- Outdoor Table and Tales: Recipes and Food Memories from America’s Top Outdoor Writers (1992)
- The Magnolia Club: Fine Times with Nature’s Finest: An Anthology of Tales from the Campfires (1990)
- The Jakes! (1990)
- The Voice of Jupiter Pluvius (1990)
- Going Home (1987)
- The Flaming Turkey (1986)
- How to Lose Your Farm in Ten Easy Lessons and Cope With It
by Dustin Reese (SHS)
Robert Hitt Neill is a native of Leland, Mississippi. He was born December 22, 1942, to John Hitt Neill and Janice Neill. He was born deaf in his right ear. Although he is a native of Leland, he actually lived between Leland and Indianola. He went to Leland High School where he was an honor roll student and All-State football player. After high school, he went to Ole Miss, where he played a year of football until he was injured. He graduated with a degree in finance and a U. S. Naval ROTC commission. He served as a Navy Officer during the Vietnam Conflict and returned to Leland to farm after his discharge. He is married to former Betty Henrich of Lexington, Mississippi. They have three children: Christie, Adam, and Betsy Claire (called B. C. for short).
Neill wrote as a regular hobby while farming for twenty years, and his writings began being published in late 1985. He has published nine books, one video, and one audio set, has a syndicated weekly newspaper column, free-lances for dozens of magazines, and is a professional storyteller. Most of his work is humorous. He has won thirty nine awards for writing and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, the Ernie Pyle Award, the Ernest Hemingway Award, Conservation Communicator of the Year, Southern Gentlemen of the Year, and Governor’s Artist of the Year.
The author is active in the community, church, and sports affairs. Over the years he has served as President of the Leland Library Board, Rotary Club Secretary and Director, Little League and Dizzy Dean League Baseball Coach for ten years and also has been the President of the School Board, Treasurer of the Arts Council, and youth minister in his church, Deacon, choir member, pulpit speaker, Sunday School teacher, and song leader. Recently, he has been diagnosed with Lyme Disease, which is resulting memory loss disease, but he is still very active.
As a professional storyteller, Neill has made over 700 appearances in twenty-one states. He has also served as President of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and of the Delta Advertising Federation. He is on the Mississippi Kairos Prison Ministry Board and is Moderator of the Washington County Baptist Association. In addition, he was the 1999 Master of Ceremonies for the Green wood Chamber of Commerce First Friday Program. Robert Hitt Neill is also presently Senior Account Executive with WXVT-TV 15 in Greenville, as advertising and news consultant.
Books by Robert Hitt Neill include The Flaming Turkey (also in cassette); Going Home; How to Lose your Farm In Ten Easy Lessons and Cope With It; The Jakes!; The Voice Of Jupiter Pluvius; Don’t Fish Under The Dingleberry Tree; an anthology The Magnolia Club; a compiled cookbook Outdoor Tables and Tales; and Beware The Barking Bumblebees (the latter two available from Wimmer Company).
A Review of The Flaming Turkey
by Dustin Reese (SHS) 2000
In the book, The Flaming Turkey, author Robert Hitt Neill tells stories of his hunting for turkeys and other game along the Mississippi River with friends and family. Robert (Bob) Neill and his brother, Beau, have a tremendous love for hunting, especially turkey. They gained this love from their father “Big Robert, ” as he is fondly called in the book. Big Robert has been described as a John Wayne look alike. As the book begins, you learn right away how the book got its name.
The last day of the spring hunting season has arrived. Bob and Beau are back at the cabin getting ready to pack up when Big Robert arrives in “The Ghost” (a 1948 Jeep) and tells Bob about his morning in the woods. Big Robert is excited to see the Tom (turkey) creeping into view, thinking that on this last morning he will bag a good one. He has just lit a cigarette when the turkey starts to approach within shooting distance. Big Robert knows that if he moves to remove the cigarette from his lips, he might startle the turkey, so he gently spits it out, not knowing that it has fallen into his shirt pocket. He is ready to shoot when he feels this burning pain on his chest and looks down to see that his shirt is smoking. Wanting desperately to kill the turkey, he fires his gun, misses the turkey, then sees that the smoke is now searing through his shirt and singeing his two-day old beard. He quickly throws down his gun and beats frantically at his chest to put out the fire.
Four months later, a special award is presented to Big Robert in front of about a hundred and fifty people. The award is The Flaming Turkey Award.
