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story.lead_photo.caption Rich Shively made 55 Super Yelper turkey calls with teak decking from the battleship USS North Carolina . - Photo by Bryan Hendricks

Her nickname was "Showboat," but her christened name was USS North Carolina, the most decorated American battleship of World War II.

She and her sister ship, U.S.S. Washington, were the last of the "standard" design battleships that originated with the USS Oklahoma and USS Nevada. The North Carolina-class ships were succeeded by the four South Dakota-class battleships, followed by the four Iowa-class battleships, which included the USS Missouri, on whose decks the Japanese government signed the articles of unconditional surrender in 1945.

The USS North Carolina and the USS Missouri live on as floating memorials and museums in Wilmington, N.C., and in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, respectively, but they continue to sail in America's turkey woods in the form of specially made turkey calls.

Richard Shively of Martinsburg, W.V., formerly of North Carolina, makes an unique call known as the Super Yelper. It is a favorite of Les Campbell of Little Rock, a close friend and accomplished turkey hunter who recently retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

"I've had a Super Yelper for 36 years," Campbell said. "It will bring a gobbler in when nothing else will."

Shively recently obtained teak planks from the Showboat's original deck. Having never worked with teak before, he cautiously experimented by making a small piece into a Super Yelper. Although teak is hard and naturally oily, the sound was superbly rich and resonant. He made a one-time, limited edition run of 55 Super Yelpers to honor the North Carolina's hull number, 55. Shively christened them "The Battleship." The calls cost what they cost, but Shively said that No. 55 brought a much higher price than the others.

Commissioned in April 1941, the USS North Carolina earned 15 battle stars, serving mostly as an anti-aircraft escort for fast aircraft carrier task forces in the South Pacific.

In Aug. 24-25, 1942, North Carolina screened the carrier USS Enterprise in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, during which she fought off swarms of Imperial Japanese Navy dive bombers. North Carolina shot down or assisted in shooting down 14 dive bombers in just eight minutes. Her anti-aircraft batteries produced so much smoke that officers from the Enterprise signaled the North Carolina to ask if she were afire.

During enemy air attacks, American ships fired so many 40mm and 20mm rounds into the air that the barrages became known as "lead curtains." What goes up must come down, and many falling projectiles struck friendly ships, including the North Carolina.

"The hardest part of making these calls was working around the shrapnel," Shively said.

I first learned about the Battleship calls from Mike Marsh of Wilmington, N.C., an old friend and colleague who wrote an article for the Wilmington Star-News on Feb. 23 headlined, "A turkey call built like a battleship." Marsh got call No. 7 and posted photos on Facebook.

I have been obsessed with battleships since age 5, when my family toured the battleship USS Alabama in Mobile Bay. My brother Frank built a scale model of the North Carolina when we were kids, and I visited her in the mid-1990s. I once took a special trip to the naval base at Norfolk, Va., to see the USS Iowa, and I saw her sister ship, the USS New Jersey at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 2005.

I had to have one of those calls.

I reached Shively by cellphone as he sat at the edge of a North Carolina woodlot trying to call up a gobbler. He said he had six Battleships left, but he didn't know how many orders were ahead of me.

Then he asked whether I knew Les Campbell. They are dear friends, even though they've never met in person. Campbell said he's given away dozens of Super Yelpers to friends and family.

"Send me a check, and I'll make sure you get one," Shively said.

Battleship No. 11 arrived in the mail two weeks later. One side features a laser engraving of the USS North Carolina. Laser engraved on the flip side is a short tribute to the ship and her crew. Shively autographed that side and etched the number 11.

The call produces a high tone with a mellow pitch that makes hair-raising purrs, yelps and clucks. Modulating the volume is easy. You can make it whisper or you can make it roar. There is a bit of a learning curve to use the Super Yelper, but it will replace a Pope's Poc'et Yelper, another friction call of an entirely different design, but based on the same principle.

Grant Westmoreland, a Shelter Insurance agent in Sheridan, is an avid turkey hunter and a fellow American history buff who minored in history in college. I knew the battleship would interest him, but he has a couple of cool items of his own.

After turkey hunting on the Big Island of Hawaii, Westmoreland and his wife Erica had a long layover in Honolulu, so they visited Pearl Harbor and toured the USS Missouri.

"In the gift shop they were selling pieces of the Missouri's teak decking that had been removed during renovation, and I bought a couple of pieces," Westmoreland said. "I bought some other wood, a native wood called koa acacia."

Back in Sheridan, Westmoreland asked Don and Sarah Clark, who make custom turkey calls, to fashion a pair of box calls from the mementos.

"He made one using the teak as a base and inlays, and I actually use that call," Westmoreland said. "The other one is a long box call. Sarah engraved the picture of the Missouri on the lid.

"I will not take that call to the field because of the meaning it has for me. With the time Don and Sarah took to build that call, it's truly one of a kind. I would hate for something to happen to it."

Stapled to the Missouri's teak plank is a commemorative card that contains a sentence that that reads, "Imagine the giants who walked her decks on and before 02 Sept. 1945 when the surrender of the Japanese took place."

One of those giants was the late Jack Jernigan, who was aboard the Missouri as a U.S. Army staff officer during the surrender ceremony.

He was my uncle, and one of the most fanatical hunters I ever knew. I'll strike a few notes from the USS North Carolina in his honor for Memorial Day.

Photo by Bryan Hendricks
Don and Sarah Clark of Sheridan made two calls for Grant Westmoreland with teak decking from the battleship USS Missouri , koa acacia from Hawaii, wormy chestnut from Ohio and other woods.
Photo by Bryan Hendricks
Don and Sarah Clark of Sheridan made two calls for Grant Westmoreland with teak decking from the battleship USS Missouri , koa acacia from Hawaii, wormy chestnut from Ohio and other woods.

Sports on 05/20/2018

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