The following is written by my cousin, Brandon Parker. Most of us had a “Frank” growing up, and this is a story that many of us can relate to. Here’s to all of the “Franks” that we’ve had, and to us being a “Frank” for the next generation.
When I met a Cajun man named Mr. Develle, a whole new world opened up to me that would dictate how I would live the rest of my life. Although this man was technically old enough to be my grandfather, he became one the best friends I’ve ever had.
It’s very difficult for me to type this story. It’s been over a month since Frank Chapman Develle left this world to go to a better place. But for many reasons, I’ll never get over his passing. I will live on and continue to do the best I can with the rest of my life. But people that hold such a special place in your heart will always be difficult to think about without stirring up some very strong, very sincere emotions.
Frank was one of a kind…and that’s putting it mildly. He was a salesman and my father’s company was one of his accounts. I’m not sure when my dad met Frank, but it was in the early to mid ‘80s when I was introduced to him. His accent and personality instantly got my attention. And I can’t thank God or my father enough for getting to meet the man who would have such a profound impact on my life.
My parents both love sports. It goes without saying that they are the reason I loved playing baseball and basketball and why watching sports is still one of my favorite things to do with free time. But neither of them grew up being obsessed with outdoor activities that didn’t involve teammates and scoreboards. My father did hunt a little as a child, but it was not an obsession to him. My mother had siblings that did some hunting and fishing, but she did not grow up chasing wildlife with a gun or bow in her hand, or wetting lines in rivers, lakes or nearby farm ponds. Frank did, and he introduced this magnificent, adrenaline inducing world to me.
At first he was just Mr. Develle, another friend of my father’s that I was introduced to as a young child. It wasn’t long before he became “Frank.” I’d imagine most people do not realize when they are meeting someone that will ultimately change their life forever. I certainly did not. And now that he’s gone I will forever regret that I never sat down with him and told him just how much I loved him. To be clear, Frank knew that he had a special place in my heart. I told him more than once. But I don’t feel like he knew just how much of an impact he had on my life. For that matter, I KNOW that he wasn’t aware of how much of an impact he would indirectly have on countless friends and family members that I introduced to the outdoor world, including my wife and two children.
To say that Frank was a hunter, or outdoor enthusiast, would be a terrible understatement. He was larger than life. He was a real life superhero to me. Frank was not a large man, but he was strong as a bull and scared of nothing. He once got bitten by a cottonmouth at his deer camp on the MS River during a summer work weekend. While I, along with everyone else that was present at the time, was freaking out and worried about his well-being, Frank was more concerned with getting a shower before going to the hospital. He wouldn’t even leave until he found his nice boots instead of just wearing the dirty work boots he’d had on all day. It’s important to note that this camp is inside the river levee and WAY off the beaten path. My older brother frantically drove him to the nearest hospital.
While visiting his father in New Orleans one time, they came home from church and interrupted an attempted robbery of his father’s home. One of the criminals pointed a gun in his face, assuming this would keep he and his accomplice in control. Wrong. Frank took the gun from him, and if memory serves me right, hit him with a right cross. The criminals hightailed it out of there and my guess is Frank’s heart rate did not increase one BPM.
Neither of those stories are embellished one bit. He was a rare breed. The best part about him is that his heart was bigger than any of the amazing things he did in his lifetime. He was a fantastic husband to his wife, Linda. He was a magnificent father to his three sons, Greg, Dereck and Matt. He was the perfect grandfather to his 8 grandchildren, Andrew, Justin, Christopher, Ty, Colton, Lauren, Jessica and Summer.
He was also a wonderful mentor and friend to my brother and I. When my brother was old enough to start hunting, Frank selflessly took him anytime he had the opportunity. I could not wait to get to participate in these outdoor adventures. He taught me how to operate a firearm when I was 6-7 years old. He taught me how to squeeze, not jerk the trigger when firing a gun. He did this by putting me on the shooting bench with what I thought was a loaded weapon. Fearing the recoil, I naturally jerked the trigger. The catch: the gun was not loaded and it made it very clear what jerking the trigger felt like. Frank did not allow you to let fear keep you from doing something that is nothing short of joyous and entertaining to experience. I had to wait until I was 9 to start hunting. Frank loaned me his .357 lever action rifle to use my first year in the deer woods. I was a squeamish kid, and the sight of blood did not settle well with me. Well, as is tradition amongst many hunters, you get blood smeared on your face when you kill your first deer. I constantly told him that I could not handle getting blood on my face. I informed him that I would vomit, and maybe faint. His response was the same ever single time: “you’ll have all the space around you that you need to throw up on, and if you faint, I’ll catch you before you hit the ground.” And he meant it.
Regretfully, I was not with him when I killed my first deer. He could not hunt that weekend, so another man sacrificed his own hunting time on the morning of December 19, 1987 so he could take me out. I reluctantly use the word “regret” when telling this story because I will forever be grateful to Mr. Whitehead for taking me that morning. It was “doe day”, but folks were still not completely sold on the fact that it was ok to shoot does in the late ‘80s. I killed a spike that morning. Mr. Whitehead knew how scared I was to get blood on my face, so he took it easy on me with just a few streaks on my cheeks and forehead. This did not settle well with Frank. I was so relieved when I got to tell him that I had gotten that tradition out of the way with someone who took it easy on me. He promptly informed me that it did not matter. When I killed my first deer with him, I was getting bloodied again. I honestly did not think he was serious. He was. It took me until the ’89-’90 season to finally kill my second deer. With two seasons in the rearview, I had zero expectations of Frank fulfilling his promise to bloody me the way it “should” have been done. I shot a doe on NewYear’s Eve and was caught completely off guard when I suddenly had my head and face completely covered in blood. While cleaning the fat, MS River, slick headed whitetail, he tricked me with the old “look, I see your bullet in here.” When I went to look, I got coated. But I did manage to keep from throwing up or fainting.
To this day, I still teach people to shoot with the empty chamber trick. I still fool people with the “I see your bullet” when cleaning their first deer. I still teach newcomers to walk heel-to-toe while trying to silently slip through the woods. I still teach people that are new to hunting how to read sign left behind by the animals we pursue. I still tell new or young hunters that if it gets your adrenaline pumping, then shoot it. Don’t worry about how big it is or what it will score. I hear Frank’s voice and see his face every single time I go in the woods or out on the water. I love him. I always have and always will.
The true reason for writing this is not simply to tell anyone how great of a man Frank Develle was. I could fill a dictionary sized book with stories about him. I’m writing it to remind people that Father Time is undefeated. If there is a Frank in your life, and I hope everyone has their version of him, don’t put off telling them how much they mean to you. Because the day will arrive when you won’t have that opportunity anymore. And if you have a passion for something, and we all should, then pass it along to as many people that you can. It may have a major impact on the rest of their life. Frank did that for me. And now that I’ve introduced many people to the endless joy that hunting and fishing provides, I realize that he was getting just as much enjoyment as the people he was teaching.