By Bill Cochran
Fifty years ago, the Ruffed Grouse Society dispatched its first newsletter with a message from its editor, Seybert Beverage, one of the three Virginians who founded the organization.
“Your editor feels that as long as the ruffed grouse survives, then America will survive,” Beverage wrote.
That was a prophetic observation. The ruffed grouse population has taken a nosedive in Virginia. Many would argue that America also is on a downward path.
“That was a good line,” Bruce Richardson told me when I was writing a feature on the organization’s 25th anniversary. Richardson really was the only grouse hunter amount the trio of founders. They all lived in Monterey, a scenic village in the center of mountainous Highland County, where forested ridges and old farms offered habitat for the noble grouse.
Richardson was in the real estate and trout growing business. He was born in Clifton Forge and served as assistant manager and sports director of the posh Homestead in Hot Springs. Later he operated the Thomas Jefferson Inn in Charlottesville. Tiring of the hotel business and feeling the lure of the mountains, he moved to Monterey.
Beverage, a lawyer and soon to be district judge, was an unlikely candidate to form an organization around a bird that favors the steepest ridges and thickest thorn-tree swales. He’d never hunted grouse. The victim of polio as a child, he was confined to a wheelchair. That didn’t keep him from being vice president of his law class at the University of Virginia. He was an avid reader and amateur ornithologist.
The third man was Dixie L. Shumate Jr., a knowledgeable fisheries biologist who’s idea of a good time did not include tripping over fox grape vines in pursuit of an illusive game bird. Richardson was convinced that trout and grouse had a lot in common. Both were things of beauty and grace; both required quality habitat; both were capable of affording a sportsman heart-pounding thrills. Shumate would have little problem transcending from trout to grouse, and playing a significant role in the new organization.
The three friends gathered in Beverage’s law office one day and after conducting some business. Richardson started talking about grouse, and the fact that the habitat in Highland and Bath County didn’t hold as many birds as it once did.
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