr. Taylor finally told David that it was time for him to start making his own calls.
Mr. Taylor called David in September of 1998, and told him that he had cancer. The next two years were tough ones for him. Nothing the doctors tried seemed to work. Over the next two years Mr. Taylor and David had many phone conversations. David’s visits became more frequent than during duck season alone, and through this time their friendship deepened!
Although David and Mr. Taylor were great friends, David always held a deep respect for him. Although he preferred for David to call him by his first name (Alvin), David always called him Mr. Taylor. He would fuss at David about this mannerism, but David was taught to respect his elders. So, he was always Mr. Taylor to David.
During a visit to Clarendon in August 2000 David and Mr. Taylor made their last trip to the little shop behind Mr. Taylor’s house. They made one more duck call which proved to be the last call the two ever made together. After their visit to the shop, David helped Mr. Taylor back into the house and into his bed. Mr. Taylor looked up to David and said, “you don’t need me any more”. David replied “ I will always need you my friend”. They bid each other a good bye and an “I love you friend”. This was the last time that David saw Mr. Taylor alive.
On September 29th, 2000, Mr. Taylor passed away. David Gaston was one of the pallbearers at Mr. Taylor’s funeral. As requested by the family, several of Mr. Taylor’s friends (with Taylor Made Calls in hand) gave one final hail call for him at the conclusion of the service.
Although David would miss Mr. Taylor, he knew he would see him again one day! During their friendship, David shared Christ with Mr. Taylor. The highlight of their friendship came when Mr. Taylor called David to tell him he had given his life to Christ. Although it was later in life, Mr. Taylor (though contrary and cantankerous at times) accepted Christ as his personal Savior!
During the fall of 2000, Gaston Custom Calls became a reality! We have been "carrying on the tradition" of keeping Mr. Taylor's spirit and memory alive ever since.