Bob Neill recalls numerous stories in the book of the times that he, Beau, Big Robert, and many friends and family members spent hunting and camping on two pieces of land they rented on the Mississippi River. In one story, Bob felt sure that the turkeys were smarter than he was because he missed more than he hit. “I felt like the turkeys were coming to see me miss them. They were playing with me,” stated Bob. One morning after getting set to hunt, he saw a turkey still a good distance away and he called it. It kept getting closer, and when Bob thought he could hit the turkey, he fired and missed. After several tries, and the turkey didn’t leave, Bob jumps out after it and grabs it with his left hand around the neck. He pulls his knife and is going to cut its throat with his right hand. “Thank the Lord they were able to save my fingers,” Bob said.
“The Ghost” was one of the vehicles they all used for hunting. The jeep had an iron bumper on the front because the brakes seemed to go out every time the guys were hunting and whoever was driving would just run into a tree or whatever other object that would be in the way to stop it.
The Flaming Turkey tells about humorous hunting and wildlife incidents from running into wild boars, coyotes, bob cats, coons and a skunk that got his nose stuck in a mayonnaise jar under the camp house. The skunk was bumping his rear on a log under the house and would spray every time he bumped his rear. The story tells of an odor for days in the camp house.
One of the greatest cautions the hunters take is watching out for snakes. Mr. Neill tells a story about a stump-tail moccasin. Neill had crossed an open field when he heard a turkey gobble in the edge of the trees nearby. Looking for a place of cover, he noticed an old stumped hole. As the turkey gobbled again, he jumped over into the stump hole, but in the mid air he glanced down to find a stump-tail moccasin about two and a half feet long. He said that track and field coaches were missing a bet by not instituting an event called unjump because that is what he did that morning. The event would consist of jumping in and immediately in mid air jump back out before your feet ever touch the bottom sides. Needless to say, the turkey was forgotten that morning.
Mr. Neill tells of the titles given to the hunters for the various jobs that must be done. The Huntmaster, the Trail Boss, the Camp Cook, the Shade Tree Mechanic, the Clean-Up Committee and the Field Dresser are all important titles, but the Five O’clock Peer has the most important job. He is the person who gets up to answer the call of nature in the wee morning hour, puts another log on the fire and gets the coffee brewing.
The stories go on and on in The Flaming Turkey. The final chapter takes a sad turn as it tells of the last turkey hunt with all the guys. Big Robert is killed in an accident a few days after leaving camp.
I enjoyed reading The Flaming Turkey because of the humorous stories that Mr. Neill told. Even though I have never gone turkey hunting, I feel that this book would be enjoyable reading for anyone because of the true-life stories in it. Mr. Neill has a great and a vivid way of telling the stories so that you can easily picture the scenes in your mind.
Mr. Neill added an afterthought to the end of the book that I really appreciated. It is a letter that he wrote to his hunting buddies after the death of Big Robert. He wanted to let them know that he was sure that Big Robert was in heaven finding a place for them to hunt when they all got there. He just wanted to let them know that he intended on going to heaven, and he wanted to make sure they were going also.
Who was your favorite author growing up?
What author do you think influenced you the most?
When did you become interested in writing?
In high school. When I was 15 or 16.
Do you have any advice for future writers?
Always write what you want you to write. Write it the long way; people understand it better.
Do you have any advice for students today?
How has Mississippi or living in Mississippi influenced your writing?
I grow up in the Delta during the plantation era, so we did everything ourselves. We had a big house, plenty of food, and a garden. So I have learned if you do it yourself, you can take all the credit.
Do you have any other comments?
Yes, I have two:
1. If you have a talent in anything, it is God-given. So don’t only use it to glorify you, but glorify him also.
2. If you want to be a writer, look at the business end of it because it can be more important than the creative end of it.
- Neill, Robert Hitt. Going Home. Leland, Ms: Mississippi River Publishing Co. : 1987.
- Neill, Robert Hitt. Letter to Dr. Box. Leland, Ms: Robert Hitt Neill. n.d.
- Neill, Robert Hitt. The Jakes! Leland, Ms: Mississippi River Publishing Co.: 1990.
- Neill, Robert Hitt. The Magnolia Club. Leland, Ms: Mississippi River Publishing Co.: 1990.
- Neill, Robert Hitt. The Flaming Turkey. Leland, Ms: Mississippi River Publishing Co. : 1986.
- Neill, Robert Hitt. Letter from Robert Hitt Neill to Dustin Reese. May 4, 2000.
- Neill, Robert Hitt. Telephone Interview. May 22, 2000.